History of the Chivalric Tournament : A New Approach
Anglo, Sydney, « History of Chivalric Tournament », Arti dello Spettacolo / Performing Arts, Performance and Spectacle in Early Modern Europe, 2020
Some sixty years ago, Ruth Harvey – in her study, Moriz von Craûn and the Chivalric World – boldly declared that the tournament “has always been reckoned the most typical and absolute manifestation of the chivalric outlook” (Harvey 1961 : 112).
This statement, though in a work sometimes deemed authoritative, raises several major problems. The very word ‘tournament’ comprised many different types of activity throughout its history. How long is ‘always’ ?
And it is hard to know what the ‘chivalric outlook’ might have been, or how the ‘tournament’ was its typical and absolute manifestation. Yet writers on chivalry, from the seventeenth century onwards – with the notable exception of Kenelm Digby – have countenanced notions of this kind. For Richard Barber “the tournament may be fairly described as the central ritual of chivalry” (1980 : 155) ; for Larry Benson it was “the most characteristic expression of chivalric ideals” (1980 : 1) ; and for Maurice Keen its popularity and the way it brought knights together from far and wide made it a “powerful force towards generalising both the standards and the rituals of European chivalry” (1984 : 82).