2) Within this seemingly objective description, however, there are many subjective impressions brought by the various authors themselves. Particularly, in contrasting the idea of chivalry between Chaucer and Spenser, the very natures of the men cause the simple definition to take on a much more complex expression.
Chaucer approached the code of virtuous conduct from a practical perspective where Spenser's view tended to be more obscure. To Chaucer, "chivalry was a religion, and, in matter of chivalrous sentiment, he is a pronounced moralist" (Schofiled, 1912, p. 37). It was within the rules of conduct prescribed for the nobility that Chaucer found his meaning, and his interpretation of knightly conduct was a function of behavior. Spenser, on the other hand,
"did not agree with those who 'had rather have good discipline delivered by way of precepts or sermoned at large;' he believed that 'much more profitable and gracious is doctrine by ensample than by rule," which caused him to "portray the image of a brave knight in a work of art."
Hence, were Chaucer might express chivalry as a behavior, Spenser would see its best representation as an image. As discussed further in this paper, it is this disparity in perception that fuels the conflicting expressions of the authors regarding the same ideal.
Chaucer's Chivalrous Knight
In the Knight's Tale portion of his Canterbury Tales, Chaucer finds the opportunity to articulate his view of chivalry. He forms his description of the knight as a "worthy man, that "fro the tyme that he first bigan to riden out, he loved chivalrie, trouthe and honour, fredom and curteisie" (Chaucer, 1974, p. 3). From viewing these words alone, much less the greater body of his work, we can see the formulative standard Chaucer will apply. The knight loves chivalry, and beyond solely the image of the ideal, e.g., contrast Spenser, he explains to us what this means in terms of conduct; truth, honor, freedom, and courtesy.
Further reading of the Knight's Tale confirms Chaucer's view of morality in general and chivalry in particular. He maintains a keen focus on behavior and the codes that define it. Gillian Rudd articulates this very well by observing that there are "[s]everal distinct codes which govern life [and] jostle each other...[including] courtly conduct...[which] allow the Tale to be read as an exploration of what governs our actions" (Rudd, 2001, p. 112). Chivalry is a worthy ideal, and should be explored as a moral concept. Its truth, however, is only fully realized within the context of actions. For Geoffrey Chaucer, it is not enough for the knight to be "a man of great physical courage and brilliant achievement in war," he must also be "the embodiment of very high spiritual excellence" (Schofield, 1912, p. 35).
To a moralist, the ideal is important but the behavior is paramount. Under this analysis, Chaucer's pragmatism shines through clearly. Chivalry is an honorable and worthy thing because the application of its principles results in conduct that is proper. Its ability to govern-that chivalry's adherents behave themselves-is the important thing. For Spenser,