Chivalry conjures up images in my mind of the knight fully armed, perhaps with the crusaders, with a red cross sewn upon his surcoat; of martial adventures in strange lands; of castles with tall towers and of the fair women who dwelt in them. It is also, for that very reason, a word elusive of definition. One can define within reasonably close limits what is meant by the word knight, or in French: "chevalier", which is very close to the word chivalry. It denotes a man of aristocratic standing and probably of noble ancestry, who is capable, if called upon, of equipping himself with a war horse and the arms of a heavy cavalryman, and who has been through certain rituals that make him what he is - who has been "dubbed'' to knighthood. But chivalry is not so easily pinned down. It is a word that seems to have been used with different meanings and shades of meaning and in different contexts. Sometimes chivalry is spoken of as an order of religion; sometimes it is spoken of as an estate, a social class; and sometimes it spoken of as no more than a body of heavily armed horsemen. Sometimes it is used to encapsulate a code of values that belong to this order or estate. Chivalry cannot be divorced from the martial world of the mounted warrior. It cannot be divorced from aristocracy, because knights commonly were men of high lineage. It very frequently carries ethical or religious overtones. But it remains a word elusive of definition, and not very precise in its implications. .
Yvain is a tale of chivalrous exploits and a romance from which chivalry was of great importance. Chretien de Troyes' primary focus on chivalry as a central tenet of knighthood addresses, but does not definitively explain, what the knight's identity and purpose are. What we are left with then is to make a kind of general statement about how knighthood is identified solely with positive qualities and virtues to which man ought to aspire.