Medieval Romance Definiton: a tale of adventure in which knights, kings, or distressed ladies, motivated by love, religious faith, or the mere desire for adventure, are the chief figures. The Medieval Romance appears in Old French literature of the 12th century, supplanting the older Chanson de Geste, an epic form. Epic – reflects the heroic age; has weight, solidity, tragic seriousness, has narrative unity, no love interests, uses the dramatic method of having the characters speak for themselves whereas… Romance – chivalric age, mystery and fantasy, light- hearted, structure is looser than epic, romantic interests become of major interest, readers remain conscious of a narrator. These were extremely popular in Western Europe, occupying a place comparable w/that of the novel in modern literature. Earliest Romances were in verse. Alliterative verse was having a revival in the Midlands when Sir Gawain was being composed. This is why the poet is driving you crazy w/it. It was a thing. This is also why it says “Wawain”; it’s to maintain the alliteration. Alliterative Verse is the most common form in all Old English poetry and in Middle English poetry between the 12 and 14th centuries. The materials for the early French romances were drawn chiefly from the Charlemagne dossier or chansons de geste (“Matter of France”), ancient history and literature (“matter of Rome the Great”), and Celtic lore, especially Arthurian material (“Matter of Britain”) Romances were produced in English as early as the 13th c. They flourished in the 14th and 15th c, tho’ the disfavor of Renaissance humanists caused them to lose standing. The Arthurian romances developing around the legend of King Arthur had eventually developed into great cycles of stories in Old French lit, some of the heroes of which, such as Tristran and Lancelot, did not belong to the original Arthurian legend. They were greatly elaborated in the bulky 13th c. French prose romances and became sources for the later English treatments such as Malory’s, which is the one most are familiar with today. Elements of a Medieval Romance -follows the structure of a quest (think holy grail) and is a narrative of a heroic adventure -Usually has type characters rather than individualized portraits (Sir G bit different) -Highly imaginative encounters w/extraordinary personages in fantastical settings -Extensive Christian references, but also many pagan/Celtic/Druidic elements -Has idealized concept of medieval knight The idealized medieval knight was expected to practice Chivalry This means the virtues of loyalty, bravery, piety, valor, and honour They pledge to champion ladies in distress, defend the weak, be absolutely faithful to their king, and be devoted to a single, unattainable lady love. She might be the wife of his liege lord or the Virgin Mary Often the Knight operates in a world in which Medieval Christian values (pretty much Catholic) are imposed on magical events and supernatural figures, remnants of the pagan sources of chivalric romance. Twelfth Night/Christmas/Celtic legend and myth all intertwine Courtly Love – the emotion that a knight was expected to feel toward a noble lady Falling in love is supposed to be accompanied by great emotional disturbances. The bewildered lover shows symptoms like paleness of skin, trembling, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, sighing, and weeping. Conditions improve when she accepts his love and this love inspires great deeds. Ideally, the knight loved from a distance the wife of a knight’s lord or some other married noblewoman, was faithful to her, and was inspired by his love to perform noble deeds in her honour. Remember these are all idealized versions of knights. True ones of the times were indeed noble, but they were soldiers, first and foremost. They were given land by their king in exchange for fighting when king needed it. They were often illiterate.
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