March 1: Sir Degrevant (1-900)

This poem includes much more fighting and war than any other poem we’ve read this semester.

Do you think this is a poem about wars? If so, how do the women figure into these wars?


3 thoughts on “March 1: Sir Degrevant (1-900)

  1. So far Sir Degrevant does seem to have a lot of fighting going on, but I don’t know that it’s about wars. It seems to focus far less on the wars themselves and more on the desires and conflict between Sir Degrevant and the earl. The wars seem only to be extensions of their virtue (or lack thereof), much like the women in the story so far seem to be extensions of their desires. What part do women play in these wars? They seem to operate as catalysts for the actions of men. Even though the earl’s daughter rejects Degrevant’s initial proposal, this only serves to spark more action from Degrevant.

  2. Sir Degrevant is very unlike many Medieval texts we have read in this class so far. I did feel like this text was much more violent than many texts we have encountered. However, I wouldn’t say that this text is all about war. I think a common theme in this poem is proving one’s masculinity and repaying violence with violence.
    Sir Degrevant is obsession with hunting and he is very skilled at this. Degrevant’s passion for the sport is explained in the poem when it describes his glee when he watches the bodies of the animals he slays hit the ground. I do find it interesting that many of the animals he hunts live in his farms? Almost as if the animals he slays are already in captivity? However, I may have read that part of the poem wrong. Sir Degrevant uses his skill as a hunter to show his power and mastery over nature, thus seeking to prove his dominant, male masculinity.
    His desire to prove his masculinity is again seen in his justification to fight violence with violence. When Sir Degrevant returns from a crusade later on in the poem, he finds that his foresters and tenets have been ransacked and destroyed. When the person responsible for this refuses to fix the damage, Sir Degrevant attacks the earl’s land in the way his was attacked. Despite the fact that Sir Degrevant had already lost so many men when his land was attacked, Sir Degrevant disregards this as he sends his remaining men back into battle against the earl. His desire to preserve his reputation and prove his dominance, shadows the fact that he is going to lose many noble men.

  3. Romance, like war, is inevitable to the courtly knight in a medieval romance. As much as the knight cannot argue his virtuous duty to defend his kingdom, he cannot escape the fated pull of true love. Sir Degrevant is an excellent example of a knight who is not seeking love and is unable to avoid its intoxications. Degrevant’s inability to love is not considered a flaw, it seems that his lack of romance only increases his loyalty to causes like war. This is not due to rejection or an inability to find a partner, his lack of romance is totally under his control. He has restricted himself from love which has allowed him to focus on his victory in battle. When he goes to war specifically with the earl and once again dedicates himself wholly to an impassioned battle it seems he will be adequately distracted by his duties as a knight. Instead, out of nowhere, Sir Degrevant cannot deny the strong attraction he suddenly feels to a member of the earls court: his daughter Melydor.

    It would seem that the act of Degrevant following his attraction to Melydor would distract him from war and allow the earl to win (or at least get away with destroying Degrevant’s property). Instead, Degrevant simply puts his war with the earl temporarily on hold and uses the same fierce determination to pursue his love. Romance and war then become closely intertwined, Sir Degrevant must engage in conquest to win his love – he must prove himself a better fighter than a rival suitor as well as prove himself as an honest lover to his once enemy – the earl. The passions of war and romance are similar in that, for the courtly knight, they are both inevitable and they require skill that guarantees victory.

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