Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Chivalry and Public Disorder

Knights behaving badly.
In late Medieval Florence, violence was common place but the most violent acts were perpetrated by the city’s chivalric elite. It was very different in degree, threatened the common good, and its sheer intensity made it hard to believe that it was part of government sanctioned violence to carry out vendettas. This paper sought to answer: Why was the violence of the chivalric elite so different? The chivalric elite had more access to resources, manpower and fortifications. They constantly rose to the challenges of threats to their status and honour and regularly interfered in administration and government. For example, in 1286 a large groups of knights prevented an official from executing a member of the chivalric elite. The degree of violence was the profound difference in the chivalric reality where martial prowess and honour were central to their identity. “It is worth more than life itself…For the chivalric elite, shame was a fate worse than death”. Violence became the ultimate vindication of honour. “To a Florentine, life without honour is a living death…on the field of honour, might is right”. How did the chivalric elite interpret the relationship between honour and violence? Sposato shared some medieval prose romances to provide answers, “The Tristano Riccardiano“. In the story, as soon as Tristan became a knight, he avenged his father nobly, but he wasn’t satisfied with simple vengeance and went to Brescia (where the knights came from) and killed all the men and women. Practicioners of chivalry were obliged to avenge honour or face a fate worse than death. The excessive violence depicted in such tales, like Tristano Riccardiano, was not frowned down upon, but lauded. A chivalric end more than justified the bloody means. (Read entire article.)

1 comment:

julygirl said...

Hmmmm...the names Hatfield and McCoy don't sound Italian, so I am guessing the people of the Appalachain Mountain region of our country must have come here with the same mentality.