Gold THE GEOFFREY CHAUCER PAGE


Larry D. Benson

 

The Tournament in the Romances of
Chrétien de Troyes
& L'Histoire de Guillaume Le Maréchal

 

 

The great medieval tournament, with its knights in shining plate, its colorful lists and pavilions, and its throngs of heralds, minstrels, and brightly clad ladies, provides the popular imagination with its most vivid image of knighthood in its flower -- in the grand days of the First Crusade or the times of Richard the Lion-Hearted. Yet there is little evidence that tournaments were common in the eleventh century and, Sir Walter Scott's "noble and joyous Passage of Arms at Ashby de la Zouche" and its Hollywood adaptations notwithstanding, tournaments in the days of Richard the Lion-Hearted had little of the elegance and spectacle that later became associated with the sport. They were crude and bloody affairs, forbidden by the Church and sternly suppressed by any central authority powerful enough to enforce its ban. Though older historians, beginning with Léon Gautier, believed that chivalry flowered in the eleventh and twelfth centuries and steadily declined thereafter,1 the most characteristic form of public expression of chivalric ideals, the tournament, was just beginning in the eleventh and twelfth centuries and thereafter steadily developed, culminating in the fifteenth and even sixteenth

Page 2

centuries with such glittering spectacles as the Field of the cloth of Gold:
. . . When these suns
(For so they phrase 'em) by their heralds challenged
The noble spirits to arms, they did perform
Beyond thought's compass, that former fabulous story,
Being now seen possible enough, got credit,
That Bevis was believed.
(Shakespeare, Henry VIII I.i.33-38)

By the time Henry VIII and Francis I met on the Field of the cloth of Gold, the crude sport known to the twelfth century had developed into a solemn chivalric festival, lavishly supported rather than suppressed by kings and princes, and so acceptable even to the Church that the opening of the Belvedere at the Vatican was celebrated with a great tournament, one of the grandest Italy had ever seen.2 As Shakespeare's reference to Sir Bevis of Hampton indicates, literature played an important role in this development.

The transformation of the tournament from military game to chivalric spectacle began in the late twelfth century. In this essay I intend to look closely at this first stage in the history of the tournament in order to understand more clearly how that development began and how literature was involved in it. Although in this crucial first period our records are so scanty that certainty is impossible, I think we can learn something about the ways that life and literature interact. I shall concentriate on a brief period -- from about the 1160's to the 1220's -- and on a small body of texts -- our earliest descriptions of fictional tournaments in the works of Chrétien de Troyes, and our earliest descriptions of real tournaments in L'Histoire de Guillaume le Maréchal.3 My object is to describe what actual tournaments were like in the late twelfth century, what changes Chrétien made when he brought those tournaments into his romances, and how these fictional tournaments affected the way the next generation of readers regarded actual tournaments.

I begin with Chrétien in the late twelfth century because until then we have almost no records of tournaments. The game seems to have originated in France, and as early as the reign of Henry I, there is a record of an English knight going to France to participate in tournaments, "in conflictibus Gallicis," as Roger of Wendover later referred to them.4 William of Newburgh says that tournaments were held in England in King Stephen's reign, a fact that William takes as a sign of

Page 3

Stephen's weakness, since his predecessors back to the Conqueror had forbidden their importation to England, as did Stephen's successor, Henry II.5 But William gives no details and there is but one record of an actual tournament anywhere in Europe before the second half of the twelfth century -- at Würzburg in 1127, though that reference is itself so vague it may refer to something else altogether.6 We know that by this time the tournament must have been very widespread, but our only proof for this is the fact that Pope Innocent II found it necessary to ban them at the Council of Clermont in 1130. This is the first of the ecclesiastical prohibitions (sometimes with the penalty of excommunication) that were repeated throughout the twelfth and thirteenth centuries until finally, in 1316, the ban was officially lifted.7

Of course, the very silence of the chroniclers is significant, for it shows how unimportant tournaments were; they were not worthy of historical record. Neither were they worthy of literary record. I know of only one possible reference to a tournament in literature before the second half of the twelfth century. This is in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae (about 1137). In an uncharacteristic but very important chapter, Geoffrey describes the magnificent celebration that King Arthur gives to mark his return to Britain after his conquest of France. First there is an elaborate feast:

The feast having been finished, all went to the fields outside the castle for various sports. Soon the knights began an equestrian game in the form of a mock battle, the ladies looking on from the walls, inspiring their sport with burning flames of love.8
This looks like a tournament, and it did influence later literary tournaments. But there is no mention of weapons or actual fighting, and what we have here may be merely an elaborate equestriarm display rather like the ludus Troiae described by Virgil among the epic games in Book V of the Aeneid, which may have inspired this passage.9 This equestrian display, for which we have no adequate name, though it merged with the later bohort, is an older Germanic sport that survived into the twelfth century; the most notable example was at the great Hoffest held by Emperor Frederick I at Mainz in 1184.10 If this is what Geoffrey was describing (as I suspect), then we have no mention of a tournament in the Historia. There is, in the same chapter, a doubtful reference to jousting, doubtful because it occurs only in the variant version of the Historia. According to this text, while some knights engaged in that mock battle,

Page 4

"others contended in boxing, in jousting, in throwing heavy stones, and yet others in playing chess, casting dice, and various other games."11 If the variant text does represent Geoffrey's intention, then we must conclude that for him jousting ranked somewhere between boxing and shooting craps.

When Wace translated this passage in his Roman de Brut, he reduced the account of the equestrian display to but two lines ("Some went to hold a bohort and to show their swift horses," ll. 10525-26), dismissed the jousting in a single vague line ("Others went to joust" [escremir], l. 10527), and gave his attention instead to courtly amusements -- songs, dances, music, the telling of tales, and games -- which he apparently regarded as more essential to a great court festival than were tournaments.12 Nor do the other romancers of Wace's generation -- the authors of the romances of Eneas, Thébes, and Troie -- include tournaments in their works.

These authors clearly knew of tournaments. The author of the Roman de Thébes frequently uses the verbs for "to joust" and "to tourney," but he uses them almost always in reference to actual combat and never unambiguously for the sport itself.13 The author of the Roman d'Eneas had a perfect oPportunity to describe a tournament in the account of the epic games in Book V of the Aeneid, which includes the ludus Troiae that later translators treated as a tournament. But this romancer compresses all of Book V into but sixteen lines, and he does not so much as hint at a tournament.14 Even in the next generation the Dutch translator of the Roman d'Eneas, Heinric van Veldeken, who was at the Hoffest at Mainz, where there was a tournament on the day following the great equestrian display, makes no mention of tournaments.15 The authors of the romans d'antiquité did not ignore tournaments because of any fear of anachronisms, and probably not because they had any religious objections to them. They ignored them because the tournament was not an essential part of the aristocratic life reflected and idealized in their works.

Certainly their patron -- assuming it is true that these authors all worked under the patronage of Henry II16 -- had little interest in tournaments. So far as we know, Henry never took part in tournaments even when he was young, and for the forty years of his reign he vigorously enforced the ban against tournaments in England, though, like his predecessors, he allowed them in his French domain, perhaps because they were too firmly rooted there to suppress. Henry was not unusual in this respect. In his day, as Georges Duby has

Page 5

written, tournaments were the passion not of kings and princes but of that class of young, landless, and often irresponsible knights -- the juvenes.17 Henry apparently had no objection ty the young amusing themselves in this fashion, so long as the went to the continent to do so; his own son, the crowned prince, Young King Henry, made a notable tour of the continental tournaments. Nevertheless, Henry's suppression of the tournament in England shows that he did not regard it as a necessary part of the knightly life, and it is not surprising that literary works written under his patronage ignore the tournament, despite its growing popularity.

It was indeed becoming more popular in Henry's later years, for the next generation -- exemplified by Henry's own sons -- shows a striking change in attitude. In the last half of the twelfth century tournaments became the passion not only of the juvenes but of the scions of royalty -- such as Young King Henry and William the Lion of Scotland -- and of powerful feudal magnates, such as Count Philip of Flanders and Count Baldwin of Hainault. At a tournament at Lagni-sur-Marne in 1179, the participants included Young King Henry, the duke of Burgundy, and nineteen counts from England, Normandy, Flanders, and Anjou.18 Such nobles were capable of leading huge retinues onto the field; the Young King had eighty-six knights (of whom sixteen were bannerets) at Lagni-sur-Marne, and Count Baldwin of Hainault entered a tournament in 1175 leading two hundred knights and 1200 foot soldiers.19

The character of the tournament therefore changed. What previously must have been a comparatively small-scale sport of landless knights and minor castellans was now becoming an elaborate affair dominated by rich nobles. That is what the troubadour-knight Bertran de Born says in one of his sirventes, written at this time, in which he complains bitterly about the increasing number of rich nobles who are now entering tournaments and thus depriving poor knights of the booty that would otherwise have been theirs.20 One may doubt how much weight to place on Bertran's words, since we hear the same complaint in the next century.21 Yet there is no doubt that the generation that followed Henry II in England and Louis VII in France saw a growing popularity of the tournament among the upper nobility. In 1194 King Richard for the first time legalized the tournament in England. At the same time he imposed such heavy fees on the participants (ranging from twenty marks for a count to two marks for a landless knight) that it is clear he was more interested in raising revenue than in encouraging the sport.22 Yet the enthusiasm of counts and barons for the sport

Page 6

doubtless had something to do with the fact that kings like Richard were, however grudgingly, now prepared to tolerate it. The same class of nobles who now enthusiastically cultivated the tournament were also the patrons of the new generation of romancers. Wace and his follow authors of the romans d'antiquité had enjoyed royal patronage. The first and most important of the new generation of romancers, Chrétien de Troyes and Gautier d'Arras, were subsidized by lesser households, those of Countess Marie of Champagne and of Counts Philip of Flanders, Baldwin of Hainault, and Thiebaut of Blois. These were the same nobles who so vigorously encouraged tournaments, and indeed Count Philip of Flanders, who was the patron of Chrétien's le Conte du graal, Baldwin of Hainault, who patronized Gautier's Ille et Galeron, and Thiebaut of Blois, another patron of Gautier, were among the most active tourneyers of their time. Though Marie herself, of course, did not sponsor tournaments, her husband, Count Henry, sponsored the great tournament at Lagni-sur-Marne in 1179, and the knights of her domain were as active in the sport as their comrades in Flanders or Anjou.23 It is not therefore surprising that in the works of Chrétien and Gautier we have our earliest descriptions of tournaments.

These first literary tournaments, we may note, have little narrative importance. The tournament is not an essential part of early romance. There are none in the poetic versions of Tristan nor in Chrétien's own Yvain, and even when tournaments do appear they have none of the narrative significance of the individual combats -- the judicial duels, chance encounters, and evil customs -- that are the main concern. From the standpoint of the story, the tournaments could easily be omitted without much damage to the narrative. That happened to Ille et Galeron, in which a description of a tournament is replaced in one manuscript by a brief account of a battle, with no serious effect on the narrative or its structure.24

The tournaments are included in Chrétien's romances not as part of the marvels that shape the tales but as part of the definition of the noble life. They are, as we shall see, among the most realistic elements in Chrétien's narratives and thus help define the everyday reality against which we measure the marvels. For Chrétien that reality was the noble life as he and his patrons knew it. In the life of his patron, Count Philip of Flanders, the tournament was a very important activity, and a plausible image of the noble life necessarily included descriptions of that activity.

Page 7

Chrétien had no literary precedents for these descriptions, and he therefore had to draw directly on life. Fortunately, we have some detailed accounts of actual tournaments in Chrétien's time, including some that he himself may have seen, since Count Philip took part in them while Chrétien was writing his le Conte du graal under Philip's patronage.25 These are in L'Histoire de Guillaume le Maréchal, a poetic biography of the famous William the Marshal. William was an almost perfect example of the juvenes -- a younger son with no land or prospects save what he could earn with his sword. His sword earned him a great deal in tournaments throughout northern and western France from around 1166 to 1185. He earned such fame that Count Philip offered him five hundred pounds a year to enter his service; the duke of Burgundy matched that offer, as did the count of Bethune, who also offered him one of his daughters. King Henry II made him Young King Henry's instructor in chivalry, and when the Young King led his knights to France to make a tour of the tournaments, William was the best of his knights and most trusted of his advisors.

After William's death in 1219, his son and his old companion in arms, Jean d'Erlée, commissioned a minstrel -- also named Jean -- to compose his biography, which was completed in 1226. Since the tournaments described by Jean the Minstrel had taken place more than half a century before, and since these accounts were based largely on William's recollections as passed on to the poet by his son and Jean d'Erlée, we must approach this record with considerable caution. We must concentrate on the facts rather than the way the facts are narrated, look to the typical rather than to the unusual event, and draw wherever possible on other records to confirm what we learn from the poem. With such caution we can abstract from these accounts -- which are our earliest descriptions of actual tournaments and our only accounts of actual tournaments in the twelfth century -- a fairly clear idea of what tournaments were like when William and Count Philip fought in them and Chrétien wrote about them. What follows, then, is a summary account, based mainly on Jean the Minstrel's biography of William the Marshal.

 

  In William's day the tournament differed little from actual warfare.26 It was a pitched battle between two armies -- two feudal lords with their troops, which consisted of their own

Page 8

feudal retinues, supplemented by others who had entered their service for pay.27 The smaller tournaments involved only two troops of knights, numbering twenty or thirty to a side. In the grander tournaments other lords and their troops would ally themselves with either the challengers or the defenders, and there could be hundreds of knights on each side.

In addition to the knights there were large numbers of squires and men-at-arms on foot. Some would join in the battle, often with bows and arrows, more often with swords and clubs, attacking fallen knights, occasionally even cutting stirrups to encourage falling.28 Other men-at-arms were held in reserve, lest the fighting get out of hand, as it often did, or were placed in ambush in a nearby town or forest, ready to attack unwary horsemen.

The object of the fighting, as in much of the actual warfare of the time, was booty -- prisoners for ransom, horses, and equipment.29 Though tempers could be lost and injuries and deaths were frequent, since ordinary armor and weapons were used, the participants knew that dead men paid no ransoms, and one therefore aimed to capture rather than harm his opponent. How the capture was made did not matter. There was no emphasis on technique, as there was later with breaking lances, and no nonsense about fair play; ganging together two or three against one was most effective.30 Count Philip of Flanders' favorite trick was to let it be known that he did not intend to take part in the tournament and that he and his troop would merely watch, as spectators. Then, when both sides were exhausted, Philip and his fresh knights would come sweeping in to snatch up prisoners at random. This was thought to be an admirably clever tactic rather than unsportsmanlike conduct, and the Young King, on William's advice, once adopted the same ruse, neatly turning the tables on Philip and his Flemings.31

A few rules existed that distinguished the tournament from actual battle, though they were not always observed and no officials enforced them.32 The tournament was fought at a pre-arranged time and place, for example, and a general truce was observed before and after the fighting. There was a neutral ground, the lices (lists), where prisoners and booty could be kept and where the exhausted or wounded could take refuge, if they could make it there before being captured. In theory, at least, the tournament was a friendly battle, with limits and conditions of ransom well understood and sometimes fixed in advance. The tournament took place in the open country; in the

Page 9

Histoire the location of a tournament is usually specified not at a given town but between two towns -- "entre Anet e Sorel." The knights would gather on the day before, taking lodging in one of the towns. There was usually some preliminary fighting -- the "vespers of the tournament" -- to accommodate early arrivals, but the tournament proper began the next morning. Ordinarily there would be some preliminary jousts, the commencailles, in which, as an act of bravado, individual knights would ride out from the ranks to challenge champions from the opposing side to individual combat. But these jousts were of little importance, and the tournament itself was purely a mêlêe, a general battle. It began with the knights drawn up in two opposing ranks for an initial charge with lances. Once the battle was joined, it could be continued with fresh lances supplied by squires or, more often, with swords and maces. The battle would last until night fell or until one side was completely defeated.

If a knight was knocked off his horse, his opponent would seize his horse and gallop off to the lices, where he would hand the prize to his squires and men-at-arms to guard while he rushed back into the fray. If the unhorsed knight was dazed or injured by his fall, his opponent -- or his opponent's squires and men-at-arms would seize him and drag him off to the lices to remain under guard until he could arrange for his ransom. If he was not dazed or injured by his fall, the squires and men-at-arms would attack with clubs and beat him into submission unless his comrades or his own men-at-arms could effect a rescue.

William the Marshal's favorite tactic was to capture both horse and rider at the same time. He would rush into the fray and seize the reins of his opponent's horse, jerking them out of the rider's hand; then he would ride off as hard as he could, holding the reins at arm's length, just beyond the sweep of his helpless captive's sword. William paid the weapon little mind, knowing that the rider, deprived of his reins, would have enough to do keeping his saddle. Once William executed this on an opponent who, with his men-at-arms, had tried to ambush him in a village. William seized his opponent's reins and rode straight through the ranks of the foot soldiers, dragging his helpless captive after him. But, as they rushed down the village street, his captive, in true B-movie fashion, reached up, grabbed onto a drain-pipe projecting from a house-top, and swung himself up out of the saddle. William thundered on without a backward glance, dragging the now riderless horse behind him. He pulled his mount to a stop before his squires

Page 10

and commanded them to look after his prisoner. "What prisoner?" they asked, and only then did William turn to see that his valuable prey had escaped.33 But he took it in good spirit and merely laughed. William had a broad streak of the "merry barbarity" that characterized young knights of the time, and besides, he knew that horses and saddles were also valuable.

As this incident shows, the tournament was not confined within fixed boundaries. It could range over the whole countryside and into the streets of neighboring villages. Though theoretically the lices were neutral ground, William took care to see that his prisoners were carefully guarded.34 And, though theoretically a truce was observed after a tournament was ended, in actuality no knight was safe until he was back among his friends in his own lodging. At one tournament William and his fellows had returned to their quarters in town and were reckoning up their gains and losses -- mainly losses on the part of William's comrades -- when they saw a wounded knight, dazed and about to fall from his horse, come riding by. Delighted, William leaped up, rushed out, grabbed the fainting knight, tucked the fully armed figure under his arm, and rushed back to his waiting friends. "There," he said, throwing the poor fellow at their feet, "that should pay your debts."35

At sunset the tournament was over, though the leaders of the various troops might agree to a second day's encounter. The evening following the tournament was spent arranging for the payment of ransoms and talking over the events of the day. The leaders decided who had won the pris, the "honor" of the tournament, usually a verbal rather than a material prize. There was also a good deal of drinking and raucous behavior36 but no formal entertainment aside from the fighting; and, though the leaders would entertain their own men and any visitors who dropped in, there were no general feasts, and none of the leaders, not even those who organized the tournament, had any obligation of hospitality toward those who attended.

As this summary shows, the twelfth-century tournament was a brutal and informal affair, with none of the ceremonial and spectacle that characterized later tournaments and little concern for matters of chivalric honor, other than the obligation to pay one's debts. The Church was clearly justified in its opposition to tournaments, and moralists such as Jacques de Vitry had little difficulty proving that the tournament was the very nest of the seven deadly sins.37 The state was no less adamantly opposed to tournaments; for whatever dangers they

Page 11

held for the participants' souls, the threat they posed to public order and safety was even more obvious and immediate. Any large assembly of armed men was a potential danger to the crown. Even when there was no threat to the king's authority, there was always the danger that the game would get out of hand and turn into a small civil war, as happened in 1170, when a tournament between the troops of Baldwin of Hainault and Godfrey of Louvain turned into a bloody rout.38 Moreover, accidental deaths were frequent, and no king could much approve of valuable knights wasting their lives in tournaments rather than in their sovereign's wars. Henry II's son, Geoffrey of Brittany, was only one of many notable knights killed in tournaments during these years.

Nevertheless, it was a sport, a professional sport, to be sure, and one in which a good many knights of the time, such as William the Marshal, made their livings. But for the participants it was also a great deal of fun. The main impression of tournaments that one gathers from L'Histloire de Guillaume le Maréchal is that of boistrous good humor, and clearly William and his friends thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

It was, moreover, an inexpensive form of amusement. Those who sponsored a tournament did not have to build special structures to enclose the field or accommodate spectators; there were no prizes except those the knights captured for themselves; there were no officials or heralds to pay; and, as I have noted, the sponsor was under no obligation of hospitality toward those who attended. It is no wonder that tournaments were so frequent in William's time -- there was about one every other week.39 All that was required to organize a tournament was some means of publicizing the affair and sufficient authority to overawe the peasants whose fields would be trampled and the villagers whose streets might well become scenes of battle and pillage.40 Perhaps the villagers were not a problem. We know from later times that a tournament could bring enough potential revenue to the innkeepers and shop-owners that a municipality would sometimes pay a large sum to induce the sponsors of a tournament to hold it in their town,41 and the same may have been true even at this early period. Villagers may have looked forward to a tournament with the same mixture of greed and anxiety with which small towns today anticipate huge outdoor rock concerts.

The tournament was not only an inexpensive amusement for the sponsors but also a sport within the means of the poorest knight. There were, except in England for a short time

Page 12

under King Richard, no fees of the sort that later became so burdensome, and no special armor or weapons were required. A knight needed only a horse and the arms that he ordinarily carried in battle, and he was in business. Sometimes literally. William the Marshal and Roger de Gaugi went into the business of entering tournaments on a partnership basis, complete with a clerk to keep their accounts, and in a single season they captured 103 knights.42 The prospect of such riches would probably have guaranteed the popularity of tournaments among young knights of the time, even if they had not been so much fun.

This, in broad outline, is the tournament as Chrétien de Troyes knew it from life. When we turn from these real tournaments to those in Chrétien's romances, we find a much different tone. Chrétien, as we shall see, purified the sport of many of its most objectionable elements, but the pattern of action and many of the details are identical to those in life. We hear of the "vespers of the tournament," the commencailles, and the mêlée, which is the main concern; and we find little in the action that does not correspond to the actions of real tournaments. The tournament in Erec et Enide, for example, could serve almost as a paradigm of the tournaments in which William and Count Philip participated.43 It takes place in the fields between two towns, Evoic and Tenebroc. The knights are divided into two opposing armies. The mêlée is the only business -- no preliminary jousts are mentioned -- and it begins with the two sides charging one another with lances. Knights are unhorsed, swords are drawn, and "some run to seize ransoms, others to escape from the battle." Erec strikes down all in his path, and Gawain did many great deeds: "In the battle he struck down Guincel and captured Gaudin of the Mountain; he seized knights and won horses" (ll. 2170-72). The battle rages to the gates of the town. Sagramour is captured; Erec rescues him; they drive all before them into the streets of the town. And so the battle continues until dusk. All on both sides agree that Erec has won the pris, the honor of the tournament, and, as usual in life, it is simply an honor and not a material reward.

From the standpoint of the experience of Chrétien's audience, there is nothing remarkable, or even unusual, about the actions in this tournament. There is even a hint, as when Erec and Sagramour drive their foes into the streets of the town, of some of the dangers to public safety inherent in the tournament. These are even more obvious in the account of the tournament in Le Conte du graal (ll. 4805-5596) in which Count

Page 13

Thiebaut and his council, since they fear for the safety of their town, deliberate long and hard about whether to accept a challenge to a tournament. The count finally accepts, but only after he is reminded that he has many good archers and men-at-arms, who can join in the battle if necessary (ll. 4911-15). Nevertheless, as a precaution he has all the gates of the town walled up to prevent an invasion. This is another very life-like tournament, and the deeds of its hero, Gawain, are modest even by real-life standards: he captures four fine horses.

Count Philip and his friends would have had no difficulty recognizing their favorite sport in Chrétien's romances, and they were probably a bit amused by Thiebaut's walling up the gates of his town, though they had good reason to know his fears were well founded. The tournaments in Cligés (ll. 45434919) and Lancelot (ll. 5495-6045) are much more elaborate than those in Erec and Le Conte du graal, or than most of those in the life of the time; yet even they have a recognizable relation to actual tournaments, and they are never so grand as to lose credibility. The tournament in Cligés lasts four days and that in Lancelot three, but two-day tournaments were fairly common; and though a third or fourth day would have been very unusual, this was not impossible. Likewise, the great tournament in Lancelot is attended by knights from the whole Arthurian world, so that only a fifth of them can be lodged in the town while others are quartered in tents and pavilions that fill the countryside for five leagues around (ll. 5516-23). Such a gathering was larger by far than at the usual tournament of the time, but quite within the realm of possibility for those who, like William and Count Philip, had attended the great tournament at Lagni-sur-Marne where, we are told, three thousand knights were gathered. Finally, in Lancelot an audience of ladies has an important role, and while there were ladies watching from the lices (at one tournament -- that at Joigni -- in which William and Count Philip took part, apparently women rarely attended tournaments. The main difference between these fictional tournaments and those in life is that what was extraordinary in life is presented here as if it were the ordinary thing.

The realistic elements of these tournaments -- those details that the audience could recognize as identical to their own experience -- supply what Morton Bloomfield has called "authenticating realism" -- details from everyday life that lend a narrative an air of plausibility and that allow an audience to accept, or at least suspend its disbelief in, the improbabilities of the fiction.44 Much of the interest of Chrétien's fiction is in

Page 14

its improbabilities, its marvels and wonders. The realistic details of the tournaments allow the audience to believe that those marvels occur to knights who lead lives that are in some respects much like their own.

There are improbabilities in the tournaments as well, and though Chrétien's hearers could easily recognize their favorite sport in his romances, they must also have recognized that these were tournaments quite unlike those that they knew. The action remains generally realistic, but Chrétien makes a number of small yet significant modifications which idealize, purify, and change the tournament from a mere rough sport into an admirably chivalric activity.

For Chrétien's heroes, the tournament is not a place to gain prisoners and horses but purely a field of honor, where one fights only to gain glory. This was an idea that probably appealed to young knights like William, who may well have been like those athletes of today who are fond of assuring us that they play only for the love of the game, usually just after signing a million-dollar contract. To fight without regard for gain was considered the most virtuous form of conduct in actual battle, perhaps because the knights of the time so often fell to the temptation of stopping to gather plunder rather than following up a tactical advantage.45 Nevertheless, even in war, plunder was an important consideration, and in tournaments landless knights such as William fought primarily for profit. There was nothing disreputable about this: William's contemporary, Bertran de Born, states frankly that he fights for booty, whether in war or tournament.46

Chrétien's patrons, landed nobles such as Count Philip, fought in tournaments, at least ostensibly, not for gain but for glory. Largesse, magnificence, was the virtue appropriate to the great noble. Chrétien, in the prologue to Le Conte du graal, elaborately praises Count Philip for this virtue, hailing him as a new Alexander, a model of largesse for all times.47 To maintain such a reputation, one had to avoid even the slightest trace of avarice; though lesser men may legitimately fight for gain, the great noble had to fight only for glory. Thus, when Jean the Minstrel tells us what William gained on the continent, he speaks mainly of prisoners and horses, but when Jean's contemporary, Roger of Wendover, admiringly reports what Young King Henry gained in his tour of the continental tournaments, he speaks only of the great glory he won and praises him not for the profits he made but for the lavishness of his expenditures.48 Chrétien gives his young heroes the same virtue he attributed

Page 15

to Count Philip; for largesse, he insists, is essential to the ideal knight, and "just as the fresh, new- born rose is greater than any other flower, so there where Largesse dwells she takes her place above all other virtues, and she makes five hundred times greater the good traits that she finds in a bold man who does well" (Cligés, ll. 204-11). Consequently, Chrétien's heroes, like his patrons, shun any trace of avarice and fight in tournaments solely for glory. Around the hero, others may rush to take prisoners and horses, but he, like the lords in actual tournaments, leaves that to lesser men. Thus, in the tournament in Erec et Enide, others stop to take booty after the initial encounter, but Erec rides grandly on: "Erec did not want to stop to seize knights or horses; he wanted rather to joust and to do well so that his prowess would be made known" (ll. 2159-62). Lancelot does the same. Although Cligés takes captives, he does not even bother to find out who they are. When he reveals his identity after four days of tourneying, all those whom he has captured rush forward to offer him pledges of ransom, but he declines: "And he said that all could go free without ransom, if they were confident that it was he who captured them" (ll. 4943-45). To the young knights in Chrétien's audience, Cligés' grandiose disregard for his legitimate winnings may have seemed more improbable than the disguises he used in the tournament; however, Count Philip may well have thought that, given similar circumstances, he would have done exactly the same.

The other changes that Chrétien makes in the tournament as he knew it stem from the fact that the hero fights only for honor. Since individual prowess is the main concern, Chrêtien pays little attention to the mêlée or to the tactics that determine which side wins. Though we hear of men-at-arms in Le Conte du graal, squires and foot soldiers take no part in the fighting, for in Chrétien's romances the tournament is a purely knightly activity. Since the object of the fighting is not to take captives but to test one's prowess, the fighting is between individuals. Chrétien emphasizes this in his account of the tournament in Cligés, suggesting at the same time what the reality was. All the knights, he says, attack Cligés: "Thus he was like a tower whom all struck in the tourney; but they did not attack him by twos or threes, for then that was neither the usage nor custom" (ll. 4804-07).

Chrétien's tournaments are, therefore, more orderly affairs than actual tournaments. Though there are neither officials nor rules, when the actual fighting threatens to get out of hand, Arthur himself steps in to impose order (Cligés, ll. 4889-4919).

Page 16

Bloodshed would be out of place in what is here truly a chivalric game. Because they are games rather than battles, Chrétien's tournaments can be, as in Lancelot, elegant social affairs as well as military occasions. The tournament in Lancelot has much the same festive tone as Geoffrey of Monmouth's description of the mock battle held by Arthur's knights, and, as in the Historia, there is an audience of ladies looking on, inspiring the knights with amorous glances. Indeed, here the ladies sponsor the tournament and there is an actual prize -- the hand of one of the beautiful ladies who watch. Lancelot does so well, of course, that all the ladies -- rich heiresses every one -- promptly fall in love with him, but virtuous knight that he is, he scorns even such gain as love.

This scorn for gain is appropriate only to the hero. When Gawain appears as a secondary character in the tournament in Erec, he captures many horses and prisoners; when he appears as the hero of the tournament in Le Conte du graal, he promptly gives away all the horses he has captured and refuses to take their owners captive. We might also note that this scorn for gain is appropriate only to the tournament. None of Chrétien's heroes hesitates to take prisoners or to keep the horses that he wins in actual battle. The actual battles -- the judicial combats, chance encounters, and abolitions of evil customs -- are the main concern of Chrétien's narratives and are far more complex than the tournaments. In these more central episodes the motivation of the hero is seldom simple, and our judgment of him varies from approval to disapproval to a mixture of the two.

The tournaments are set pieces that stand apart from the main narrative and have little effect on the progress of the tale. The motivation of the hero is simple, and our judgment of him seldom varies, since the tournaments are designed to reveal but one aspect of his character -- his perfect knighthood. That knighthood is tested, modified, and greatly complicated in the major action of the tale, but it is most clearly defined in the tournament; and the tournaments, thus, are essential to Chrétien's romances, even though they contribute little to the action. Purified of greed, bloodshed, and the general indecorousness of actuality, the tournament is an activity with a character and tone distinctly its own -- an essential activity of the hero and the clearest and purest proof of his knightly virtue. Chrétien's tournaments are, then, far removed, from the actual tournaments of his time. Yet, their authenticating realism rendered them plausible and allowed the audience to

Page 17

recognize their own experiences -- and thus almost see themselves -- in this idealized setting. Cligés, for example, contains the tournament in which Chrétien explains that in Arthur's days it was not the custom for two or three knights to attack one, which must have seemed to his hearers an odd custom, impractical if not downright silly. Yet just before the mêlée in that same tournament, Chrétien writes: "When the barons were assembled, there came spurring forth between the two ranks, as was the custom in those days, a very valiant knight of the retinue of King Arthur to begin the tournament by jousting with whoever would come against him" (ll. 4592-97). Chrétien's hearers could not have failed to recognize that this "custom in those days" was also the custom of their own day. This is the commencailles, the preliminary jousting that ordinarily preceded the mêlée in their own tournaments. Strange as the custom of fair play might have seemed to Chrétien's hearers, it occurred in a plausible context.

The process of authentication works the other way as well. To recognize that Chrétien's heroes sometimes act exactly like real knights is also to recognize that real knights sometimes act exactly like Chrétien's heroes. Chrétien's fictional tournaments thus had at least the potentiality of affecting his audience's attitude toward real tournaments, for the central fiction of Chrétien's fictions is that they are not fiction. Like all romancers, Chrétien presents his works as true histories, based on ancient sources that he, a mere clerk, has transmitted unchanged. His works show, then, that the tournament is not a simple sport but an ancient and honorable custom that contemporary knights share with the knights of the Round Table. To participate in a tournament is to do exactly as Arthur's knights had done in chivalry's greatest age.

A knight of Count Philip's retinue who rode forward to engage in the commencailles might indeed have known that what he was about to do was forbidden by the Church, ignored by the serious-minded chroniclers, and noticed by the really powerful rulers of the time only when they bothered to suppress it. But he might also have known, on the authority of Count Philip's learned clerk Chrétien, that he was doing exactly what "a very valiant knight of the retinue of King Arthur" did in greater times when such was "the custom of those days." In effect, Chrétien not only fictionalized the tournament but also endowed it with all the authority of Arthurian history; he made it respectable.

For his first audience this respectability probably remained only a potentiality. Chrétien's light, at times almost

Page 18

spoofing, tone must have prevented at least the more sophisticated members of his audience from taking his romances too seriously, and many of the less sophisticated probably cared little about respectability or what the Church and its moralists thought of their favorite sport. William the Marshal, on his death bed, was indignant at the suggestion that he should make amends for ill-gotten gains from tourneying:
These clerks are too hard on us; they want to shave us too close. I have conquered five hundred knights whose arms, horses, and an their armor I have kept. If the Kingdom of God is forbidden me because I cannot now return it, so be it.... Either their opinion is false, or no man can be saved (ll. 18481-88, 18495-96).
Moreover, given the social standing of the most ardent practitioners of the tournament in Chrétien's day -- counts, dukes, and princes -- the tournament was well on its way to respectability even before he wrote. Chrétien and the romancers who followed him provided the form in which this new respectability was expressed, so that the tournament could be regarded not only as a valuable form of training, as it already seemed to some of its admirers, but also as an expression of knightly virtue. The romancers who followed Chrétien seized upon his tournaments, greatly elaborated them, moved them to the center of the action, and made them a characteristic feature of romance. It was possible to write an early romance, such as the verse Tristan, without mentioning tournaments at all. Fifty years or so after Chrétien's works were first read, when Jean the Minstrel was writing, a romance without a tournament was rare. (The prose version of Tristan, written about this time, consists principally of elaborate accounts of tournaments, each marking a major stage in the action.) The tournament became even more closely identified with chivalric virtue than it had been in Chrétien, and those who admired tournaments were increasingly able to see them in the light of romance and to attribute to actual tournaments the qualities Chrétien had attributed to his fictional creations.

One can see traces of this new attitude even in the chroniclers. Roger of Wendover, as I have noted, regarded the Young King's tour of the continental tournaments as a glorious enterprise by which he earned great fame.49 Roger of Hovedon likewise regards the tournament as a means of acquiring glory, and he betrays a most unmonastic relish for the sport.50 However, our clearest evidence of this generation's attitude

Page 19

toward tournaments is supplied by the next generation of William's own family, since the biography commissioned by his son shows us how his children regarded real-life tournaments, at least those in the real life of their father. When I first mentioned L'Histoire de Guillaume le Maréchal, I warned that it must be used with caution, since the accounts of William's tournaments are some fifty years after the fact, and memory can play tricks. More important, however, is the fact that the accounts of the tournaments in the Histoire come some fifty years after Chrétien had written. When Chrétien described the first tournaments in literature, he had no literary models on which to draw and he necessarily turned to life. When Jean the Minstrel undertook for the first time to describe actual tournaments, he had at hand a tradition established by Chrétien and strengthened by his successors for over half a century, and Jean was unavoidably influenced by it.

The life that Jean was conunissioned to write was, of course, to be a flattering portrait. William was to be presented as the embodiment of the ideal of his class, and L'Histoire de Guillaume le Maréchal is, in effect, the first example of what was later to become a flourishing genre, the chivalric biography. The hero of such a work exemplifies in the present the virtues of the great heroes of the chivalric past, and as proof of this, he is shown engaging in the same activities as the heroes of romance. In some later examples of this genre, such as The Pageant of the Birth, Life, and Death of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, that is about all we get, as if the entire life had been merely a series of romantic exploits.51 This is not the case with William's biography, in which, in addition to the romantic deeds, we have a good deal of actual history. Nevertheless, Jean the Minstrel's purpose was to present William as an ideal knight, and to do so he drew on the themes and conventions of romance.

The best proof of this is the fact that William's tournaments are mentioned at all. In his youth and early manhood William not only participated in many tournaments but also took the cross and spent two years in Syria as a crusader. There, Jean tells us, William did greater deeds in two years than others had done in seven. This was the sort of fighting that Popes and moralists recommended to Christian knights in place of the sinful tournament, and had Jean been writing fifty years earlier, when the model of knighthood was still that of the chansons de geste, William's crusading rather than his tournaments would doubtless have been offered as the main proof of his knightly virtue. But the chivalric ideal had now

Page 20

been shaped by Chrétien and his successors, in whose works the tournament is the surest proof of knighthood, and crusading of little interest. And so Jean dismisses William's exploits in the Holy Land in a mere sixty-two lines and gives his main attention to the tournaments, to which he devotes thousands.52 Clearly, for Jean and his patrons tournaments were more central to the chivalric ideal than fighting for the faith, despite what moralists preached then and for centuries to come.

To establish the relation between William's tournaments and the chivalric ideal, Jean drew heavily on the language, themes, and conventions of romance tournaments. In effect, he reversed the process of authentication that we saw in Chrétien's works. Chrétien drew on real life for the details that authenticated his romances, that lent plausibility to his fiction. Jean drew on romance for the details that authenticated his biography, that lent plausibility to his claim that his hero was a true model of chivalry.

This is most apparent in Jean's accounts of the tournaments at Pleurs and at Joigni, both of which William attended on his own rather than as a member of the Young King's retinue. Like the tournaments in Chrétien's romances, these are set pieces that serve to establish the tone -- the authenticating tone of romance -- for the other tournaments in which William participates and for the work as a whole. William attends the tournament at Pleurs as an unknown young knight. He has no disguise and fights one day rather than four, but the A situation is strongly reminiscent of the tournament in Cligés as it was developed in Renaut de Beauieu's Le Bel Inconnu and Hugh of Rutland's Ipomedon, both of which stress the theme of the Fair Unknown who by sheer prowess proves his knightly worthiness. This tournament is, as is proper to the theme, one of William's earliest adventures.

The tournament at Pleurs is announced not by a prosaic messenger but by "Renown" itself: "Then great news was brought by Renown, who flies so swiftly, that a tournament was planned in three weeks by high-born barons, of great worth, at Pleurs" (ll. 2875-79). The Marshal determines to go, Jean says, because he was always eager to earn honor and glory (ll. 288384). He obtains leave from his lord, sets out with but one attendant, and soon arrives at Pleurs. The Duke of Burgundy and the Counts of Hainault, Flanders, and Clermont are there, with many other great men:

There was not a knight in all France nor in Flanders nor in the country

Page 21

of Aval, who was eager to earn honor in arms who did not come there if he could. There were so many from all sides that the whole countryside was filled with them.... There one could see horses from Spain, from Lombardy and Sicily, spurred among the company. (ll. 2924-30, 2933-35)
There follows an elaborate occupation a characteristic of the romance style and one that Jean uses only in his accounts of tournaments: "One would hardly know how to tell of such great matters nor of the precious equipment nor the rich harness that was displayed on each side when the knights armed themselves" (ll. 2936-40).53 Then the battle begins, and the narration is marked by romantic similes which, rare elsewhere in the Histoire, are common in the accounts of tournaments:54
Then came the Marshal, William, weh-armed, large, strong and gently born; he so struck among the troop he was like a lion among the cattle. He whom he struck had no help from coif nor helm nor ventail, for he struck and hammered all like a woodchopper among the hounds. (ll. 2952-59)
Like a true romance hero, William fights only for glory. Jean the Minstrel agrees with Chrétien that largesse is the basis of gentilesse, and he even adopts Chrétien's allegorical mode for saying so: "Know well that Gentelesse was nourished in the household of Largesse" (ll. 5064-65). And, as he elsewhere explains while adopting but not quite succeeding in the high allegorical style:
William did so much by his prowess that he had married Largesse, and he did not hold her in concubinage, but had her in a good marriage, for all said, as it was seen, that he loved her as a loyal lover and she him, do not doubt it, as a loyal and elegant mistress. (ll. 3661-68)
Therefore, at the tournament at Pleurs, though lesser men took booty and prisoners, William "never gave thought to gain, but concentrated solely on doing well, for he reckoned never of gain; he gains what is worth far more and makes a much richer bargain who fights only to gain honor" (II. 3007-12). And so William does; his strength is like that of four ordinary men and he drives all before him (ll. 2970-75). All wonder at this unknown knight, and "many say: `Who is this Saxon who so grieves our men?' (ll. 2960-61) Others say: "`I know not how or when he learned so much of this business, but he knows well how to strike'" (ll. 2984-86).

Page 22

After the tournament, when the leaders gather, there is a large pike which a "lady of high degree" had presented to the Duke of Burgundy. To pay honor to the lady, he offers it as a prize to the one who has done best in the tournament. Naturally it goes to the unknown young knight, whom all agree is "brave and courteous and loyal -- that is William the Marshal" (ll. 3085-86). William, as it turns out, is at the armorer's, where the smiths are trying to remove his helmet, which had been so battered in the fighting that it was stuck on his head. He nevertheless makes a most graceful speech of acceptance, for, like a true knight of romance, he knows "how to do well and how to speak well" (I. 3129).

All William lacks for the perfect image of romance knighthood is a devotion to the ladies, and in the other markedly romantic episode in the Histoire, the tournament at Joigni, we see even this. I have mentioned this account before, since it is the only evidence we have for the presence of ladies at any tournament in the twelfth century. I assume the ladies were actually there, though elsewhere in the Histoire ladies are noticeably absent, and the account of this tournament owes so much to Lancelot and its descendants that one could legitimately question whether in fact they were.

Again the tone is heavily romantic, and again Renown brings news of the tournament (ll. 3427-31), in almost exactly the same words as it announced the affair at Pleurs. William, of course, immediately sets out on his own. He comes to the place where the tournament is to be held, and it seems less a tourneying field than a plaisance, "delightful and beautiful" (l. 3444). The field is adorned with ladies, for the countess has come to watch the tournament from the lices. She is as lovely, Jean writes, "as Nature knew how to fashion" (ll. 3455-58), and she is accompanied by a train of ladies and damsels, each as beautiful as could be and all filled with grace and corteisie (ll. 3459-63). The ladies decide that while they wait for the tournament they will dance in a carol. The Marshal accompames them with a song, and he sings beautifully with a "clear voice and a sweet sound" (l. 3480). Then a newly created herald sings a song, with the refrain "Marshal, give me a good horse" (ll. 3489-90). The commencailles having already begun, William leaps on his steed, gallops onto the field, captures a horse, and rushes back to give it to the herald, who now changes his refrain to "look at this horse! The Marshal gave it to me!" (ll. 3511-12) It is all done so quickly that no one even notices the Marshal's absence, and all agree that never at a tournament has there been so elegant a deed (ll. 3519-20).

Page 23

When the tournament begins, William, "because of the ladies that were there, took heart and determined that he would conquer" (ll. 3524-26). All the knights fight hard, but those who have been in the carol with the ladies fight hardest: "They devoted their bodies, their hearts, and their souls to doing well, and they did so well that they conquered" (ll. 3540-42). And, of course, the Marshal does best of all: "The Marshal took the pris, and of gain he had his part, but he freely gave it away both to crusaders and to prisoners, and he released many of the knights who had been taken prisoner from their ransoms" (ll. 3556-61). Thus, like Gawain in Le Conte du graal, he freely gives away his winnings, and like Cligés, he grants his prisoners their freedom. He scorns gain, but, Jean writes, he gained such honor that "I could not recount his deeds nor show what they were if I had four times my wit, and if I had more time than I have had since I was born I could not tell them all" (ll.3563-68).

None of William's other tournaments has so romantic a coloring as those at Pleurs and Joigni, and one wonders how credible these accounts are. It seems almost too convenient that William's most romantic exploits should have taken place at tournaments he attended without his usual companions, bevond the view of eyewitnesses. However, Jean the Minstrel was obviously less concerned with the biographical accuracy of these episodes than with establishing William's credentials as an ideal knight and thus setting the tone for the other tournaments, most of them briefer accounts (with the exception of the tournament at Lagui-sur Marne) in which the language and conventions of romance are used in a less emphatic manner. These tournaments in turn set the tone of William's character for the whole work. William unabashedly fought for gain; his business arrangement with Roger de Gaugi is narrated immediately before the account of the tournament at Joigni. And Jean the Minstrel obviously approves; he repeatedly characterizes a really fine tournament -- including the tournament at Pleurs -- as one in which "everyone either gained or lost a great deal." William undoubtedly was, as he has seemed to some modern readers, little more than a mercenary bully, but for Jean's audience -- William's friends and children -- the hero's romantic deeds in tournaments are proof of his chivalric virtue. If William's sons could thus see their father's tournaments in the light of romance, one wonders what they thought of the tournaments in which they took part. At least one of William's sons, Gilbert, apparently accepted Chrétien's idea that

Page 24

tournaments are an essential proof of knightly virtue. Matthew Paris reports that Gilbert entered a tournament in 1241 because he did not have much reputation as a knight and wanted to gain credit by this means.55 As it happens, he did not have much skill either, and he was accidentally killed. Other knights of Gilbert's generation were attempting to gain this credit by directly imitating romance, for in this period we first hear of mimetic tournaments -- tournaments in which the knights self-consciously re-enacted scenes from romance.56 While Gilbert and his brothers still fought in the sort of tournament their father had known, in Flanders Count Philip's sons were participating in the first recorded round table, the specifically Arthurian form of the tournament that was to find its first great patron in Edward I.57 Under Edward the tournament finally became not simply a sport but an instrument of the policy of kings. As such, it began to acquire the splendid trappings that we usually associate with the medieval tournament. The tournament, in short, was changing, and it was changing in ways that were making it more similar to the fictional tournaments of romance. Chrétien's tournaments had been bloodless and decorous affairs, and now in the early thirteenth century rebated, dulled, weapons are in use, much to the disgust of older knights like Joan d'Erlée.58 Chrétien's tournaments had been orderly, and now elaborate rules are being formulated, so that, as it seemed to another old-fashioned observer, Henri de Leon, one would soon have to be a lawyer to enter a tournament.59 Most tournaments remained brutal and bloody affairs, and the provisions of the Statute of Arms show that this was the case well into the second half of the thirteenth century; but the signs of change were there and the change was in the direction defined by Chrétien's romances. This first became apparent at the beginning of the thirteenth century, when the virtues Chrétien had attributed to his fictional tournaments were associated with real tournaments. The sport began to be regarded as an essential activity of those who aspired to knightly virtue -- a position it would occupy down to the time of the great festivals of chivalry that characterized aristocratic life in the later Middle Ages and early Renaissance, when former fabulous story got credit, and Bevis was believed.

Page 147

Notes to Benson, "The Tournament in the Romances of Chrétien de Troyes and l'Histoire de Guillaume Le Maréchal"

1 Léon Gautier, Chivalry, ed. Jacques Levron, trans. D. C. Dunning (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1965); for a brief discussion of his ideas, see my Malory's Morte Darthur (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1976), pp. 140-41. For a more extended discussion, see Maurice Keen, "Huizinga, Kilgour and the Decline of Chivalry," Medievalia at Humanistica, n.s. 8 (1977), 1-20; Keen notes that "it is at least arguable that the tournament . . . was from the outset quite as important an influence on the development of chivalry as the crusade" (pp. 8-9).

2 Mario Tosi, Il torneo di Belvedere in Vaticano e i tornei in Italia nel cinquecento, Storia e letteratura, 10 (Rome: Edizioni di "Storia a letteratura," 1946).

3 Quotations from Chrétien's works are taken from the editions in the series, Les Classiques Français du Moyen Age (CFNM) (Paris: Librairie Honoré Champion): Erec et Enide, ed. Mario Roques, 80 (1952); Cligés, ed. Alexandre Micha, 84 (1957); Le Chevalier de la charette (Lancelot), ed. Mario Roques, 86 (1958); Le Conte du graal, ed. Félix Lecoy, 100 and 103 (1972-75). References to William the Marshal are from L'Histoire de Guillaume le Maréchal, ed. Paul Meyer, 3

Page 148

vols. (Paris: Librairie Renouard, 1891-1901), hereafter cited as Hist. All translations are mine. The work includes an abridged translation into modern French in Vol. III, 1-269. For a study of William's life, see Sidney Painter, William Marshal: Knight-Errant, Baron, and Regent of England (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1933).

4 Richard Barber, The Knight and Chivalry, 2nd ed. (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1975), p. 160, cites the charter, which provides that a vassal shall carry his lord's colored lances both for war and "when I want to go overseas for tournaments." The charter is in G. F. Warner and H. J. Ellis, Facsimiles of Royal and Other Charters in the British Museum (London: British Museum, 1903), no pagination. See Roger of Wendover, The Flowers of History, from the Year of Our Lord 1154, and the First Year of Henry the Second, King of the English, ed. Henry G. Hewlett. Rerum Britannicarum Medii AEvi Scriptores (Rolls Series), 84 (London: Longman; H. M. Stationery Office, 1886-89), I, 117.

5 William of Newburgh, Historia sive Chronica Rerum Anglicarum (Oxford: a Theatro Sheldoniano [Oxford Univ. Press], 1719), II, 422.

6 The passage is quoted by Alwin Schultz, Das höfische Leben zur Zeit der Minnesinger (1889; rpt. Osnabrück: Zeller, 1965), II, 107, note 7, from Otto of Freising's Gesta Friderici I. Imperatoris, ed. G. Weitz, 2nd ed., Scriptores Rerum Germanicarum (Hannover: Hahn, 1884), Book I, Chapter 18 (17). The passage reads: ". . . tyrocinium, quod vulgo nunc turneimentum dicitur, cum militibus eius extra exercendo, usque ad muros ipsos progrediuntur" (p. 25). Schultz provides a convenient and learned survey of the early history of the tournament. The earliest clear record of a tournament is of one held at Antioch in 1156.

7 Francis H. Cripps-Day, The History of the Tournament in England and in France (London: B. Quaritch, 1918), p. 39. N. Denholm-Young, "The Tournament in the Thirteenth Century," in Studies in Medieval History Presented to Frederick Maurice Powicke, ed. R. W. Hunt, W. A. Pantin and R. W. Southern (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1948), p. 243.

8 Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia Regum Britanniae, ed. Acton Griscom (London and New York: Longmans, 1929), p. 248. The translation is mine.

9 Virgil in Two Volumes, trans. H. Rushton Fairclough, Vol. I: Ecologues, Georgics, Aeneid I-VI, ed. E. H, Warmington, 2nd ad., Loeb Classical Library, 63 (1935; rpt. Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1974), pp. 480-87.

10 Schultz, Das höfische Leben, II, 113-14. The sport is described in Nithard's Historia III, 6, under the year 842. For a translation, see Carolingian Chronicles: Royal- Frankish Annals and Nithard's Histories, trans. Bernhard Walter Scholz, with Barbara Rogers (Ann Arbor: Univ. of- Michigan Press, 1970), pp. 163-64.

11 Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia Regum Britanniae: A Variant Version Edited from Manuscripts, ed. Jacob Hammer (Cambridge:

Page 149

Mediaeval Academy of America, 1951), p. 164. The games are mentioned in the standard text, but it is not clear whether the knights are actually jousting, or merely throwing the spears. The translation is mine.

12 Wace, Le roman de Brut de Wace, ed. Ivor Arnold, 2 vols., Société des Anciens Textes Français (SATF) (Paris: Librairie de Firman-Didot, 1938-40), ll.10543-88.

13 Le Roman de Thébes publié d'après tous les manuscripts, ed. Léopold Constans, 2 vols. SATF (Paris: Librairie de Firmin-Didot, 1890), e.g., l. 4378.

14 Le Roman d'Eneas, ed. J.-J. Salverda de Grave, CFMA, 44 and 62 (Paris: Librairie Honoré Champion, 1964-68), ll. 2145-60.

15 Heinric von Veldeken, Eneide, ed. Gabriele Schieb, Theodor Frings, et al., Deutsche Texte des Mittelalters, 58, 59. and 62 (Berlin: Akaderme-Verlag, 1964-70). Heinric refers at length to the Hoffest in his much expanded account of the marriage of Eneas to Lavine; he refers to a "behurt" (l. 13160) in a list of courtly amusements, but he makes no mention of jousting or tournaments.

16 Giovanna Angeli, L' "Eneas" e i primi romanzi volgari, Documenti di filologia, 15 (Milan and Naples: Riccardo Ricciardi, 19 7 1), pp. vii-ix.

17 Georges Duby, The Chivalrous Society, trans. Cynthia Postan (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1977), p. 120.

18 Hist., ll. 4457-4796.

19 Hist., III, xxxvii. Sidney Painter, William Marshal, p. 45, estimates a total of two hundred knights in the Young King's troop at Lagni-sur-Marne.

20 Bertran de Born, "S'abrils," item 6 in Die Lieder Bertrans von Born, ed. Carl Appel (Halle: Max Niemeyer, 1932), pp. 13-18,

21 A. Långfors, "Le Dit des hérauts par Henri de Leon," Romania, 43 (1914),216-25.

22 Cripps-Day, p. 42; William of Newburgh says that Richard allowed tournaments in order to increase the skill of his knights (quoted by Cripps-Day, pp. 42-43). Roger of Wendover says the same, The Flowers of History, I, 235, but the size of the fees argues otherwise. See James A. Brundage, Richard Lion Heart (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1974), p. 210. In L'Histoire de Guillaume le Maréchal, Jean the Minstrel seems to refer to tournaments in England before this time, but, as Paul Meyer points out, this must refer to some other form of the sport, if it is not merely a mistake (Hist., III, xxxvi).

23 Sidney Painter, William Marshal, pp. 39-40, believes that Marie may have been the "great lady" who presented a fine pike as a prize at the tournament at Pleurs (see below).

24 Gautier d'Arras, Ille et Galeron, ed. Frederick A. G. Cowper, SATF (Paris: A. & J. Picard, 1956), p. 53.

25 The editors of the CFMA editions date Erec in 1170, Cligés in 1176, and Yvain and Lancelot between 1177 and 1181. Jean Frappier

Page 150

puts Le Conte du graal after 1181 in his chapter on "Chrétien de Troyes," in Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages: A Collaborative History, ed. Roger Sherman Loomis (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959), p. 159.

26 See Meyer's discussion, Hist., III, xxxvii-xxxix.

27 The rate for a landless knight in the Young King's troop was twenty sous a day; see Hist., ll. 4764-65.

28 Sidney Painter, French Chivalry: Chivalric Ideas and Practices in Medieval France (1940; rpt. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1957), p. 48, quotes a late twelfth-century chronicler, the Monk of Montaudon, on the use of cross-bows in tournaments, and he notes that Philip of Flanders "was not above bringing into the tournament itself infantrymen armed with hooks for dragging knights from their horses." On the cutting of stirrups, see Matthew Paris, Chronica Majora, ed. Henry Richards Luard, Rerum Britannicarum Madii Aevi Scriptores (Rolls Series), 57 (London: Longman, 1874; rpt. Wiesbaden: Kraus, 1964), IV, 135. His comments refer to a tournament of 1241, which was much later than William's tournaments. However, the provisions of the Statute of Arms in 1267 seem to imply that many of the practices of William's day survived well into the thirteenth century; see Denholm-Young in Studies in Medieval History, pp. 257-68.

29 Hist., ll. 10663-67, describes a gathering after a battle in which victors discuss their gains in much the same way as they did after tournaments.

30 Hist., l. 1427 (William is attacked by five knights); at the tournament between Maintenon and Nogent-le-Roi (Hist., ll. 3861-87), the Young King was enraged when Renalz de Nevers took two of his men captive and ordered his troop to gang up on Renalz the next day.

31 Hist., ll. 2737-72.

32 Heralds are mentioned in the Histoire and in Chrétien's romances, but they apparently had no official function. On the rules, see Meyer, ed. Hist., III, xxxvii-xxxviii.

33 Hist., ll. 2822-74.

34 William once had two horses stolen from him by fellow knights, Hist., ll. 3977-86.

35 Hist., ll. 7209-32.

36 Cf. The Chronicle of Jocelin of Brakelond Concerning the Acts of Samson, Abbot of the Monastery of St. Edmund, ed. and trans. H. E. Butler, Nelson's Medieval Classics (London: Nelson, 1949), pp. 55-56.

37 Jacobus de Vitriaco (Jacques de Vitry), The Exempla or Illustrative Stories from the Sermones Vulgares, ed. Thomas Frederick Crane (London: D. Nutt, 1890), No. 141, pp. 62-64.

38 Iacobus de Guisia (Jacques de Guise, or Guyse), Annales Historiae Illustrium Principum Hanonia, ed. O. Holder-Egger, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores, 30, I (Hannover, 1896; rpt. New York: Kraus, 1964), p. 224. Iacobus reports that two thousand men and four hundred knights were killed in Geoffrey's

Page 151

party, with the loss of only five knights and two hundred footmen in Baldwin's troop. On the political dangers of the tournament, see Denholm-Young in Studies in Medieval History, pp. 240-56.

39 Hist., ll. 4974-75.

40 Roger of Wendover, The Flowers of History, II. 137, quotes a letter of invitation to the tournament held by the barons in 1215 as a gesture of defiance to John.

41 Albert [Pagart] d'Hermansart, Tournois et fêtes de chevalerie à Saint-Omer aux XIVe et XVe siècles (Saint-Omer: H. d'Homont, 1888), p. 43.

42 Hist., ll. 3516-23.

43 The analysis of K. G. T. Webster, "The Twelfth-Century Tournament," in Anniversary Papers by Colleagues and Pupils of George Lyman Kittredge (Boston and London: Ginn, 1913), pp. 227-34, although restricted to literary sources, shows that in general outlinethe tournament as portrayed in literature is very similar to the tournament as William knew it.

44 Morton W. Bloomfield, "Authenticating Realism and the Realism of Chaucer," in his Essays and Explorations: Studies in Ideas, Language, and Literature (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1970), pp. 174-98.

45 See The History of the Holy War by Ambrose in Three Old French chronicles of the Crusades: The History of the Holy War, The History of Them That Took Constantinople, The Chronicle of Reims, trans. Edward Noble Stone, University of Washington Publications in the Social Sciences, 10 (Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press, 1939), p. 138: King Richard "caused it to be cried throughout the host that he who would not forget honour must not be mindful of gain, but they should strive always to discomfit and break through the Turks and smite them with their brands of steel." See also Richard's words to William in Hist., ll. 10668-76.

46 Marc Bloch, Feudal Society, trans. L. A. Manyon (Chicago: Univ. Of Chicago Press, 1 961), II, 293-99.

47 "Ne vault maiuz cil qua ne valut? Alexandre, cui ne chalut de charité ne de nul bien?" ll. 57-59. This was a common theme of praise; see Ambrose's praise of Richard's largesse in his work, The History of the Holy War, P. 25.

48 Roger of Wendover, The Flowers of History, I, 117.

49 The author of The Chronicle of Reims, a highly romanticized history written about 1260, transfers these exploits to the Young King's brother, King Richard: "And he was a valiant man, and bold and courteous and bountiful, and a courtly knight; and he came ajousting on the marches of France and Poitou; and he so demeaned himself for a long season that folk all spake well of him" (Stone, Three Old French Chronicles, p. 262).

50 As soon as Geoffrey of Brittany was knighted, Roger reports, he made a tour of the tournaments on the borders of France and Normandy

Page 152

ardently seeking fame, because his brothers, King Henry and Richard, had gained great renown in arms. Roger writes that Geoffrey was "well aware that the science of war, if not practised beforehand, cannot be gained when it is necessary .... It is the man who has seen his own blood, whose teeth have rattled beneath another's fist, who when tripped up has strove against his adversary with his entire body, and though thrown has not lost his mettle, and who, as oft as he fell, has risen more determined, more bold, goes forth to the combat," The Annals of Roger de Hoveden Comprising the History of England and of Other Countries of Europe from A.D. 732 to A.D. 1201, trans. Henry T. Riley (London: H. G. Bohn, 1853), I, 490. Roger seems to be describing a fist fight, so perhaps his knowledge of tournaments was merely theoretical.

51 The Pageant of the Birth, Life, and Death of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, K. G. (1389 [sic, for 1382]-1439), ed. Viscount Dillon and W. H. St. John Hope (London: Longmans Green, 1914).

52 Hist., ll. 7275-87. William went on the Crusade to fulfill a promise made to the dying Young King. Though William was pious enough in his crusading and died wearing the cloak of the Templars, he apparently did not have much taste for holy wars. When King Richard asked him to join the third Crusade, William begged off on the grounds that he had already been to the Holy Land.

53 Jean uses the occupatio throughout his work, but almost always, except in the accounts of tournaments, it has the form of a refusal to make his narration too long or too digressive. In the accounts of the tournaments, the device takes the more elegant form of a professed inability to do justice to the subject.

54 There are occasional similes elsewhere in the work, but only in the account of William's last battle, Hist., ll. 16607-16 and 16593-95, do they have the elaborate nature of those in the tournaments. In the largely fictionalized account of William's first battle, there is a brief simile and a comparison of the hero to "Gadifer des Larris," Hist., ll. 1002-06.

55 Chronica Majora, IV, 135 and 157.

56 See Roger Sherman Loomis, "Chivalric and Dramatic Imitations of Arthurian Romance," in Medieval Studies in Memory of Arthur Kingsley Porter, ed. Wilhelm R. W. Koehler (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1939), I, 79-97.

57 See Loomis, "Chivalric and Dramatic Imitations," above. Denholm-Young, in Studies in Medieval History, p. 248, notes that a round table was forbidden at an unspecified place in England in 1232, so the custom may already have been established there.

58 Denholm-Young, in Studies in Medieval History, p. 245, deduces the first use of blunted weapons in a tournament in 1216 described by Roger of Wendover. Jean d'Erlée's attitude toward blunted weapons may be deduced from Jean the Minstrel's scornful references to "joustes de plaideïces" at two places, Hist., ll. 1310 and 2502.

59 A. Långfors, I, 29.

  [From Chivalric literature : essays on relations between literature & life in the later Middle Ages, edited by Larry D. Benson & John Leyerle. Studies in medieval culture ; 14 (Kalamazoo, Mich. : Medieval Institute Publications, 1980). Reprinted in Contradictions: from Beowulf to Chaucer : selected studies of Larry D. Benson, edited by Theodore M. Andersson and Stephen A. Barney. (Aldershot, Hants, England: Scolar Press; Brookfield, Vt.: Ashgate Pub. Co., 1995.) Page numbers refer to this edition.]

Back to Geoffrey Chaucer Page | (Or use your browser's back button to return to the previous page.)