Arthur in Geoffrey of Monmouth

The Virgilian element of love is a peculiar one in Arthur in Geoffrey of Monmouth, as it appears much of the account itself revolves around the hero journey and conquests of Arthur, whereas love is seen as more of a luxury or secondary matter for those whose social standing could afford it. Love in this instance is superseded by the contemporary 12th century element of courtly society and knightly customs. In Book 9 it is mentioned that Arthur “was a youth of fifteen years, with remarkable valor and generosity, whose natural goodness displayed such grace that he was loved by virtually all the people”(Norris, Wilhelm 64). The language used in this description of Arthur demonstrates the value of strong character and moral righteousness essential to a proper knight or respected man of high society. Throughout the passage, words such as “noble” and “valor” are used to describe various characters of social importance.

The very same men of honor attended grand feasts in which “every knight in Britain who was noted for valor had clothing and arms identical in color… and the women… deigned to love no man till he was three times proven in military combat. Thus the women were made more chaste, and the knights more valiant because of their love of them”(72). The context in which the word “love” is used begs the question: What is love? Here, it seems more like a key to an elevated social status through union with another than an emotional connection or deep yearning. Love is also used throughout the text as if a placeholder word for lust, as “being roused… to mad flames of love”(73). In Medieval Romance, was love reflected as this modern ideal that we now view as a caring togetherness, or was it more of a tool used to climb the social ladder and satisfy physical yearnings? Perhaps the moral values of the characters are what invoke the Romantic in Medieval literature, as opposed to love plots. I’m curious to see if other excerpts from our text portray love in different ways, being that in reading Arthur in Geoffrey of Monmouth, I would never have thought it to be considered a “Romance”.

Works Cited

 

Lacy, Norris J., and James J. Wilhelm, eds. The Romance of Arthur. 3rd ed. New York:

Garland, 1984. 57-87. Print.

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