Nathania L. Pabón
29 September 2016
How are the three social forces of the Middle Ages in England exemplified in the literature read in class?
Three mayor social forces dominated the Middle Ages in England. These forces were feudalism, the Church, and /chivalry and Courtly love. Feudalism was a social and economic system that dictated your class and social standing. In this system, the monarchy owned half the land of England and gave it to feudals. These feudals provided the monarchy military service. The more land you had, the more money and status you had. The other half was for the Church. The Church had a very strong influence on society. Even the king had to obey the pope and have his permission to make important decisions. Everyone lived in fear of not going to heaven and they bought indulgences to repent their sins. They tired to be good citizens because being excommunicated was and embarrassment. Finally there is chivalry and courtly love. This was a code of conduct that knights, and some common folk followed to be chivalrous, honorable, and demonstrate their high status through their education.
Since these three social forces had a mayor impact in the lives of these people, they made their way into medieval literature. That is why in every single story we read, they are greatly exemplified, criticized, and praised. The first story we read, The Canterbury Tales, exemplified the corruption of the Church. Chaucer, describes how the pardoner took advantage of the people’s fear of not going to heaven by selling expensive indulgences and even forging some to pocket money for himself. He also describes how the monk wore expensive clothes and jewels and how he enjoyed hunting more them living the humble life of a monk and working in the fields. Chivalry is also exemplified here by the personality of the knight. This knight followed the conduct perfectly. He was humble, courteous, religious, and a true gentleman.
In class, we also read ballads that exemplified these forces. This brings us to the second story, Barbara Allan. Feudalism is shown here by the social standing of Sir John Graeme and how he has servants that work for him. The Church is demonstrated here because it takes place in Martinmas time, which was a holy day, and also when the church bells rang when Sir John died. Chivalry and courtly love is exemplified when Sir John dies because of a broken heart. His love doesn’t forgive him after ignoring her existence when giving a toast in the court because of her low class. The third story is Robin Hood and the Three Squires. This ballad strongly exemplifies the social force of feudalism. Three squires are punished with execution after killing a deer in the king’s land. This shows how hungry the people were and how abusive the king was. This is a tremendous example of the corruption in the feudal system. The last story is Get Up and Bar the Door. It shows the Church because it takes place in Martinmas time. It also shows feudalism because the security for the poor was not adequate.
In conclusion, we can say that these social forces were very influential for the life of the people. The reason for this is that they expressed their thoughts all throughout their literature.