In The Erle of Tolous we are confronted with a menagerie of diabolical characters from Knights of ill repute to Emperors bent on taking of land that isn’t theirs. The only two shining spots of virtue are Tolous and Beulybon. But these two only seem like the epitome of all that is right and just with the world surrounded by these people of horrendous morals. Beulybon gives a love token to a man to whom she is not married and Tolous disguising himself as a monk, immoral in its own right, but furthers his debauchery by hearing Beulybon’s confession just before she is supposed to be executed. These characters are not the shining heroes of virtue and morality; we only excuse their trespasses because they are the best of the worst. I don’t think that these characters would have been so well received or forgiven if they were in the world of another romance such as Sir Isumbras and definitely not in Saint Eustace. We talked in class about this romance being read primarily amongst the gentry and I was wondering what other people thought about the idea that these nobles are depicted as less than perfect because non-nobles would be reading this. Would the gentry and the merchant class respond in a more welcome manner to this tale than others like Sir Isumbras because these nobles were not infallible? I think that if I had been a member of the gentry class I would be getting tired of reading about the indestructibility and luck of the nobles. They never seem to meet any foe or obstacle that they cannot overcome, simply because their noble of blood. I would have loved this tale about a noble that wasn’t this unattainable perfection. Tolous would have seemed more real to me, human in a way that Sir Isumbras does not. I wonder if the writer did this on purpose. Did the writer know that the people reading this would not be nobles? If so, how do you think the nobles would have responded to this text? Would they have seen the same lack of perfection that I do, or would they have accepted the waywardness of these nobles because they are one of their own?
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