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Re: Tirant as an example of Chivalry

Poster: Karen Elisa Green <kgreen2@osf1.gmu.edu>

Wrote Mistress Deirdre O'Siodhachain:

>Having taught on 'Tirant' and other literature from the period let me give
>you a hint.  Chivalry in period is something between equals of social
>standing and/or ability.  If you read a particularly brutal encounter you
>will often find it is in terms of punishing a transgressor who is 
unworthy of
>better treatment.  Unrepentent heathens are fair game as are dishonorable
>knights or pretenders to the knightly class.

That's why I had said that it's more or less a manual on How To Be A 
Knight, as opposed to period examples of chivalry.  Diafebo's tale is of 
a time before the book even starts -- and two pages later, when Diafebo 
remarks of Tirant, "He can fight fully armed from morning till evening 
and never falter for lack of breath," the hermit says, "That is the 
principal virtue that a knight can have who must enter into combat ... 
Let me ask you knghts who are young and knowledgeable in the exercise or 
arms, which would you prefer, to be strong but not skillfull or cunning, 
or to be very skillful and clever but not strong?"  A quandary which 
perplexes fighters to this day ;)

>Tirant is an excellent book, although very long for the casual reader 
and in
>need of a 'good parts' version.  However, it was written very late in the
>chivalric era and is contemporary with the far more famous 'Don Quixote.'

It was first published in 1490, a century before Don Quixote, towards the 
declining years of the the tournaments we so enthusiastically re-create.  
;)  In fact, Cervantes mentions TIRANT LO BLANC specifically as one of 
the books that drives our hero to a life of anachronism ;) -- recall 
that as Quijano's household prepares to burn the old man's books, the 
priest saves one book -- TIRANT LO BLANC -- (AMADIS DE GAULA having been 
saved from destruction a few pages before) -- as it "in its style is the 
best book in the world."  There are quite a few passages in DON QUI 
which are clearly taken from TIRANT -- including the elaborate will made 
out at the end of the book -- and clearly Cervantes is praising TIRANT 
through the mouth of the village priest.  (Something about "Here knights 
fight and die in their beds, make out wills ..." it's a cute passage.)

>possesses strong elements of satire and world-weary sophistication.  It is
>not a how-to manual for chivalry.

Again, not for chivalry, but for How To Be A Knight -- from how to treat 
the ladies, to the nature of arabs, to how to write a will.  So on and et 
cetera.  Towards the end, I agree, it becomes more "satire and 
world-weary sophistication," but Martorell sets out to write a knights' 
manual.  Lest we forget, Mistress Deirdre, the dedicatory letter to 
Prince Ferdinand at the beginning of the book, which reads in part:

"With affection and continual desire to serve your redoubtable lordship I 
have not labored over niceties of arrangement or interpretation, in order 
that, by your virtue, your majesty can share this work among your 
servants and others.  They can extract the pertinent morsel and thereby 
take courage and not fear harsh deeds of arms, but rather resolve 
honorably to uphold the common good as knighthood intended.  This book 
will also illuminate the way for those who are knights in moral spirit, 
presenting to them examples of good deeds, and smiting vice and the 
ferocious corruption of monstrous practices.  So that no one else can be 
blamed if any faults are found in this work, I, Joanot Martorell, knight, 
take sole responsability for it, as I have carried out the task 
single-handedly in the service of the illustrious Prince and Lord, heir 
expectant to the throne, Don Ferdinand of Portugal, beginning this work 
on the 2nd of January, 1460."

He also writes, in the Prologue, of the knights "of ancient times" and 
their deeds -- and that "among the most honored and glorious knights in 
memory is the magnificent Tirant lo Blanc, whose unsurpassable 
accomplishments and deeds of virtue will be celebrated in this book, set 
forth for our instruction and glory."

In the section on William of Warwick, we read the following:

"The order of knighthood is of such worth that it should be esteemed 
highly, so long as knights are true ot the purpose for which it was 
founded.  Divine providence has pleased to ordain that the seven planets 
exert influence on our world and have dominacne in human nature, 
inclininng us toward a sinful and base life.  Nonetheless, Our Creator 
has not denied us free will.  If a man rules himself wisely and attempts 
to live with virtue and discretion, it is possible to lessen, and triumph 
over, the evil influence of the planets.  And so, with God's help, the 
present book of chivalry will contain seven main parts setting fort the 
honor and sovereignty which knights should have among people.
     "The first part will describe the beginnings of chivlary; the 
second, the estate and office of knighthood; the third, the test which 
should be made of the gentelman or worthy who wants to be made a knight; 
the fourth, the manner n which he should be knighted; the fifth, the 
meaning of knightly arms; the sixth, the duties and customs pertaining to 
a knight; and the seventh and last, the honor which a knight should be given.
     "The seven aspects of chivalry will be contianed in a later part of 
this book.  Now, at the beginning, the book will treat of certain noble 
deeds performed that brave and illustrious knight, the father of 
chivalry, Earl William of Warwick, in his final days."

So at least, Martorell *intended* this to be a knights' manual -- 
however, I must note that the first part seems to be cribbed almost 
entirely from Ramon Llull's LLIBRE DE L'ORDE DE CAVALLERIA -- it's from 
the Incipit Prologus there -- and Martorell never returns to the seven 
sections he "proposes" in the beginning.  It is evident, however, that 
the teaching of How To Be A Knight 101 is Martorell's intention, else he 
would not have cribbed that passage methinks.

>If you want that, go back to one of the
>books Martorell heavily plagarized, Ramon Lull's 'Book of the Order of
>Chivalry' or find a translation of the anonymous poem 'Saladin' wherein the
>Christian Sir Hue instructs Saladin in the meaning of knighthood.  Those 
>the instruction manuals of the period, not Tirant.

TIRANT was never terribly popular -- mostly because Llull's work was more 
widespread.  What Martorell tries to do is to crib Llull and pull it into 
a narrative form, creating a knight -- Tirant, and in places, William of 
Warwick, and in other places, Diafebo or Hipolito or blah blah blah ... 
-- to teach and/or learn that the reader might learn by example.

For the modern SCAdian, TIRANT provides a glimpse at what an average 
knight would have known of Llull (or woulda been able to copy), some of 
the superstitions and general beliefs of the day, and so forth.  It is 
also a mirror into the pageantry of tournaments and feasts, although I 
must say Martorell and de Galba simply must be toking up their hero's 
strength *just* a tad.  ;)

>P.S.  I am very glad to know this book is in print again since my paperback
>copy disappeared in my travels to University.

It is in print in both the edition that Alfredo has, and my edition, 
which was translated by Ray La Fontaine and published by Lang in 1993.

>Deirdre O'Siodhachain, OL

Karen Larsdatter med det Usigelige Efternavn fra Skyggedal, AoA
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