Date of Graduation

Spring 5-2012

Level of Access

Restricted: Campus/Bates Community Only Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department or Program

English

Number of Pages

141

Abstract

This thesis examines the evolution of chivalric values embodied in the Order of the Garter through historically conscious readings of the fourteenth-century romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Book I of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene. These texts each reference the Order of the Garter to prescribe an ideal of chivalric knighthood—Sir Gawain through the story of the green girdle (reminiscent of the garter symbol) and its acceptance by the court as a symbol of honor, and the Faerie Queene through the narrative of the Redcrosse Knight, who is in fact St. George, patron saint of the Order. Examining these texts through the lens of the Order illuminates the chivalric values of their times and illustrates the evolution of chivalry from the Edwardian to Elizabethan periods. Providing historical background on the Order of the Garter—England’s first chivalric knightly Order founded in 1348 by Edward III—and close reading of the texts in light of this context, I argue that chivalry in the medieval period was in a period of transition, characterized by conflicts between the military, courtly, and religious ideals of the time. By the time of Elizabeth I, these diverse elements had been united to create a hegemonic chivalric ideology emphasizing the elevated status of the courtly lady. This ideology was used as a political tool to support Elizabeth’s rule. The Order embodied the combination of chivalric elements, and provides one example of Elizabeth’s manipulation of chivalry as a means of justification of female rule.

Components of Thesis

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