A Literary View on Courtly Manners in Twelfth Century England

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Idalia Smoczyk-Jackowiak


The purpose of this paper is to prove that the early Plantagenet era brought about favourable conditions for the development of the fi rst specimens of literature propagating the rules of court etiquette in England. The atmosphere of the “twelfth century Renaissance” resulted in a revival of interest in the elegant code of courtly behavior of ancient Greek and Roman aristocracy. That model served as an inspiration for medieval ecclesiastical writers who managed to integrate classical virtues into the Christian ethical system, creating a new ideal of courtly behaviour. Thus, the poetry and prose works produced by writers associated with the English royal court show the evolution of courtly manners in that period. The analysis of selected passages of Peter Alfonsi’s collection of tales Disciplina clericalis, Stephen of Fougères’s poem Book of Manners, John of Salisbury’s prose work Policraticus and Daniel of Beccless’s poem Civilized Man proves that ecclesiastical and lay writers of that era made a considerable eff ort to raise courtly society to higher levels of social, cultural and ethical awareness.


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Literary studies