Among historians the Middle Ages can appear as a minuscule time period compared to the fall of Rome and the Renaissance, which the Middle Ages conjoins. Historically, it may not have a substantial impact, but it was the beginning of a rebirth in literature. When analyzing works of literature from the Middle Ages, in particular Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, politics abundantly influence the social structure, outlook, and actions of characters.
The politics in the Middle Ages was known as feudalism. Feudalism can be interpreted and understood by a pyramid, illustrated in the image above. Outside of the pyramid is the pope; he has influence over all sectors of the pyramid and complete control of the clergy. The kings were found at the top of the pyramid. The king had the most power and granted large sums of land to nobles. In return the nobles pledged their allegiance to the king, and they swore to protect him and the kingdom. Knights or vassals, who were less powerful nobles, also pledged their allegiance and swore to protect the kingdom. Commoners, also known as peasants or serfs, would work the land. In feudalism, each subset must rely on the other for health and good fortune. The peasants or serfs must rely on the upper classes for protection and a source of income. While the upper classes rely on the peasants to upkeep the land and cultivate the food.
In Le Morte d’Arthur, Malory often depicts the power of each social class. The power of the pope does not surface until the end of the novel, “…the Pope, considering the virtue of King Arthur and the prowess of Sir Launcelot, issued a bull charging King Arthur, on pain of excommunication of the whole of Britain, to be reconciled to Sir Launcelot and to restore the queen without prejudice” (507). The pope began to intervene in the unfaltering war between King Arthur and Sir Launcelot. They both agreed to the circumstances and the war ceased. Malory also displays all subdivisions of the pyramid, “…the commoners arose with a tumultuous cry and demanded that Arthur should at once be made king. The nobles knowing in their hearts that the commoners were right, all knelt before Arthur and begged forgiveness for having delayed succession for so long. …The coronation took place a few days later, when Arthur swore to rule justly, and the nobles swore him their allegiance” (7). Malory doesn’t only show the different social classes, but also their role compared to the king. The commoners cried and rejoiced the new king, while the nobles and knights bowed down and pledged their allegiance to their new king. They all are publicly displaying their affection and gratitude for all the future king will do.
During the Middle Ages, Charlemagne’s Code of Chivalry was documented in ‘The Song of Roland.’ This code became a way of life amid the men of the Middle Ages, routinely seen and vowed upon by the kings, nobles, and knights. The original Code of Chivalry according to The Middle Ages “Knights Code of Chivalry”:...