The Goal of Virtue is Perfecting Human Nature

...but there's only so much you can ask, as 'perfecting' does not imply 'perfectible.'


Actually, you probably couldn't get away with looking at her 'countenance' without offense either.
When Rowena perceived the Knight Templar's eyes bent on her with an ardour, that, compared with the dark caverns under which they moved, gave them the effect of lighted charcoal, she drew with dignity the veil around her face, as an intimation that the determined freedom of his glance was disagreeable. Cedric saw the motion and its cause. "Sir Templar," said he, "the cheeks of our Saxon maidens have seen too little of the sun to enable them to bear the fixed glance of a crusader."

"If I have offended," replied Sir Brian, "I crave your pardon,—that is, I crave the Lady Rowena's pardon,—for my humility will carry me no lower."

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well to be fair Ivanhoe is historical fiction. If you look at more contemporary stories like the Lays of Marie de France, or the Decameron it is a little less restrained. I mean you would have the knight running from the convent after a tryst, probably after a priest was humorously clubbed within a sack.

Cass said...

Yanno, Grim makes a great point.

Classic literature is FULL of references to behavior that - by today's standards - is so mild as to not even be noticed by most people, but was considered then to be boorish and unacceptable.

And all of this before feminists came along to supposedly demonize "the male gaze" :p

While I've never had a problem with men enjoying looking at attractive women they see (or vice versa), I've also always thought that if your interest is so marked as to be noticeable, you're doing it wrong. As I was taught as a girl, "It's not polite to stare" at other people. And despite some of the articles about catcalling, my sense is that the vast majority of guys don't do that sort of thing.

Funny how warped an idea of things we get. I'm pretty sure it was never really considered polite to stare.

Grim said...

It's true that it's fictional, and it's true that Marie de France portrays things in a somewhat more ribald way. On the other hand, the pieces you cite are often openly erotic fiction -- also not a wholly accurate picture of the day.

I like the Ivanhoe quote because it demonstrates something about the wimple that is left out by the cartoon, which is that it was generally worn with a veil (or could be arranged as one). Women didn't veil themselves in the manner common to Islam, though, but at their discretion -- a discretion they sometimes used to defend themselves in this way.

But of course, sometimes also to tempt! Such arts are perfectible, even if the men and women aren't.

Cass said...

:)

Ymar Sakar said...

Perfect is unchanging. Without change, there is no evolution or benefit or virtue.

Light has no meaning without darkness. Good has no meaning without evil. Just as evil turns to good and good to evil, darkness to light and light to darkness, perfection has meaning without the contrast of imperfect beings.

They give meaning to each other, because they become each other. Humanity is not needed in this state of affairs, but a convenient observer.

Ymar Sakar said...

Correction, perfection has no meaning without...

Anonymous said...

I think the flying beds and werewolves would be a good indicator that neither work was completely rooted in reality. I could ask what fiction is really a good portrayal of the time it is made in. My point was more that people in that era did not neccesarily have quite the view Ivanhoe ascribes to them.

Grim said...

You know, I like Chaucer because his characters are so very different. Both the Wife of Bath and the Prioress wear wimples, but you get the sense that they use them for very different purposes! And even greater, far greater, is the difference between the girl in the Miller's Tale and the lady in the Franklin's Tale.

It's fiction, too, and some interpretation is necessary to all of it. But it gives a sense of range, from the immoral and scheming to the noble, moral, and upright. And in between: the Wife nor the Prioress are both in between.

Grim said...

I like Malory, too, although in general his female characters have less range: they are almost always presented as highly sympathetic with the notable exceptions of Morgan le Fey, Morgause the serial adultress and mother of Mordred, and the leprous lady who needs to drink a maiden's blood to heal herself (but that is in the Quest for the Holy Grail section: that lady is not a real character, but merely there so that Perceval's sister, who sacrifices herself for the lady, can exemplify Christian perfection).