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Bad Experience With a Priest:
comparison of the Catholicism aspects in Scott's Ivanhoe and Twain's a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
In reading Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, one cannot deny that the blame for the collapse of Hank's new civilization falls on the Church. Throughout the novel, Twain paints a negative image of the Church and its priests. This negative image can also be found in Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe. Scott gives us characters such as the confused Templar and the misaligned Prior. Both writers have poor views of religion and this is evident in their unflattering portraits of the corrupt medieval church.
Scott's portrait of the Prior is not a very pleasant one. Nothing about him seems to be spiritual. When we first meet him, his costume is basically appropriate for a priest, but it is said to be "composed of materials much finer than those which the rule of that order admitted" (Scott, 38) and as having "his countenance fully displayed, and its expression was calculated to impress a degree of awe, if not of fear, upon strangers" (Scott, 39). Scott has already begun to use the Prior to paint a picture of what is wrong with religion in the Middle Ages. This commentary on religion continues in the Prior's interaction with the Normans he aligns himself with, and this finally brings us to another character with a less than pure spiritual pursuit: Brian de Bois-Guilbert.
Bois-Guilbert is an arrogant Knight Templar, who is "specifically stated to be false in his oath, faithless to women, hypocritical in his religion. He is unwilling to fulfill his feudal responsibilities to the weak and oppressed and thinks only of his own freedom and ambition" (Chandler, 35). He proves himself a good Knight in battle, yet lacks the morals one would attribute to a Knight Templar. It is in his lust for Rebecca that he goes against his oath and against the Church. Brian becomes the representation of evil and his evil is attached to the Church.
Likewise, this theme of the Church being the 'bad guy' is found throughout Connecticut Yankee. All throughout the novel the Church is the greatest enemy of Hank and all of his ill-fated projects. Twain makes the Church the downfall of Hank's new civilization in the end as the priests plot against him while he is away and scare their parishioners back into their original mindset, back to being good God-fearing people. It is because of the Church that so many die in the final battle.
This theme can also be seen in the letters and criticisms that follow the novel as well as in the illustrations throughout. He asked Hall in a letter to "be careful not to get any of the religious matter in" the sales promotions, and told another to avoid mentioning any of the novels' "slurs at the Church." Why he did this was unclear, since he never made any secret of how he felt about religion. It is true, however, that his most scathing anti-religion material was published some years after his death. A hostile critic in Boston was one of the few critics to state how much Twain's view of the church as "an established slave-pen" upsets him, being a religious man himself.
This paper will compare these two works and examine what was the source of these two writers' anti-religion feelings, if a specific source can truly be found. The paper will speculate that even though these writers are from different periods, they have the same view of religion in both their time period and that of the Arthurian legend. It will be interesting to note whether or not the works by the same two authors share this religious theme, or whether this is limited to books that are written in a setting very near the Arthurian time period.
Also interesting to consider is whether or not mark Twain was speaking entirely for himself when he wrote Connecticut Yankee, or whether he had been influenced somewhat by Sir Walter Scott's works, and Scott's opinion of religion. Why these two men hated the church so violently remains to be seen, and will hopefully be discovered in an examination of their works and biographies. Whether or not mark Twain was considering revising his attitude toward the Church before he died is also a matter for speculation, although it is largely suspect did that evidence will indicate he had no such plans.
This paper will also attempt to get into the heads of these authors, and will examine where their anti-Church attitudes came from and why it was put into their novels. Whether they were trying to make a specific point about the human condition, or whether they were just revealing their own upset about the Church and their personal beliefs about it will hopefully be deduced from examination of their work.
In the writing of this paper, it will be necessary to review other sources including but not limited to Scott's Rob Roy and Twain's Life on the Mississippi, although there is no guarantee that these two works will give readers any further indication of the author's intent toward religion or whether they will even be relevant to this paper. Criticisms relating to these authors, both recent criticisms and criticisms from the authors contemporaries, will also be tracked down and evaluated, as they are important indicators in examining what others thought of the views that the authors expressed. Biographical sources on the authors will also be examined in order to determine whether specific events that happened in their lives led them to their opinions on religion.
Sir Walter Scott: His Hatred of the Church
It is clear from the works of both Sir Walter Scott and Mark Twain that they barely managed to conceal a deep-seated hatred for the Church. The purpose of this paper will be to examine the reasons behind this hatred, and whether or not it spreads into other works that they have created. By examining the available literature on both Scott and Twain, it will not likely be difficult to determine what situations in the pasts of these two writers caused their intense dislike for the medieval church.
Sir Walter Scott was regarded at one time as the greatest English novelist (Wright, 1996). This was largely due to the success of the Waverly novels that he wrote, but some of his other work in joy to success as well. Ivanhoe came along later on, and by then Sir Walter Scott was already quite famous. His book did well, but critics of his day complained that it seem to be more of a children's novel, and was quite poorly and somewhat hastily written in spots (Works, 1963).
His heroes and heroines were often uninteresting and dull, and he abandoned much of his Scottish heritage in his later books. This was somewhat odd, since he considered loyalty to one's country to be of the utmost importance. His country had a deeply religious background, and since he did not share this feeling, this could be part of the reason why some of his later work does not have asked much Scottish influence (Works, 1963).
Eventually, Scott's popularity began to fade, as other authors came on the scene and produced books that were more philosophical and serious in nature. Now Sir Walter Scott's novels are almost entirely unread, but people still make vain attempts to save his reputation. Some critics believe that Sir Walter Scott's drop in popularity came from the fact that he was an extremely conservative individual, and that conservatism showed in his novels, much to the dislike of the reading public (Works, 1963).
Sir Walter Scott also reportedly had some issues with the British government, and it is possible that this was related to his dislike of anything authoritarian (Sir Walter, 1999). It could have contributed to his opinion of the Church, although there is no clear evidence of this, and it could have just as easily been unrelated. What is clear, however, is that he saw the Church as aristocratic, and getting richer off of the trials and tribulations of the poor man. Undoubtedly, this angered him, since he was a man of conservative values and loyalty to one's country and heritage.
In Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott introduces the reader to Brian de Bois-Guilbert and to the Prior; both of these people are allegedly holy. Immediately, the reader can see that Scott has no use for the Prior, who claims to be a religious man but actually partakes in many things that are inappropriate for a priest. For example, the Prior's clothes are very extravagant, and even though they look like the proper clothes for a priest they are somewhat gaudy in the fact that they are made of fine materials and workmanship; much finer than a man of God would be expected to be wearing.
The bags under the Prior's eyes show evidence of too much drinking, and…[continue]
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