Medieval Knights in Literature and Fiction
Chivalric ideals began to be popularized in literature as early as the 1130s, with Geoffrey Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain). Knights and their deeds of derring-do have remained a well-loved topic of fact, fiction, and fantasy ever since. From the troubadors’ ballads of courtly love, to tales such as Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, to modern stories like A Knight’s Tale, medieval knights capture the imaginations of young and old alike.
More than anything, Romance literature has had the greatest impact on the modern image of medieval knights. Perhaps the most famous of these stories are Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (The Death of Arthur), Cervante’s satirical Don Quixote, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Despite censure from the clergy during the High Middle Ages and the disdain of the humanists of the Renaissance, the fireside stories of chivalrous knights and their maidens in distress have remained popular for hundreds of years. Their impact on modern literature is enormous, ranging from inspiring some of Shakespeare’s plays, to providing material for some of the most popular novels of the Romantic period, to influencing the modern genre of fantasy. Even today, popular tales such as Robin Hood or the story of Tristan and Isuelt hold audiences spellbound. The passage of centuries has only served to heighten our fascination with and love of stories of bravery, honor, and romance.