Chivalrous Code Essay

This essay has a total of 785 words and 4 pages.

Chivalrous Code



Chivalry began in the 12th century in the form of a knightly code of conduct, with special
emphasis on courtly manners toward women. Thirteenth century stories that showed the ways
a warrior should behave in romance became popular . Churchmen liked the idea of high
standards and made the knighting ceremony a religious occasion with a church vigil and
purifying bath. Books on the subject soon began to appear.

Many forms of chivalrous code can be found today, from The Cowboy’s Code to the Rules of
Courtly Love. These codes are stated with the hope that people will try and follow them
to some degree; yet only the perfect could adhere to them all. Considering the fact that
such perfection is impossible, the authors merely set out a guideline for honorable
behavior. In the context of medieval times, a knight was expected to have faith in his
beliefs; for faith was considered to give hope against the despair that human failings
create.

I chose to use ‘The Code of Chivalry’ for my comparisons on literary characters great
successes and failures. For my first example, I chose the brave and fearless Beowulf.
According to the 19th code of chivalry, one must ‘Destroy evil in all of its monstrous
forms,’ and also ‘Exhibit courage in word and deed.’ Beowulf proclaimed to fight the evil
Grendel, saying “We shall fight for our lives, foe against foe; and he whom death takes
off must resign himself to the judgment of God (1200).” After the battle, the
terror-filled Grendel crept away, mortally wounded. Beowulf had upheld this particular
code with valor and bravery.

For my second example, I looked to Sir Gawain. The story of the Green Knight is seeped
with instances of chivalry, and honorable men. “Always keep one’s word of honor,” was an
obvious code for this particular story. Not only did Sir Gawain show respect for the
codes of chivalry by serving his king, exhibiting courage, and fighting with honor; he
kept his words of honor that had been spoken with the Green Knight. Although he was
distracted in his course, he kept the appointed new year challenge with the knight. Not a
perfect instance of chivalry, yet his example leads nicely into my next character
assessment.

Don Quixote, if nothing else, must be praised for his valiant efforts to follow the laws
of the great knights. After encountering a man beating a half naked youth, he informs him
that “it is a caitiff’s deed to attack one who cannot defend himself.” This directly
follows the code that one must “never use a weapon on an opponent not equal to the
attack.” Don Quixote also attempts to ‘protect the innocent,’ ‘avenge the wronged,’ and
‘defend the weak and innocent.’ Unfortunately, he fails miserably in aiding the poor boy;
as he assumes that the man will keep his word in ceasing the horrid beating.

Falstaff of Henry IV shows more concern for others opinions than his own actual purity and
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