Chivalry and Romance in the English Renaissance

Chivalry and Romance in the English Renaissance

Alex Davis
Volume: 11
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt81t4s
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  • Book Info
    Chivalry and Romance in the English Renaissance
    Book Description:

    ‘Chivalry and Romance in Renaissance England’ offers a reinterpretation of the place and significance of chivalric culture in the sixteenth and seventeenth-century and explores the implications of this reconfigured interpretation for an understanding of the medieval generally. Received wisdom has it that both chivalric culture and the literature of chivalry - romances - were obsolete by the time of the Renaissance, an understanding epitomised by the figure of Don Quixote, the reader of chivalric fictions whose risible literary tastes render him absurd. By way of contrast, this study finds evidence for the continued vitality and relevance of chivalric values at all levels of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century society, from the court entertainments of Elizabeth I to the civic culture of London merchants and artisans. At the same time, it charts the process by which, throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the chivalric has been firstly exclusively identified with the medieval and then transformed into a virtual shorthand for 'pastness' generally. ALEX DAVIS is lecturer in English, University of St Andrews.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-039-5
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. NOTE ON TRANSCRIPTION
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-39)

    The opening lines of Shakespeare’s 106th sonnet introduce many of the themes of this study. Fittingly, for a collection of verse much concerned with questions of reading and writing – questions about the power of literary discourse – the poem opens by referring to the poet reading a book. But what sort of book? ‘Chronicle’ seems to have been applied to a wide range of historical works (including a number of Shakespeare’s plays) in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and so hardly helps us to pinpoint the sort of text being mentioned. As if aware of this vagueness, Shakespeare rapidly...

  6. Chapter 1 ‘NOT KNOWING THEIR PARENTS’: READING CHIVALRIC ROMANCE
    (pp. 40-72)

    IT IS WELL known that chivalric fictions often display plots that revolve around the discovery of noble birth. This chapter examines the social uses of such fictions. Early on in Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur, we read that, at the time of Arthur’s marriage, ‘ther cam a poure man into the courte, and broughte with hym a fayre yonge man of XVIII yere of age rydynge upon a lene mare’.¹ The old man has a request to make of the king:

    Syr, it was told me that at this tyme of your maryage ye wolde yeve any man the yefte...

  7. Chapter 2 THE PROGRESS OF ROMANCE (I): KENILWORTH, 1575
    (pp. 73-98)

    WITH THE benefit of some four hundred years’ worth of hindsight, we might go further than Francis Bacon’s famous analysis of the way in which relations between Elizabeth I and her courtiers tended to gravitate towards an explicitly fictional ideal of conduct. Far from detracting, however slightly, from her subsequent fame, the atmosphere of ‘romance’ that surrounded that Queen has now come to constitute a major element of her posthumous reputation. We tend to think of amorous ‘dalliance’ an as inherently private thing, but the subsequent resonance of many encounters between the monarch and her desiring subjects might be put...

  8. Chapter 3 CASTLES IN THE AIR: QUIXOTIC REPRESENTATIONS ON THE SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY STAGE
    (pp. 99-133)

    EDMUND Gayton’s Pleasant Notes Upon Don Quixot (1654) are, amongst other things, an extended homage to his supposed mentor, ‘Father Benjamino’ Jonson. A large folio volume which comments upon each chapter of the first part of Thomas Shelton’s translation of Don Quixote in turn, using Cervantes’ work as a jumping-off point for his own display of wit, Gayton’s book is riddled with references to the Elizabethan, Jacobean and Caroline drama.¹ The first English commentary on Cervantes – possibly the first anywhere in Europe – the Pleasant Notes approach their subject in what we might consider to be a curiously back-to-front...

  9. Chapter 4 ‘GENTLEMAN-LIKE ADVENTURE’: DUELLING IN THE ‘LIFE’ OF LORD HERBERT OF CHERBURY
    (pp. 134-168)

    THE CLIMAX of the subplot of King Lear comes in the fifth Act of that play, when the Duke of Albany accuses Edmund, bastard son of the Earl of Gloucester, of ‘capital treason’. This claim he proposes to uphold, not through any due process of questioning of witnesses or examination of proof – which would be perfectly possible, since Albany is in possession of a letter from his wife, Goneril, to the same Edmund which insinuates ‘a plot upon her virtuous husband's life’¹ – but rather through an altogether more archaic legal form, the trial by combat. Albany declares that...

  10. Chapter 5 ‘THE LADY ERRANT’: KATHERINE PHILIPS AS READER OF ROMANCE
    (pp. 169-201)

    RENAISSANCE writers have plenty to say about women and romance, most of it disparaging – on both sides of the equation.¹ On the one hand, romance itself tends to be identified with the feminine. The leisured experience of reading chivalric literature is metaphorically equated with the bewitching snares and diversions that are forever threatening to seduce the heroes of these books from their assigned quests, displacing them from the category of the ‘knight errant’ into that of the merely ‘errant’. Books of chivalry thus might themselves figure as tempting Acrasias or Lyndarazas, invitations to surrender oneself to present pleasure at...

  11. Chapter 6 THE PROGRESS OF ROMANCE (II): KENILWORTH, CHIVALRY, AND THE MIDDLE AGES
    (pp. 202-234)

    ‘AN AGE becomes romantic as it recedes.’ Thus Arthur Johnston, in his study of the burgeoning scholarly interest in medieval romances in eighteenth-century England.¹ That Johnston should make such a statement is in itself a mark of the success of the process he describes. After all, it is by no means obvious (even allowing for the vastly expanded range of meanings that the term encompasses nowadays) that a given period in history, to say nothing of the past generally, should be identified with a single literary genre. By following the ‘progress’ of a sixteenth-century text suffused with chivalric imagery, this...

  12. CONCLUSION: ‘THE CHRONICLE OF WASTED TIME’
    (pp. 235-240)

    In 1839, an estimated crowd of one hundred thousand people assembled at Eglinton Castle in Scotland. Converging on the tents and pavilions pitched in the park of the castle were to be found the aristocracy in droves, foreigners drawn to the great spectacle to be held there, gentlemen and burghers, farmers, shepherds and peasants, to say nothing of thugs and pickpockets, along with the policemen whose duty it was to control them. They were there to witness a piece of pageantry planned by Archibald Montgomery, the Earl of Eglinton – a great tournament in imitation of the tournaments of the...

  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 241-258)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 259-263)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 264-265)