Further reading

Keen, Maurice. Chivalry. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1984, 1987.

Candace Gregory-Abbott

CHIVALRY The simplest meaning of the term chivalry refers to the idealized conduct of war in the high-to-late Middle Ages (ca. 1100-1500). Chivalry can be as basic as heavily armed cavalry battling against each other or as sophisticated as philosophical theories about how war should be conducted. In its later, more sophisticated uses, it came to also be associated with a code of social behavior during that same time period. These are only two of the many concepts associated with chivalry. In both of these meanings, the term was wholly linked with the aristocratic class of the High Middle Ages.

In English literature, chivalry refers to the mounted noble warrior, the knight; his code of conduct (on and off the battlefield); and how the knight relates to his class, his king, and the object of his affection, his "lady." In its most Christianized form, chivalry carried with it high expectations of virtuous and noble behavior on behalf of God, the church, and those the church marked as worthy of protection. It emphasized the Christian virtues of generosity, loyalty, honesty, bravery, and spiritual purity (which are frequently exhibited by physical chastity). It was always more ideal than real. This ideal remained a staple of English culture throughout the Renaissance and later, and although the culture of commerce and trade eventually became the norm, chivalry was revived in the victorian period as the epitome of noble, Christian behavior.

In terms of literature, chivalry was a staple of the medieval epic and romance genres. During the Renaissance, it was transformed into an elegiac, nostalgic genre that looked back to a medieval past that had never been as real as the writers might have wished. Chivalry was more real in the literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance than it ever was in life: It represented life as it should have been. Chivalry and English medieval literature intersect at three points: literature that borrows from the culture of chivalry (as a mode of warfare, particularly in the epics); literature that in turn gives shape to the aristocratic social culture that surrounded the medieval warriors (as in the romances); and literature that encompasses handbooks, or guides, to chivalrous behavior in a more specific manner (in the code books and the courtesy texts of the late Middle Ages). During the Renaissance, chivalry was a way

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