/ Chivalry Essay, Advantages and Disadvantages
this essay is about the advantages and disadvantages of a society built on the chivalric code. 3-4 pages
"Chivalric System, Effective?"
Back in the Middle Ages, chivalry was a set of values that were followed by medieval knights. The Chivalric Code consisted of many different ideals such as: honesty, bravery, courtesy, humility, loyalty, respect for women, and fair play. As seen in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Morte d' Arthur, abiding by chivalry presents advantages as well as disadvantages. Many of Arthur's Knights are tested by their chivalric system. Following the chivalric system is not always advantageous; it can bring out the worst or the best in a Knight.
At King Arthur's feast, a knight dressed in green appears asking for participants in a beheading game with many rules and regulations. The rules state that the opposing player is allowed to behead the Green Knight, only if the same can be done to the challenger in exactly one year and a day. When King Arthur agrees to play, Gawain sacrifices himself in order to protect him by partaking in the challenge instead. By accepting this challenge, Gawain and his ideas of chivalry are put to the ultimate test. When Gawain states "I am the weakest, well I know, and of wit feeblest; / And the loss of my life would be least of any" (128-129), he gains respect by being honest and humble by admitting his flaws. By following the ideals of the Chivalric Code, Gawain has presented himself as a courteous and humble knight to the King.
Although Gawain fears for his life, he still holds true to his promise and abides by the rules of the game. He sets out the following year searching for a Green Chapel and is unsuccessful throughout the winter. Gawain finally stumbles upon an unknown castle where the lord is able to provide him with refuge. At this castle, Gawain is presented with another pledge; he has to exchange winnings with the lord for three days. However, on the third day, Gawain breaks his pledge by failing to share his green girdle with the lord, which possesses the power to keep the owner out of harm. This presents the biggest disadvantage in the chivalric system; Gawain had broken the promise because he cared more for his own personal safety instead of abiding by the Chivalric Code.
Before setting out to find the Green Chapel, a guide advises Gawain not to go, but Gawain follows the Chivalric Code by fulfilling his end of the deal. As he arrives at the Chapel, he is greeted by the Green Knight with a gigantic Danish axe. Gawain then offers his neck to the Green Knight who takes the first blow. Gawain flinches from the blow which causes the Green Knight to mock his reputation as a glorious Knight. By flinching, this hints that Gawain may not be as brave as he sets out to be. Gawain then replies by stating, "Strike once more; / I shall neither flinch nor flee; / But if my head falls to the floor / There is no mending me!" (373-376). For the second blow, the Green Knight stops short to see if Gawain holds true to his word. Finally, on the third blow, the Green Knight merely nicks him on the side of the neck explaining that it was merely a test of honor. An advantage of following the code of honor resulted in a light-hearted consequence for Gawain.
King Arthur symbolized the chivalric system and as he was dying, the system was fading away as well. In his final moments, King Arthur needed his loyal Knights by his side the most. However, Knights such as Bedivere took advantage of the dying King by being greedy and dishonest. Because Arthur knew that he had limited time, he wanted to throw Excalibur back into the ocean, "take thou here Excalibur my good sword and go with it to yonder water's side; and when thou comest there I charge thee throw my sword in that water and come again and tell me what thou sawest there (Malory 181)." Examining the sword more closely, Bedivere did not want to throw Excalibur in the water because of the riches he could attain by selling the sword. Bedivere and his greed causes him to lie to King Arthur when asked, "What saw thou there? (Malory 182)." The collapse of the chivalric system also causes looters and robbers to steal the valuables of a dead man. With those that were not dead, they were slew for their jewelry and expensive weapons. Another disadvantage of the chivalric system is without a ruler, all values and ideals of the chivalric system crumble.
Even though the chivalric system upholds the ideals of a perfect Knight, it contains advantages as well as disadvantages. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the major disadvantage of following chivalry is that Gawain valued his life more than the code. Following chivalry can also have advantages such as creating a good image for oneself and being respected in society. Another disadvantage came from Morte d' Arthur, as King Arthur was dying society was stripped from chivalry. Living in a society built on the ideals of the Chivalric Code can have many positives as well as negatives.
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