Duty Quotes Page 1
How we cite our quotes:
"Aymer – the Prior Aymer! Brian de Bois-Guilbert!" muttered Cedric – "Normans both; but Norman or Saxon, the hospitality of Rotherwood must not be impeached: they are welcome, since they have chosen to halt; more welcome would they have been to have ridden further on their way. But it were unworthy to murmur for a night's lodgings and a night's food; in the quality of guests, at least, even Normans must suppress their insolence. [...] Say to them, Hundebert, that Cedric would himself bid them welcome, but he is under a vow never to step more than three steps from the dais of his own hall to meet any who shares not the blood of Saxon royalty." (3.20)
As the lord of a hall, Cedric is duty-bound to welcome any guests who arrive asking for a place to stay. If he refuses to host Prior Aymer and Brian de Bois-Guilbert, he'll lose face – even if they are Normans. While Cedric insists on obeying the letter of these rules of hospitality, he definitely doesn't obey their spirit. He makes it clear that he doesn't want them there. He refuses to greet them personally because they aren't Saxon royalty. Clearly Cedric puts a lot of emphasis on the idea of honor, but would you say that his behavior is actually honorable in this scene?
Rowena remained silent, and Cedric answered for her in his native Saxon.
"The Lady Rowena," he said, "possesses not the language in which to reply to your courtesy, or to sustain her part in your festival. I also, and the noble Athelstane of Coningsburgh, speak only the language, and practise only the manners, of our fathers. We therefore decline with thanks your Highness's courteous invitation to the banquet. To-morrow, the Lady Rowena will take upon her the state to which she has been called by the free election of the victor Knight, confirmed by the acclamations of the people."
So saying, he lifted the coronet, and placed it upon Rowena's head, in token of her acceptance of the temporary authority assigned to her.
"What says he?" said Prince John, affecting not to understand the Saxon language, in which, however, he was well skilled. (9.37-40)
Once more the Norman and Saxon characters are using language as a power play to emphasize the differences between them. Notice the pettiness this conversation brings out in Prince John. His refusal to speak Saxon, despite the fact that his subjects are Saxon and he knows the language well, indicates his own unfitness to rule England. Prince John's clear preference for the Normans over the Saxons shows that he doesn't respect the responsibility of a king to be fair to all of his subjects. Norman King Richard's willingness to cooperate with the Saxons is a sign of his superiority as a ruler.
"Like a true knight?" repeated Fitzurse, looking after [Prince John]; "like a fool, I should say, or like a child, who will leave the most serious and needful occupation, to chase the down of the thistle that drives past him. – But it is with such tools that I must work; – and for whose advantage? – For that of a Prince as unwise as he is profligate, and as likely to be an ungrateful master as he has already proved a rebellious son and an unnatural brother. – But he – he, too, is but one of the tools with which I labour; and, proud as he is, should he presume to separate his interest from mine, this is a secret which he shall soon learn." (15.25)
Of course, the problem with Prince John's rebellion against his brother is that all of his followers are also rebels. The same lack of respect for the throne that led Fitzurse to work against King Richard might be turned against Prince John if he doesn't keep following Fitzurse's advice. Fitzurse has no innate loyalty; he's a manipulator, which means he'll keep supporting Prince John as long as it's useful to him to do so. Ultimately Prince John's reward for his revolt is to worry constantly that the people around him will revolt against him in turn.