What is the main theme of Yvain?  

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The central theme of this text is the discovery of the principles of courtly behaviour. This story shows that courtly behaviour found its most important expression in social responsibility, and the way in which the obligations of the position that you held in society were balanced with your own needs and desires. Notice how this is exemplified in the character of Yvain. When he fails to keep the deadline that his wife gives him, this balance is upset as he is guilty of neglecting his wife for his knightly duties. When Yvain, in response to his failure, becomes overcome by grief because of how he has broken trust with his wife, he then goes on to fail in his knightly duties. This leads others to call him mad because of his failure to fulfill any of his obligations. For Yvain, when he strips himself of his armour, this is a symbolic recognition of how Yvain has shunned courtly norms of behaviour. Yvain is no longer a night and he undergoes a period of penitence when he is nourished and cared for by a hermit. It is only when he encounters the lion that he is symbolicaly readmitted into the world of knighthood and courtly values. Therefore, we can see that one of the key themes of this text is courtly values and how we balance our own needs and desires with those of our position in society. Upsetting that balance, the story seems to suggest, will have tragic consequences.


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