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Birth of Equality and the Death of Chivalry

The Birth of Equality and the Death of Chivalry

“…And now it’s time for girls on trampolines!” Adam Corolla of The Man Show shouts at the end of the insipid program supposedly providing men with “manly” entertainment; “We give men what they want to see.” This show involves beer guzzling at its best, childish antics involving midgets and the degradation of women in many forms. It seems as though chivalry may truly have died. In the woman’s on-going quest for equality, the respect and reverence they were once treated with has changed.

Technically chivalry is defined as the moral code of knights in medieval times i.e.: dignity, courtesy, bravery, generosity, and gallantry. This was the manner of respect in which women were to be treated, and a knight was to uphold the code always. One can imagine courtly ladies strolling through the court in fine gowns, and having a chivalrous knight lay his cloak over a muddy patch so the ladies shan’t muss their shoes. These days should some kind man stand for an extra second at a door to keep it open for an approaching woman, she may be amazed at this display of courtesy.

Hand on door, or cloak in mud, this is and was respectively, the mark of a refined man. “The self-conscious command of fine manners, whether the proper way of hunting, dressing, addressing a superior, or wooing a lady, became a key mark of an aristocrat”(20). In literature, “Despite the limitations of their actual power, women were the focus, often the worshiped focus, of much of the best imaginative literature of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries…”(18). Though chivalry is connected with the medieval times, Edmund Spencer wrote of a chivalrous knight in The Red Crosse Knight of The Faerie Queene…

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…ved out of fantasyland and into reality. For some this was too far into reality, Swift goes so far as to describe the lady’s chamber pot, “…he lifts the lid: there need no more, he smelt it all the time before” ( ). A man of virtue would not dare to embarrass a woman by revealing her dressing room secrets.

With the respect women were just starting to gain as thinkers, the respect of ideal sweet perfection dwindled. No longer was she a mystery to be worshipped. Slowly as men realized that women are capable thinkers, the need to react to her in a manner different from men became less necessary. If women are so equal they can defend their own virtue. By our times most men have figured out women can reason just as well as men, and women hold office in nearly every position that men do. Supposedly we are the equals, which has led to the death of chivalry.

A Comparison of Religion in Sir Gawain and Green Knight and Othello

Role of Religion in Sir Gawain and Othello

Respect for religion and government is an important part of any country, but what happens to a country when these values begin to change? England was beginning to go through this change in 1603 when Othello was written by William Shakespeare. Comparing the religious themes and heroes of Othello to the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight which was written during the Middle English era, will demonstrate just how far England had come. Both heroes are clearly religious, but Gawain maintains his faith until the end, while Othello falls into the snare of temptation. The spiritual hero of Middle English is quite different from the tragic hero of the Machiavellian era.

To begin, look at a night in the life of Sir Gawain. It is Christmas Eve and Gawain is in need. He needs a place to stay in his search for the Green Knight’s castle and he has traveled a long way. What does he do? Gawain could boast of his great ability to find his way and gallop on. He could give up and go home as many others would. He could become so completely discouraged after all his hard work with no results, that he wishes someone would just thrust a sword into his side and put him out of his misery. Gawain doesn’t do any of those things though. That is just not Sir Gawain of Camelot. He is not that kind of hero.

And at that holy ride

He prays with all his might

That Mary may be his guide

Till a dwelling comes in sight. (736-739)

If that wasn’t enough, Gawain continues praying when he realizes that it is Christmas Day and he is missing mass:

I beseech of Thee, Lord,

And Mary, thou mildest mother so dear,

Some harborage where…

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…troduction” Modern Critical Interpretations, Othello Ed. Harold Bloom, Pub. Chelsea House New Haven CT 1987. (1-6)

Dinney, Larry. Religion and Tradition in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1995.

Gardner, John. The Complete Works of the Gawain Poet. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1965.

Gawain Poet. “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M.H. Abrams et al. 6th ed. 1 vol. New York: W.W.W. Norton

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