Elizabethan Chivalry in a Modern Context

Elizabethan Chivalry in a Modern Context

  • Submitted By: ecmaddocks
  • Date Submitted: 10/19/2008 3:41 PM
  • Category: English
  • Words: 1202
  • Page: 5
  • Views: 893

Chivalry in the 21st Century

When chivalry is mentioned in the twenty-first century, three little words always seem to pop up: _“chivalry is dead.”_ I argue that chivalryis not dead but, that like many other terms, the precise meaning of the word has shifted throughout the last 400 years. Much like the idea of justice, which we spoke of last week regarding Sheila T. Cavanagh’s essay on The Manliness of Virtue, the idea of chivalry has adapted with the times to become indicative of a “better” quality of masculinity, just as it was in Elizabethan England. In the England of the sixteenth century, to be chivalrous referred to the actions of the knights, who had roamed the lands in the not-so-distant past. Chivalry in that time meant a cold-hearted destruction of wrong/wrong-doers and completion of a spiritual and social duty to help those less fortunate. Chivalry in the present inspires images of gentlemanly gestures; opening doors, loaning a jacket and a general attitude of respect and care towards women. Indeed, one dictionary gives so concise a definition as “courtesy towards women.” While it is commonly recognized that chivalry, as a term, once referred to the actions of a knight toward a maiden, as those societal roles were replaced, the term was forced to accept multiple and slightly, varied meanings.

In the article Othello’s Occupation: Shakespeare and the Romance of Chivalry, Mark Rose points out that Othello views himself in the role of the knight, as he expresses it in a farewell monologue in act 3, scene 3, lines 347-357. By placing himself in the role of the knighted militant, he necessarily places Desdemona in the role of the “necessarily unattainable lady of romance.” Thus, the knight is “validated by the absolute worthiness of the mistress he serves” and when that mistress’ honor is questioned, Othello’s entire image of his own worth collapses. He is lost. This is not likely to happen to suitor’s wooing in the present century, but that does...

Similar Essays