In the Medieval Period, knights dedicated their lives to following the code of chivalry. In Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, a number of characters performed chivalrous acts to achieve the status of an ideal knight. Their characteristics of respect for women and courtesy for all, helpfulness to the weak, honor, and skill in battle made the characters King Arthur, King Pellinore, and Sir Gryfflette examples of a what knights strove to be like in Medieval society. Because of the examples ofchivalry, Le Morte d’Arthur showed what a knight desired to be, so he could improve theworld in which he lived.
Respect for women and courtesy were two major characteristics that knights longed to develop, and King Arthur was able to demonstrate them in two specific instances. Arthur showed great respect for the Lady of the Lake. Merlin, the magician who guided Arthur as he grew to be a legendary knight advised him to “address her courteously, and do as she directed” (page 75). Arthur spoke very politely and she gave him the famous sword, Excaliber. In his respect for the lady, he also promised to give heany gift she wants because she presented him with the sword.
Respectfulness to women was one quality knights strove for, but less specifically, a knight was expected to be courteous towards everyone. King Arthur demonstrated this characteristic while dealing with the Roman ambassadors. They asked for a tribute, and Arthur responded, “we shall not put you to death for your insolent words” (page 74). Then, he warned them that if they came back, he would kill them. This was considerate behavior because even though he was angry, he was polite and allowed them to leave safely.
The warning also showed his courtesy because he could have not told them in anticipation of their return in order to kill them because of their disagreement. These two examples of King Arthur’s respect for the Lady of the Lake and the Roman ambassadors made him a model knight since he was obeying the code of chivalry. In addition to being courteous, being helpful to the weak was another aspect of chivalry portrayed through characters in the story. First, Arthur tried to be helpful to Merlin when he was being chased by ruffians.
Arthur chased them away while riding his horse. Merlin was not in real danger because of his magical powers, but the intent of Arthur was to help someone who needed because he thought Merlin’s powers might have failed him. Another example of this chivalrous quality was illustrated during the battle between King Pellinore and Sir Gryfflette. Pellinore knocked Gryfflette off his horse and, “swiftly ran over to him and loosened his armor. ” He then, “lifted him gently onto his horse” (page 74).
Sir Gryfflette was weak, and he was just knighted that day, so Pellinore did the chivalrous action and helped him. Being helpful to the weak was a quality that all the knights were trying to develop, and King Arthur and King Pellinore showed this attribute in their actions with Merlin and Gryfflette. Another characteristic besides helpfulness was honor. When King Pellinore was helping Gryfflette, he was not only helping someone who was weak, he was being honorable. He knew that he had superior fighting skills than the new knight, so he did not pursue the battle because it would be unfair.
He sent Sir Gryfflette home so he could regain his health, even though he had a chance to finish the battle and kill the knight. Another example of honor was Gryfflette’s attempt to avenge Sir Myles’ death. Gryfflette asked to be a knight, and then he pleaded, “Sire, but I beg you” (page 73), until Arthur dubbed him. He had a deep longing to do what was right and show his loyalty and honor by fighting the man who killed his master. Arthur did the same when he went to fight Pellinore because the king had wounded his knight.
Although, Arthur was not ranked elow Gryfflette, he wanted the revenge. Last, Arthur showed his honor once again when he decided not to fight a tired Pellinore. Merlin says, “To win would bring you no honor, to lose would be to increase your shame” (page 76). The fight would not have been fair, so Arthur did not attempt to start the jousting match. Honor was an important quality to the knights, and all the three knights in the story proved that the had this characteristic in specific situations. Finally, being skillful in battle was an important part of the code of chivalry.
King Arthur thought that Pellinore “was a magnificent fighter” (page 75). Arthur even said that he would have rather been killed than have had the unfair advantage that Merlin’s magic gave him because Pellinore deserved to win with his great battle skills. The praise that Arthur gave King Pellinore proved that being skillful in battle was respected by other knights and important in the code of knighthood. To reiterate, the code of chivalry was expected to be followed by knights in the Medieval time period.
This code made the world full of elaborate courtesy and knights trying to make their society the best they could through fairness and respect. In Le Morte d’Arthur, the characters demonstrated the qualities needed to make the ideal knight. Examples of respect for women and courtesy for everyone, helpfulness for the weak, honor, and skillfulness in battle were all observed in the actions of King Arthur, King Pellinore, and Sir Gryfflette. Because of this romantic atmosphere in the story, the characters proved to be the ideal knights at certain times and respected for their chivalrous actions.