by Diana Mullen02/22/01
Chretien de Troyes invented Arthurian literature based on stories circulated by minstrels and Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain. Chretien wrote in the second half of the 12th century and created a new form of courtly romance. He added multiple love adventures and courtly polished manners to previous tales of King Arthur's conquests. He was the first to write of Queen Guinevere's affair with Lancelot, the adventures of the Grail, and the first to mention Camelot.
According to the introduction in our book, it is thought that Chretien wrote Eric and Enide while he was in England at the court of Henry the Second. The description of the coronation scene in Erec and Enide is very similar to an actual event that Chretien probably observed while with King Henry the Second (of England, a Plantangenet). In the introduction, William Kibler states that it may in fact be plausible to believe that King Henry the Second requested that Chretien composed Eric and Enide to establish a historical link between his son Geoffrey and King Arthur. It is also likely that this composition was written shortly after 1169.
Erec is the son of King Lac and is very rich. According to Chretien, Erec is second to Gawain as the best knight of the round table, ahead of Lancelot. He is very handsome, not yet 25 years old, and never has any man this young been so accomplished in knighthood.
Enide is the daughter of a poor nobleman. She is extraordinarily beautiful, wise and noble. Her father has turned down many opportunities for her to marry, because he is waiting for someone who can make her his queen. She meets Erec when he comes to her village to fight another knight, Yder, the son of Nut.
Erec marries Enide at Arthur's court and then brings her to his father's kingdom. Erec is so in love and wants to spend all of his time with Enide. He no longer cares for arms nor does he go to the tournaments. All the nobles said it was a shame that a great knight such as Erec no longer wished to bear arms. Enide heard them talking about Erec, but she did not know how to tell him. One morning she begins to weep and blame herself aloud for Erec's lack of interest in taking up arms. Erec awakes and finds her weeping. He insists that she tell him why she is crying. Her words stung Erec and he insists that they leave the castle immediately. A frightened Enide blames herself for the trouble. The two of them journey through the forest, where Erec fights bandits, giants and other treacherous people proving to Enide that he has lost none of his skill as a great knight. Eventually, Erec and Enide return home, Erec's father dies and Erec is crowned the new King, with Enide his Queen.
Themes with Theses This is a story of love and honor, estrangement, and reconciliation. I would like to focus my talk on the relationship between Erec and Enide and how as can sometimes happen, a person with good intention can end up being blamed. Have you ever had a situation, where you have been forced to give some one a piece of information or a warning for their benefit and you ended up feeling guilty or being blamed. This was the situation for Enide. She felt pain and sorrow in her heart because of what people were saying about Erec. When Erec awakens and sees Enide weeping, he insists that she tell him what is wrong.
"My lord, since you press me so, I shall tell you the truth; I shall conceal it from you no longer, but I fear it will distress you. Throughout this land all people - the blondes and the brunettes and the redheads - are saying that it is a great shame that you have laid down your arms. Your renown has greatly declined. Previously everyone used to say that there was no better or more valiant knight known in all the world; your equal was nowhere to be found. Now everyone holds you up to ridicule, young and old, high and low; all call you recreant."
"Ride rapidly, and take care not to be so reckless, if you see anything at all, to say a single word to me. Mind you do not speak to me unless I speak to you first. Go ahead briskly, in complete confidence."
"What did you say? You really have too little esteem for me! You have shown very great presumption in disobeying my orders and doing what I forbade. You will be foregiven this time, but if it happens again you will not be forgiven."
"Woe to you, who decided to disobey my orders and do what I forbade you to! And yet I knew very well that you had little esteem for me. Your kindness has been wasted, for I am in no way grateful to you; in fact, you may be certain that I hate you for it. I have told you this already and I tell you again. I shall forgive you again this time, but take care next time and do not even look in my direction, for it would be a very foolish act: I do not like your words".
"Thus she controlled and restrained herself, she closed her mouth and clenched her teeth, so that the words would not get out; she battled with herself, saying: "I am certainly sure that my bereavement will be too great if I lose my lord here".
Page 83, "She spoke to him: he threatened her, but had no wish to harm her, for he perceived and knew full well that she love him above all else, and he loved her with all his might."
"Oh God -- fair sweet Lord, why do you let me live so long? Death, come and kill me, get on with it!"
On page 95, Enide replies: "Sir, begone! For God's sake, let me be! You can gain nothing here; nothing one might say or do could bring joy back to me."
"Ha! I don't care what you say or do to me. I fear neither your blows nor your threats. Beat me, strike me, go ahead! I'll never find you so fearsome that I'll do more or less for you, even if right now with your own hands you were to tear out my eyes or skin me alive!"
"My sweet love, I have tested you in every way. Don't be dismayed any more, for now I love you more than ever I did and I am once more certain and convinced that you love me completely."
Diana then summed up her points and told everyone how she had felt when reading the poem. She told her personal reaction and said she found the poem curiously moving.