Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Jean Froissart, by being so much of his age, became a writer for all time. This unpriestly priest, this citizen celebrator of chivalry took such an intense joy in chronicling his times that he devoted an entire half century to traveling, interviewing, writing, and rewriting. He interviewed more than two hundred princes in various courts from Rome and the Pyrenees to Edinburgh, and with such zest that he was a favorite of the nobles on both sides in the Hundred Years’ War. In his own time his works were widely copied and illuminated.
Although he recorded the Hundred Years’ War on a colorful and unprecedented scale, he is not a reliable historian. Born in Valenciennes, now a city in France but at that time in the Low Country countship of Hainaut, Froissart was a Fleming who shifted his allegiance from one side of the conflict to the other, depending on the court that offered him patronage at the moment. Relying mostly on hearsay evidence from partisan observers, he never consulted official documents, many of which are still extant. As a result his history abounds in anachronisms, erroneous dates, garbled names, and impossible topography. Froissart was also, understandably, unaware that the fourteenth century marked the waning of the Middle Ages and that he was the last of the medieval innocents. The histories that follow his reflect a realism and disillusionment that are in startling contrast to Froissart’s chivalric naïveté.
(The entire section is 1669 words.)
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