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  1. Jerusalem has been and remains a sacred city for three world religions. In Christian history, Jerusalem has been the destination of pilgrimage on earth as well as a symbolic city that is the destination of the pilgrimage of life. Consider the meanings Jerusalem holds for some of the following real or fictional characters. Make a comparison between one or more of these and the Jerusalem of Pope Urban II and the crusaders in the First Crusade.
    1. Chaucer's pilgrims, especially the Wife of Bath (see her portrait [NAEL 8, 1.256] and Prologue [NAEL 8, 1.256–75, lines 501–08]) and the Parson (NAEL 8, 1.313-15)
    2. William Langland and/or the Dreamer in Passus 18 of Piers Plowman (NAEL 8, 1.357–67)
    3. Margery Kempe (NAEL 8, 1.384–97)
    4. Spenser's Redcrosse Knight (NAEL 8, 1.830–33, stanzas 46–58)
    5. John Bunyan and/or Christian in Pilgrim's Progress (NAEL 8, 1.2143–45)
    6. John Dryden in Absalom and Achitophel (NAEL 8, 1.2087–2111)
    7. William Blake in And did those feet (NAEL 8, 2.123–24)
  2. In Book 1 of Spenser's Faerie Queene, the shield of the Redcrosse Knight identifies him as a crusader, and three of his enemies are the Sarazen knights — Sans foi, Sans joi, and Sans loy. How has Spenser exploited and adapted the theme of the crusade in Book 1 to allegorize the religious conflicts of the English Reformation, as well as the battles every Christian must fight?
  3. The Crusades exposed Western European culture to the exotic cultures of the East. Explore Western views of the East and Eastern views of the West in some of the following texts:
    1. Chaucer's portrait of the Knight (NAEL 8, 1.219–20, lines 43–78)
    2. Anna Comnena, The Alexiad
    3. Piers Plowman Shows the Way to Saint Truth (NAEL 8, 1.340–41, lines 510–536)
    4. The Jerusalem History of Robert the Monk
    5. The Perfect History of Ibn al-Athir
    6. History of Deeds Done beyond the Sea of William of Tyre

    To what extent did these cultures misunderstand each other during the Middle Ages? Do these misunderstandings still persist in the twenty-first century?
  4. The Crusades continued for centuries after Pope Urban's speech to the Franks in 1095. How did the aims and ideals of the crusaders change over time? Explore some of the many texts offered by the Internet Medieval Sourcebook to build up a picture of the history of the Crusades in the centuries after Pope Urban's initial call to the Franks. Among other texts, you may want to consult A Hostile View of the Second Crusade, Roger of Hoveden's account of The Fall of Jerusalem, Geoffrey de Villehardouin's Chronicle of the Fourth Crusade and The Conquest of Constantinople, and the tragic account of The Children's Crusade.
  5. Pope Urban's speech at the Council of Clermont is a classic of political rhetoric. Read the speech closely, with particular attention to how the Pope goes about winning the support of his audience.
    1. What arguments, themes, and references does the Pope employ to win the support of the Franks? Which of these seem most central to his case, and which seem most effective? Can you think of examples of modern political rhetoric which uses similar methods?
    2. Compare the language and imagery the Pope employs to demonize the "accursed race" which occupies the Holy Land with Rabbi Eliezer bar Nathan's description of the atrocities committed by the crusaders.
  6. Pope Urban was the first of several popes to summon the Christian West to the Crusades. Compare Urban's words with the later calls by Eugene III (1154) and Innocent III (1215). How have the rhetoric of the popes, the image of the situation, and the incentives they offer to crusaders changed over time?
  7. How might Chaucer and his audience have responded to the Knight's crusading past had the accounts of Rabbi Eliezer bar Nathan and Ibn Al-Athir been available to them? What images and ideas have you associated with the Crusades, and how has reading these accounts changed them?
  8. The assault on the Jewish communities of the Rhineland were the consequence of a long tradition of anti-Semitism in the Christian West based on the belief, perpetuated in literature and in art, that the Jews were the killers of Christ.
    1. Compare the words which Rabbi Eliezer bar Nathan attributes to the crusaders with Faith's denunciation of the Jews in Passus 18 of Piers Plowman (NAEL 8, 1.359, lines 92–109). Does Passus 18 seem to justify the actions of the crusaders? If not, why not?
    2. Chaucer's "Prioress's Tale" is in many ways typical of late-medieval anti-Semitic narrative. To what extent does this tale appear to represent the attitudes of Chaucer and his contemporaries? To what extent does it shed light on the character of the Prioress?
  9. Compare the rhetorical style of Anna Comnena's The Alexiad with that of the authors of the Legendary Histories of Britain (NAEL 8, 1.117–27). Whether or not the events and characters they describe are historical, how do these writers make them appear convincing and authentic to their audiences?
  10. Compare Ibn Al-Athir's view of the crusaders with the comments of a later Muslim witness, Usmah Ibn Munqidh (1095–1188) on The Franks, European Piracy, and Muslim and Christian Piety. How has the relationship between Muslims and crusaders changed between the time of Ibn Al-Athir and Usmah Ibn Munqidh? What aspects of the latter account do you find most intriguing or surprising?
  11. William of Tyre's account of the taking of Jerusalem is marked by sudden shifts from exultation in the Christian victory to horror at the slaughter of the inhabitants.
    1. How does William attempt to reconcile these two responses? Is he successful? Does the text give an indication of William's and/or his sources' true feelings about the manner in which Jerusalem was taken, and if so, how can you tell?
    2. Make a close comparison between this account and that of the flight crew on the Enola Gay, which dropped the atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima in 1945. Pay particular attention to the alternation of triumph and horror.
  12. How does the reality of warfare in the Crusades compare to the ideals of chivalry propounded in the literature of estates and popularized in Arthurian romance? Compare Urban's speech at the Council of Clermont to the speeches at Arthur's council in Wace (NAEL 8, 1.120–24).

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