The text Sir Orfeo contains several typical elements of courtly poetry, like an emphasis on the importance of beauty for women, and chivalry for men. This is made apparent when after being tricked out of his wife, Sir Orfeo undertakes a quest to satisfy his mourning. This quest lacked the direction that is present in other tales from this era, like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, but is instead born out of passionate mourning at the loss of his wife, exemplified when Sir Orfeo says, “For now ichave° mi quen y-lore,° I have / lost The fairest levedi° that ever was bore, lady Never eft y nil no woman/ Into wildernes ichil te° I will go And live ther evermore” (Orfeo 209). During his journeys in the wilderness, Sir Orfeo’s status was reduced nearly of that to an animal, further complicating any attempts to regain his old glory. However, Sir Orfeo employs a righteous form of deceit to deduce the heart of his steward. Sir Orfeo is portrayed as valiant and just, and therefore I was surprised to witness him lowering his own standards to examine one that he would later consider friend. I suppose a reader during the time of publication would have been able to justify this, but it struck me as strange.
I can see how it might seem strange, Dylan; we discussed in class ways such actions (deceit) when used by a good king like Orfeo to determine the loyalty of a subject would have had a very different resonance than, say, using deceit to get away with something harmful to others.