Chaucer and Crusader Ethics: Youth, Love, and the Material World

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Elias, Marcel 

jats:titleAbstract</jats:title> jats:pIn this essay, I argue that the Squire’s portrait in the Canterbury Tales is indebted to fourteenth-century crusade discourse, and that the ideological differences between the Knight and the Squire are well understood in relation to contemporary debates on the ethics of crusaders. Drawing upon diverse literary and historical sources, I focus on three rhetorical juxtapositions, which, I argue, Chaucer appropriated from contemporary critics of the morals and conduct of crusaders: between aged wisdom and youthful passion to admonish their military intemperance; between love of God and love of the world, often couched in terms of chivalric love-service, to decry their vainglorious motives; and between humble and ostentatious attire to denounce their excessive attachment to the material world. The evaluative relation between the two pilgrims, established in the General Prologue, is developed in the Knight’s Tale and the Squire’s Tale. Within the Squire’s scope of experience, key episodes of the Knight’s Tale fulfil the role of cautionary exempla in a vein similar to those extensively deployed in writings on and by crusaders to illustrate the benefits and dangers of specific attitudes and behaviours. The Squire’s Tale, drawing upon the motif of the ‘noble infidel’, further exposes the deficiencies of the crusading philosophy of which its teller is a symbol.</jats:p>

47 Language, Communication and Culture, 4705 Literary Studies
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The Review of English Studies
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Oxford University Press (OUP)
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