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Chivalry in Chaucers Canterbury Tales

In his Canterbury Tales, Chaucer fully explicates the cultural standard known as curteisye through satire. In the fourteenth century curteisye embodied sophistication and an education in French international culture. The legends of chilvalric knights, conversing in the language of courtly love, matured during this later medieval period. Chaucer himself matured in the King's Court, and he reveled in his cultural status, but he also retained an anecdotal humor about curteisye. One must only peruse his Tales to discern these sentiments. In the General Prologue, he meticulously describes the Prioress, satirically examining her impeccable table manners. In the Miller's Tale Chaucer juxtaposes courtly love with animalistic lust, and in various other instances he mentions curteisye, or at least alludes to it, with characteristic Chaucerian irony. These numerous references provide the reader with a remarkably rich image of the culture and class structure of late fourteenth century England."Wel coude she carye a morsel, and wel keepe / That no drope ne fille upon hir brest. / In curteisye was set ful muchel hir lest."(General Prologue, 130-2) Here, in the description of the Prioress, Chaucer mocks her etiquette by so specifically describing it, and in doing so he also mocks her conception of sophistication. For Chaucer, sophistication represented more than table manners and "Frenssh of Stratford at the Bowe."(General Prologue, 124,5) Curteisye required an intimate, first hand knowledge and experience with French culture. This Prioress had learned her French in an English convent school, hardly the equivalent to Chaucer's travels in France. Chaucer creates the feeling that the narrator is basing his statements not only on the nun's actions but also on her attitudes. The details of her dainty manners prove to the reader that she truly believes that she appreciates curteisye, making her seem even more nave. Chaucer continues in his ...

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