As is evidenced in Gawain and the Green Knight, describe the chivalric culture, courtly love, Church attitude, and King Arthur's significance.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Historians now say that the notions we have of and the conventions we assign to chivalric courtly culture and love are largely the product of imagination and the province of poetry, not real life. Although it is true that Eleanor of Acquatine required court-worthy, or courtly, behavior from knights in Aquitaine and France and as far as her influenced extended to England. It was she who developed the courtly code for knights.and it was precisely because knights were violent, blood-thirsty combatants who gloried in the destructionS of combat in war. Eleanor required that knights under her influence (and I can only think that she was successful in so requiring because of the power and influence she wielded) be adapt at literary and musical accomplishments, most particularly writing poetry and music; that they sing and dance; that they express a serving attitude to everyone but most particularly to women (above all) and to the poor, orphans and downtrodden.

The Catholic Church at first denounced knighthoods, for these were composed of men who spent their lives, aside from the early years when they served as pages and squires, devoted to learning the skills of battle and killing; nor did they learn this with reluctance but with relish. The Church officially changed its policy when the Crusades began and the Church found that the previously wanton practices could be cultivated for the Church's own service. The Church continued to condemn the practice of jousting tournaments however, viewing the practice as being suicidal, the ultimate in destruction and an unforgivable sin. 

Women followed wherever knights went, it is true, but many was the lady of a knight who stayed at the castle and managed the estate, ran the farming and defended the castle if under attack. In poetry, knights were mostly honored for courtly love (love at court) that had a very specific ardent code of conduct, courtesy of Eleanor of Aquitaine. It was believed in poetry that courtly love, in which the woman was beloved outside all bounds of politics, property or prosperity (this became the foundation of the later Western culture belief that marriage without love was to be rejected). It is this notion of courtly love found in poetry and the legends of King Arthur that historians now doubt had a foundation in reality, although it is confirmed that this is what Eleanor's code required...small contradiction. The novel The White Company by Sir Conan Doyle draws a very good picture of all these points.

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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