Adult Ideologies in Late-Medieval Advisory Writing
Anna Caughey considers the possibility of aristocratic boys and young men as a readership group in the fifteenth century through two late medieval versions of a ‘chivalry handbook’, Gilbert Hay’s The Buke of the Ordre of Knychthede (1456), and William Caxton’s The Book of the Ordre of Chyualry (1484). Using Nodelman’s framework of “the hidden adult,” the chapter argues that chivalry handbooks serve as a means of guiding and controlling the behaviour of boys and young men while also building their desire to participate in chivalric activity (whether literally as practicing knights or through purchasing and consuming chivalric literature). This is accomplished by setting up adult men as the keepers of knowledge and prestige—in both texts, a young squire must be rescued from the results of his own inexperience by a wise elderly knight—but also by promoting the desirability of knighthood as a social status: while the texts emphasise the duties and responsibilities of a knight towards women and non-aristocrats, this is framed in a way that makes clear his superiority to members of these groups. The chapter concludes by examining the recurrence of these themes in two additional texts by Hay dealing with the life of Alexander the Great, whose relationship with his tutor Aristotle re-emphasises the idea that adult male prestige and power can only be attained through careful attention and obedience to the advice of one’s elders.
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