Nobility and Violence: Chivalry in Medieval Europe. French and English chivalry examined, its origins, institutions, and guiding philosophies. Primarily the work of Painter and Kaueper contrasted.

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Grace and Violence in Medieval Chivalry

There are several interpretations of Medieval Chivalry. The reason for the multiple interpretations is the vast divide between the two facets of chivalry; the two contradictory tenets of noble behavior and thoughtless violence. On one hand, a chivalrous knight was expected to have perfect manners, to be full at ease in social situations, treat women according to the doctrines of courtly love, and always be honorable in their actions. On the other hand, it is constantly shown that in the colloquial attitude, being the best chivalrous knight depended (almost solely) on prouesse or prowess, skill in fighting and ability to coerce others by brute force.

The authors discussed herein are offer two of such interpretations. Sidney Painter offers a view of chivalry as a system of genteel decorum dotted with duels over honor and occasional fighting. Dissimilarly, Kaeuper aims to prove in his work that gentlemanly behavior was in fact a thin and often false veneer on a system of brutish and unrestrained violence; he aims to pick apart the exclusively idealistic and romantic views widely held nowadays on medieval chivalry.

In the measure of a knight's worth, there are many courtly factors such as largesse, noblesse, courtoisie, and mesure. Generosity, nobility of family, loyal and honorable conduct in general, and restraint (respectively). As Painter holds, courtly traits such as these are what compose chivalry.

"Chivalry as we use the term denotes the ideals and practices considered suitable for a noble." (French Chivalry, Painter, p1)

Painter is conveys quite simply what he feels is the essence of chivalry, and that is the noble behavior of those that practice it. The reason he says that it is behavior "suitable of a noble" is that nobles were practically the only...