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Publication Date

Spring 2011

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




John Bernhardt


Chrétien de Troyes, Cligès, Erec and Enide, Lancelot: The Knight of the Cart, Perceval: The Story of the Grail, Yvain: The Knight of the Lion

Subject Areas

Medieval History; Medieval Literature


Arguably the most significant poet of the twelfth century, Chrétien de Troyes composed five Arthurian legends that altered not only the course of medieval romantic literature, but changed the perceptions that medieval audiences had toward love and marriage. Chrétien captured the majesty of King Arthur's court while simultaneously presenting love between a man and a woman as a powerful, ennobling force. Most studies devoted to Chrétien's five major works--Erec and Enide, Cligès, Lancelot: The Knight of the Cart, Yvain: The Knight of the Lion, and Perceval: The Story of the Grail--concentrate on the poet's popularization of King Arthur legends and the portrayal of courtly love. While this thesis does broach both of these subjects, its ultimate objective is to examine Chrétien's unique view that love within a committed and equal marriage is the ideal form of love, an argument that set Chrétien's work apart from the work of others. Moreover, this thesis attempts to link Chrétien's fictional arena with the medieval world at large, a unification of poetry and history. After presenting the influence and motivation behind Chrétien's works, the thesis transitions into a concise study of the poet's literary style. The core of the thesis provides an exhaustive examination of each of his five legends, demonstrating that Chrétien employed courtly love and chivalrous adventure to present his belief in the importance of marriage. The thesis concludes with a historical bridge that further highlights the legacy of the poet.