ChrÃ©tien de Troyes' Yvain is undoubtedly a most important source in studying the social elements at play during the twelfth century. Throughout the often idealistic plot of the story, de Troyes' chivalric hero faces many conflicts which reflect the personal, social and political ideals of his time. From the beginning of the story when Yvain sets off for his journey to avenge his cousin's defeat, until his reunion with Laudin, the hero goes through a drastic change. While Yvain had been great, but not a perfect knight when he left King Arthur's court for the spring with the basin, at the end of the story, after his many adventures, he manages to emerge as a "paragon of virtue ; resolving all of his conflicts. Some of the most prominent conflicts that shape Yvain's story are the ones between love/hate, love/duty, madness/wisdom, honor/dishonor, good/evil and chivalry/impoliteness. While all of these conflicts are important in analyzing the social implications of the story, the two most prominent conflicts are the ones between love/hate and love/duty, which in turn lead to other, less significant ones. While it is true that Yvain faces a series of dangerous external conflicts to reach happiness, it is resolving the inner conflicts of love/duty and love/hate that lead him to perfection.
The story of Yvain begins in King Arthur's court with two conflicts. While the king is depicted as neglecting his duty and instead sleeping in his room, Lord Kay, the cynical and unpopular knight in Arthur's court is shown in conflict with Yvain. De Troyes uses Kay's contemptuousness to bring out the greatness in Yvain's character.
Thus introduced as an honorable knight as opposed to the disagreeable Kay, Yvain sets off for a series of adventures. Even though Yvain is thus introduced as a great knight, some of his forthcoming actions prove his... Continue Reading