Courtly Feasts in the Mirror of Literature

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Idalia Smoczyk-Jackowiak


The purpose of this paper is to prove that the ideal of sumptuous feasting popularized by court writers in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries was a significant part of court culture, acting as a practical means of spreading sophisticated social standards. It is assumed that literature from that era was used to raise aristocratic circles to a higher civilization level and to impose a particular cultural paradigm on courtly society. Both poets and court chroniclers extolled the magnificence of the royal feasts, creating a cultural template that the English nobility gradually adopted. Feasts played a significant role in the early Plantagenet culture because they acted as powerful symbol of the splendour, magnificence and power of the royal court. What is more, by the elegant design of the dining hall, the sophistication of dishes and the observance of court ceremonial at the table, the court circles expressed their separation from other strata of society who were lower in the feudal system and were not familiar with court etiquette. The descriptions of lavish feasts documented in Arthurian literature greatly appealed to popular imagination and filled in the gaps in historiacal records of the time. Therefore, they may help to gain insight into the magnificence of material culture and a new understanding of intricate social standards introduced in the early Plantagenet period.


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Literary studies