October 12, 2012
The Works of Chretien De Troyes
In today’s literary realm, many stories are told with a straightforward context, a typical structure, and a message in plain sight. These messages, or morals, take little to no thinking for the audience to obtain. In the commonly known Cinderella, the most obvious moral is to “treat others how you would like to be treated.” In that story, the people who act cruel and wicked find themselves in a place of distress, misfortune, and misery. Cinderella, whose heart is kind, is a very hard worker and treats everyone with respect and kindness. She treats everyone as equals: the magical fairy godmother, the talking mice, and even the evil stepmother. In the end, Cinderella is blessed with the great gift of becoming a princess. She is finally treated how she treats others.
However, some stories with skillful creativity and literary talent give their audience a greater challenge in finding the moral. In the late 12th century, Chretien De Troyes worked to help create the story of King Arthur by mainly focusing on Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table. In each of Chretien’s stories, he had strong morals, or value judgments concerning human behavior, for his audience to observe. For each moral, he disguises them by using literary devices to address his audience in a subtle but transforming way. However, during this time, many of his stories were controversial due to the value judgments he attempted to share with his particular audience. Two of Chretien’s most famous stories are Erec and Enide and The Knight of the Cart. Between these two stories, many morals are brought to light, and Chretien cleverly addresses them with his audience through language.
Beginning with Erec and Enide, this story is about a couple who finds their true love for each other through a long journey of different confrontations and obstacles. One of the most prominent morals illustrated was that only a man of great valor could hold great renown. In other words, only a man of great bravery and courage could hold great fame. Chretien discusses this through a literary device known as auxesis. An auxesis is a form of hyperbole; it is an exaggeration often with sequential enhancement. He uses this device when describing his characters. Erec is introduced and automatically described as follows: “… such beauty was his that nowhere on earth could be found a knight so handsome. Though not yet twenty-five, he was most noble, brave, and becoming. Never had any man his age displayed such valor” (Staines 2). Also illustrated is King Arthur’s court. It is a renowned court: “None so sumptuous was ever seen, for many fine knights were there, bold and proud warriors …” (Staines 1). The exaggeration, emphasis, and the multiple descriptive adjectives really draw the audience in. This auxesis strongly compliments the man of great renown, commenting only positively with numerous accounts of adjectives strictly involving bravery and courageousness.
The next main moral discussed in Erec and Enide is that true love and understanding sometimes comes with a sort of learning or epiphany. To display this moral, Chretien uses repetition throughout the story. When Enide insults Erec’s valor, Erec then continuously threatens Enide not to speak to him as they begin their journey into the forest. At first Erec says, “Gallop along and be careful not to be so presumptuous as to address me if you see something. Don’t speak to me unless I address you first” (Staines 35). Towards the middle of the story, Erec threatens her twice more “… he made it his particular concern to threaten her that she was not to be so bold as to utter a single word unless he gave her permission” (Staines 37). In the end, Enide does not adhere to these threats because she must speak to him to warn and protect him. She once more warns Erec of the count of the town’s treachery and devious plan, only now Erec sees that Enide is simply...