Portrait Of a Hero - Chaucer's Knight Essay

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Michael A. Knotts Mrs. Johnnie Hargrove English 203 1 November 2010 Portrait of a Hero – Chaucer’s Knight Spanish painter, Pablo Picasso once said, “We all know that art is not truth. It is a lie that makes us realize truth.” Picasso’s insightful statement offers a unique way of interpreting Geoffrey Chaucer’s literary portrait of a hero in The Canterbury Tales. In the prologue of the book, Chaucer portrays 24 characters that are making a religious pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral from London, England. Chaucer paints a colorful, larger-than-life portrayal of the Knight, presenting him as the ideal hero, an ultimate model of human virtue and “…a knight in all things to perfection” (l. 70). The Canterbury Tales were written by Chaucer around the time of the late Medieval period – sometime during the late 1380’s to early 1390’s. Ideally, knights of that era were expected to conduct themselves according to a widely accepted standard of moral and military behavior. According to the Medieval Code of Chivalry, “A knight was expected to have not only the strength and skills to face combat in the violent Middle Ages but was also expected to temper this aggressive side of a knight with a chivalrous side to his nature. There was not an authentic Knights Code of Chivalry as such - it was a moral system which went beyond rules of combat and introduced the concept of Chivalrous conduct - qualities idealized by knighthood, such as bravery, courtesy, honor, and gallantry toward women.” (Knights Code of Chivalry) More than likely, Chaucer’s depiction of knighthood is based more on the Code of Chivalry than modeled after any real-life heroes who actually represented all the ideal qualities of knighthood. According to Richard Kaeuper, author of Holy Warriors: The Religious Ideology of Chivalry, during the medieval period, the ideal knight was a paradox - both “pious and

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