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Italo Calvino's use of a suit of armor in "The Non-Existent Knight" to satirize the conventional portrayal of a medieval knight.

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Introduction

Italo Calvino's use of a suit of armor in "The Non-Existent Knight" to satirize the conventional portrayal of a medieval knight. "The Non-Existent Knight", by Calvino, is a short story which features Agilulf, a knight who purportedly does not possess a human body, yet is able to exist as a suit of armor amalgamated with 'will power' and 'faith'.1 Even though Agilulf is devoid of a human body, he is well respected and revered, and is viewed by compatriots as a superior knight. In this way, Calvino utilizes Agilulf's suit of armor as a focal point from which to express the imperfection of knights. As knights tend to be portrayed as flawless and ideal characters in literature, the author seems to be attempting to offer a more realistic depiction of knights. The features of a knight which are satirized include the exaggerated honor, strength and romance that society believes they exude. I believe that it is the precise notion that a knight is incontrovertibly a quixotic character which is confronted by Calvino, through the use of a suit of armor in "The Non-Existent Knight". ...read more.

Middle

sees that the 'naked flesh was a woman's', who turns out to be Bradamante.6 As can be observed, Bradamante's femininity is concealed only because she was wearing a suit of armor. Indeed, the suit of armor had shaped the preconception of Bradamante by Raimbaud, to the extent that he 'could not believe his eyes' when he saw that Bradamante was a female.7 Bradamante's suit of armor has distorted her authentic appearance, demonstrating how knights are often misrepresented. Again, this highlights the disparity between society's rather common view of a knight as handsome, righteous, and infallible, with the more realistic view of a knight that is as immoral, ignorant and common-looking as any human of average standing. Bradamante's status as a woman adds a sexist dimension to the misrepresentation of knights, which serves to strengthen the difference between Raimbaud's preconception of Bradamante's looks and her real appearance. This occurs because it is the actual gender of Bradamante which disagrees with Raimbaud's perception, rather than mere minor details of her facial appearance or any other physical feature. The horse, an animal inextricably linked to a knight, is used by Calvino to deride the portrayal of a knight as strong and indomitable. ...read more.

Conclusion

The imperfections of generic knights are thus exposed by the affair. Bradamante's deep-seated attraction to Agilulf further exemplifies the way knights are excessively praised as romantic figures. Despite the affection she receives from Raimbaud and other such knights, she prefers Agilulf due to his rigidity. She perceives the other knights to be mere humans coated in attractive armor, which in fact is a more realistic view of knights. In Bradamante's case, Calvino directly criticizes the common depiction of a knight as a romantic figure, rather than by utilizing subtle allusions. In conclusion, I can assert that suits of armor are used by Calvino to emphasize the fact that knights are, despite contrasting appearances, humans who are fragile and imperfect. The use of Agilulf, as a suit of armor which lacks a human body is in this way used to distinctly mark the difference between a person who wears a suit of armor and one who doesn't. Suits of armor worn by all knights in general, as well as armor worn by Raimbaud's horse, further highlight the disparity between the popular depiction of a knight, and their more realistic appearance and capabilities. Hence, Calvino successfully satirizes the overly vainglorious depiction of medieval knights, and additionally manages to accomplish this in an idiosyncratic manner that deserves literary credence. ...read more.

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