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Humor-driven Social Commentary in the Medieval Period. "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" highlights the faults of knights and of chivalry. "The General Prologue" highlights the shift away from serfdom.

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Introduction

Dr. B British Literature 26 September 2021 Humor-driven Social Commentary in the Medieval Period The medieval period was an interesting time for literature as literacy was not common except among the aristocracy. The authors of the time would simply write down the oral tales from before, adding whatever they needed for their written version. It was also a time of social and political unrest. The rise of the merchant class was a drastic shift away from the feudal system. Literature during this time tended to be funny. Humor and humorous commentary is a prevalent theme throughout most of its secular literary works. "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" is an Arthurian tale and is a perfect example of social commentary in medieval literature. Its commentary on chivalric code and the hubris of the crown is timeless and can still be learned from today. It also holds comedic value in its humorous depiction of Sir Gawain's quest. ...read more.

Middle

205-56). The whole story is still funny though. The times the Green Knight interrupts the action of the scene to make a mockery of Arthur and tradition are genuinely humorous. In a broader sense the entire story is funny in an ironic way. We have a knight who must go on a quest to get his head chopped off and half of the entire story is dedicated to him lounging in a castle he was invited into. It is so important that he is a knight because knights are aristocrats. They have power in medieval society and this story looks at that power and says it means nothing because knights are people too. The author of this particular version of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" was definitely using their position to comment on honor and chivalry. The harsh treatment from the Green Knight to Arthur's court and the humiliation of Gawain are so contrary to a normal knight story. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Monk and Friar are more extreme examples of individuality within their roles, as they fully pervert the expectations of their role (pp. 262-67). This also makes the story incapable of only being a funny story. It's a social commentary by design. Chaucer doesn't make the characters a perfect image of their role and instead makes them into real people. They have lives and do things differently and change the definition of their role. "The General Prologue" is pointing out the shift in medieval society. That people are living more freely and they don't have to be under the thumb of a lord. Chaucer paints this picture perfectly with the Knight and Yeoman. The knight lives simply and quietly as what he is while his Yeoman lives fully armored and above what he needs. These stories play instrumental roles in the medieval literary canon. They exemplify the period's humor and dissatisfaction with old systems. "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" highlights the faults of knights and of chivalry. "The General Prologue" highlights the shift away from serfdom as the merchant class begins to rise. ...read more.

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