What is chivalry or chivalrous behaviour for Arthurian knights? The word chivalry is derived from the French “chevalier’ which means “a man on horseback’. Arthurian knights were indeed men on horseback but also exhibited certain behaviours known to be chivalrous. In Arthurian times the word “chivalry’ was used to encapsulate the code of values appropriate to knighthood and if a knight were to stray from these values in any way their behaviours were seen to be unchivalrous. Throughout the many tales of The Knights of the Round Table, the knights are chivalrous although they also frequently break their code of values. In the tales “Sir Gawain and the Lady Ragnell’, “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’ and “The Second Tale of Sir Lancelot’ the knights show chivalrous behaviour but also the opposite, usually when concerned with his love for a woman. In the tale of “Sir Gawain and the Lady Ragnell’ Gawain epitomises knighthood with his chivalrous behaviour. He strongly believes in the virtues of knighthood; generosity, fellowship, purity, courtesy and compassion and his shield is red with a gold pentangle which “symbolized Gawain’s ideal of knightly perfection” (Hopkins, 1993, p.56). Gawain’s loyalty to Arthur who was his king and his uncle is shown first when he offers to challenge the knight of Tarn Wathelyne “Let me go rather, my lord” (Green, 1953, p.165) and again when he offers to marry the Lady Ragnell to save Arthur. Arthur is also chivalrous in that he goes on the quest himself and when challenged by Sir Gromer Somer Joure to find what women most desire, he keeps his word to return in one year “One thing I know”?I must keep mine oath” (Green, 1953, p.168). One of the major rules a knight must follow is to do no ill thing to a woman. Although Lady Ragnell was “the loathliest lady that ever the eye of man rested upon” (Green, 1953, p.168) Gawain treats her no different f…
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