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Society’s Arthurian Variety

Writers have reflected the differences in society and individual opinions over many years in their writing by slightly altering the plot of Arthurian Romances to appeal to the interests of their community. Arthurian Romances, at early times, were written with themes of magic and violence whereas legends from later times attributed critical turning points in the plot to the power of love and were more involved, containing a long list of characters.

Also affecting the differences in the times are the writer’s nationality. Earlier Arthurian Romances were written by Celts. Their warrior mentality led the writers to depict gruesome and violent legends. The beginning of The Wife of Bath’s Tale (Canterbury Tales) blatantly describes a knight, who is supposed to uphold the strict regiment of chivalry, violently raping a virgin at first glance. Such an occurrence commonly appears throughout Celtic Arthurian Romances and is a reminder of the life of war that they led.

The rest of The Wife of Bath’s Tale has mystical pretences, signifying the Celt’s belief in the gods of good and evil. The answer to the question of which the malicious knight was questing for was held by a deceptive witch, who appears to be a rich young woman after gaining the knight’s respect. The writing style of the Celts also makes the tale appear to be more mysterious by their to-the-point storytelling by leaving out the details which make tales seem real to the audience, in many cases not even giving their characters names instead of positions.

From the French perspective, Arthurian Romances took on a whole new profile. Many intertwined characters with elegant names such as Lancelot and Gwenyvere, from Excalibur, promote honor and a strong reverence of love. Whereas knights commonly took advantage of their animal instincts in the Celtic tales, they upheld a strict code of honor, chivalry, from the French perspective.

The struggle within Lancelot and Gwenyvere to discover why their hearts wanted to make the wrong decision when they already had the right and best situation shows that the French did not totally understand the nature of love and believed it to be unpredictable. Arthurian Romances have been depicted in many different ways to tell the same story in the end, but the contrast between the Celtic and French versions sticks out like a sore thumb.

The Celts, being the older, more primitive society were focused on the warring, fighting and magic of the legend without much distraction. The French included these aspects of the tales, but added an important real life emotion to the stories, love, while making the tales much more complex and detailed. The trend in literature movements has proven that this rate of progression from blunt storytelling to more developed, similar plots will continue as long as people are creating modern works.

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