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The Concept of Chivalry and Its Existence in Modern Times

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While chivalry was characterized as an ethical, religious social code of noble and courtly conduct in medieval times, it has changed over time to be something less formal but still very relevant. The origin of chivalry “derives from old French as chevalerie, which is loosely translated to horse soldiery. Initially, the term referred only to horse-mounted men due to the term cheval translating to the word, horse, but later it progressed to relating to knightly deeds”. The definition of chivalry can also be found among, The Code of Chivalry. The Code of Chivalry was a moral system created to name knights as honorable. Not only were they expected to be brave and fearless, but they were also expected to be kind to all women and children. Chivalry in the Medieval Times had a very strict definition. It was so strict, that it had it’s very own codes that must be followed to be chivalrous.

In the story, Beowulf, the main character Beowulf can be described as the definition of chivalry. Within the story he followed The Code of Chivalry to the best of his ability. He showed many heroic traits and presented himself as a hero. For example, “Thus Beowulf bore himself with valour; he was formidable in battle yet behaved with honour and took no advantage”. This quote within the text goes to demonstrate that even when battling for his life he remained a chivalrous individual. Within the story, Beowulf is described to the highest esteem as a hero. A Danish coast-guard says, “Nor have I seen a mightier man-at-arms on this earth than the one standing here: unless I am mistaken, he is truly noble. This is no mere hanger-on in a hero’s armour’. Beowulf’s character as a hero is obvious to the Danish coast-guard just from taking a gander at him. Beowulf, while not a perfect person, is a very chivalrous person and is a hero through and through. Chivalry is the code of respect perceived by knights in the Middle Ages. Knights should carry on decently toward one another by observing certain principles. In general, knights were relied upon to serve God, ensure the feeble and honest, and be courageous and fair in conflicts.

While the story Beowulf originates before thoughts of Chivalry which was created during the Middle Ages, Beowulf displays these characteristics all through the epic poem. In his endeavors to spare Herot from Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon. Beowulf showed chivalry in almost all of his actions. An example of this is when Beowulf defeats the dragon. Beowulf says, ‘I would rather not use a weapon if I knew another way to grapple with the dragon and make good my boast as I did against Grendel in days gone by. But I shall be meeting molten venom in the fire he breathes, so I go forth in mail-shirt and a shield’. This quote shows how honorable Beowulf is in a fight. He makes it clear to the readers that he doesn’t want to enter a fight with any advantages. Beowulf wants to win fights honorably which shows that Beowulf is chivalrous. Another example of Beowulf’s chivalrous bravery is when he finally defeated the dragon. “Inspired again by the thought of glory, the war-king threw his whole strength behind a sword-stroke and connected with the skull”. This quote shows how even in Beowulf’s weakest moments where he is dying from a fatal wound filled with poison, he has the strength to kill the dragon, Beowulf not only lived a hero’s life, he died a hero.

As shown by the definition of chivalry and examples from the text of Beowulf, chivalry was very important in the medieval times, but what is chivalry now? Is Chivalry dead? The answer is no. Chivalry is not dead but very much alive. It is displayed in a very different manner but chivalry still lives on. For example gentleman still open the door for women. This small act of kindness is still around, and shows courtesy and chivalry to women. Nowadays since women now have more rights, some signs of chivalry in medieval times or just dated back from right now, can come across as sexist and rude. Yet, chivalry still exists. This just goes to show that chivalry didn’t die, it just changed and morphed with society. Being chivalrous nowadays means “Chivalry spells out certain ethical standards that foster the development of manhood. Men are called to be: truthful, loyal, courteous to others, helpmates to women, supporters of justice, and defenders of the weak. They are also expected to avoid scandal.” This is similar to the ideas in medieval times, just modernized to fit the qualifications for our society now. Chivalry as shown is not dead, and will continue to live on in many different ways.

Chivalry is displayed in many ways. Whether it is in medieval times where there is a Code Of Chivalry to follow, or in modern times where it can be as simple as opening a door, chivalry exists all over. Beowulf is a perfect example of how chivalry existed in medieval times. He showed bravery, honesty, integrity and all things a chivalrous person must have to meet the Code of Chivalry. While chivalry was much more prominent in medieval times, it still exists and will continue to exist. Chivalry is showing common decency to people and being kind and respectful, especially to women. Chivalry does exist and will continue to exist.

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The Concept Of Chivalry And Its Existence In Modern Times. (2021, May 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 1, 2023, from
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