How much I suck

Sigh

So I’m about to turn in the essay portion to my lit test. It kinda sucks, from my view. The question:
“Using Gawain and the Green Knight or Lanval and The Franklin’s Tale, discuss the way(s) that theset eo texts present, interrogate, and negotiate their relationship with the ‘feudal’ as we come to this in these texts.”

My response (had to be 2-3 doublespaced pages)

Both Lanval and The Franklin’s Tale present us with the subject of courtliness and honor, through behaviors and interactions of the nobility. How one behaves, especially how knights and ladies behave, are very important. What sets the aristocracy apart from the commons is not just a matter of wealth and land, it’s knowing what is expected of you and how to act toward others. Lanval presents a look at honor and the ideal behavior set of the court and aristocracy. For instance, generosity is an important characteristic, as Arthur freely gives to his knights (l 17-18), as does Lanval give freely after his encounter with the Lady (l 205-13). In fact, the more he gives, the more he is rewarded for giving (l 135-9). The exclusion of Lanval from Arthur’s gifting (l 19), however, is part of what is wrong with the court, as it is not honorable to give to all but one or to be churlish. The fact that there is this wrongfulness in the court is why the lady from Avalon intervenes.

Lanval’s etiquette and nobleness is tested with his interaction with Guinevere. We see that while refusing the affections of another isn’t a problem, there’s a fine line drawn with regard to one’s honor. Guinevere is dishonored because Lanval is calling her unsuitable and less pretty than a servant (l 295-300). His transgression is his insult to her, since without providing proof of his lady’s beauty, he seems to just be speaking out of spite.

Despite this, Lanval is presented as the best knight, as he is worthy of the Lady’s attention as he was handsome, courageous, generous, and did well in battle (l 22-23). By being presented as the ideal when it comes to knighthood and courtliness, Lanval becomes elevated, becoming more than just a literal knight. He becomes a standard, an ideal, that other knights could hold themselves to and compare. He is allowed to transcend in the end, and to be a complete symbol of The Knight. That not only is a knight not a ‘true’ knight if he does not behave like one, not only is he not a knight if he is without his horse and all the accouterments of knighthood, but he is not a knight without a lady. If courtliness is a requirement for being a proper knight, if chivalry is important in defining the behavior of the knight, so must there be a lady. For otherwise what is courtliness if not a set of behavior codes which most definitely includes behavior to and with regard to women? The fact that most of the interactions of people in Lanval are between men and women is significant. Lanval becomes the complete, idealized, epitome of a knight when he joins his lady and heads off to Avalon. He’s mastered chivalric code and courtly behavior to the point of becoming more than the literal knight. He’s even more than the figurative knight by the end. His dalliance with the supernatural has made him more symbolic. He is elevated to the ultimate knight by, of course, the ultimate lady.

The Franklin, by contrast, sets forth a situation in which this proper courtly behavior doesn’t work the way it “should” as in Lanval. We see that generosity is an important trait here as well. The beginning vows between Arveragus and Dorigen (l 38-42), and the ending of the story, where the squire and clerk strive to match the knight’s virtue with their own generosity (l820-5, 903-13) are about proper courteous and generous behavior.

The keeping of promises (troths), of course, is of primary importance. Arveragus tells Dorigen that she needs to keep her troth to Auerlius (l 767-9), in doing so is upholding his vows to her when they were wed. This show of gentle behavior, of course, is what prompts the squire and clerk to release the obligations owed them.

However, The Franklin’s Tale really sets up the question of how useful this civilized behavior really is, considering the unknown could really come in and shatter all suppositions of what one can do and say and get away with in the form of the clerk. As far as Dorigen is concerned at the time she makes her promise to Auerlius (291-95), she has set an impossible task for him, and therefore is safe. Since she has basically weaseled her way out of the situation by making a promise she doesn’t intend to have to keep, we see the folly of these behaviors. We often see, as here, where the trappings of honor are used rather than the substance of it. Not only does Dorigen make a promise she doesn’t mean, but Auerlius does the same to the clerk, as we can presume he knew that he didn’t really have the 1000 pounds he promised to pay (l 865-76). The squire is also overstepping his bounds some by approaching Dorigen to begin with. The clerk then, is the restorer of balance, making the intention as important as the words. One must again be willing to do what one promises because one well might have to.

The subtle balance of honorable life and deeds with courteous words is a tricky one. Both Lanval and Dorigen overstate their refusals of affection and end up getting in trouble. Lanval insults the Queen out of spite in return of her insult, and Dorigen encourages the squire when she really wasn’t interested out of pity. The clerk and the Lady from Avalon are restorers of a certain kind of balance, making it important that one honor one’s word and be in all ways courtly and noble, since it is these relationships and interactions of the aristocracy that the foundations and the structure of the court lie.

meh
it sucks.

One Response to “How much I suck”

  1. boogyman Says:

    Hey atleast you tried, and its a schmuck class anyway!

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