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  3. The Canterbury Tales The Knight’s Tale Summary and Analysis | GradeSaver
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  5. During what century did Chaucer live?

Thus we have the women's pleas for mercy for the knights and Theseus' acquiescence. Similarly, the decision regarding who shall win Emilie's hand is the man's, not Emilie's. Part III: The descriptions of the altars, the stadium, and the magnificent feasts are tedious for the modern reader in the same way that the descriptions of shields and armor in the Homeric epics are static and dull for the modern reader, but these descriptions carried a great appeal for the audience of that time because they reinforce the notion of an ideal, ordered society.

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The description of the feasts shows a society in which the king justly reigns over subjects. The description of the altars implies that the gods are still viable in terms of effecting people's behaviors and rewarding pleas. The stadium symbolizes structure of an ordered society. The prayers of each of the three principals are also consistent with their individual personalities:.

Palamon prays only for love and thus his prayer is to Venus, goddess of love, asking not that he win the battle or earn fame, but only that he somehow win Emilie or else die by Arcite's spear. Emilie prays before the altar of Diana, asking first that her chastity be preserved, and then, if her first wish is not possible, to let the knight who most loves her win. Arcite prays to Mars, god of war, for victory. He believes that only force can win Emilie's love.

Part IV: Here the Knight turns to a description of the banquet and the elaborate decorations of the stadium and the rituals connected with the funeral at the end of the tale.

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This type of richness and magnificence would appeal to a man of such distinction as the Knight, with its special emphasis on form, ritual, and code of behavior — elements upon which knighthood is based. In this tale, the Knight or Chaucer implies that the lives of men are influenced by what seems to be chance but, in actuality, is a Prime Mover God who controls the ostensibly chance occurrences of the world.

The women at the beginning of the tale bemoan the harshness of fortune. By chance, Emilie walks beneath the prison.

Later, again by chance, Duke Perotheus recognizes Arcite. Arcite is employed by Emilie and later accidentally meets Palamon. Chance also brings Theseus to the same plot where Arcite and Palamon are fighting. Finally, the god of chance or fortune or destiny determines how the story will be solved. The universe, then, is not as incoherent and disorderly as might first be expected. Behind all the acts of the universe is a logic or controlling purpose, even though man might not understand it. What is central in The Knight's Tale is a concern with the right ordering of the elements that make up a person's total soul — essentially a concern with justice.

A person who has control of his or her emotions and reason is a person who acts honorably in dealing with others. Early in the tale, for example, both Palamon and Arcite fall hopelessly in love with Emilie, and their love emotion for her controls their behavior. In such a state of emotional disarray, their reason fails them and hostilities ensue. Only when Theseus, symbol of right reason and justice, intervenes in the knights' duel, does reason, synonymous with justice, again reign.

Note, too, that both Palamon and Arcite receive the reward that they seek, albeit ironically: Palamon wins Emilie's love but loses the battle to Arcite; Arcite wins the battle but loses his life and thus Emilie. Out of this mayhem, justice is reestablished, and each man gets what he asks for.


Capaneus proud, vain man so disdainful that he boasted that not even Jove could stop him. He took part in the war to restore Oedipus' oldest son to the throne of Thebes. Narcissus, Solomon, Hercules, Medea, Circe, Turnus, and King Crosesus figures, each of whom had in some way been trapped by love, used as decoration on the walls of the altar to Venus. Caesar, Nero, Mark Anthony, and Mars in a chariot figures, all of whom had functioned in wars, used as decoration on the altar to Mars.

Callisto, Dana Daphne , and Atalanta figures, all of whom avoided — with varying degrees of success — marriage, used as decoration on the altar to Diana. Galophy probably meaning the Valley of Gargaphia where Actaeon, who saw the goddess Diana naked, was turned into a stag and torn to pieces by his own hounds.

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The Canterbury Tales The Knight’s Tale Summary and Analysis | GradeSaver

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The Canterbury Tales

Emelye prayed at the shrine to Diana, the goddess of chastity. She prayed that she could remain a maiden all her life and not be a man's lover nor wife. She prayed, moreover, for peace and friendship between Arcite and Palamon. But if it was to be her destiny to marry one against her will, she asked to have the one who wants her most. The statue of Diana shed tears of blood, another omen. Then Diana herself appeared to Emelye and told her that she will marry one of the two.

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Arcite prayed to Mars. Mars and Venus thus waged war upon one another, but aged Saturn found a means to satisfy both of them. He told Venus that Palamon would have his lady, but Mars would help his servant. Theseus set the rules of the battle between the two opposing factions. He ordered that, during the war between the two sides, nobody would suffer a mortal blow. If an opponent was overcome, he was to leave the battle. The people raised their voices in exultation.

The two armies were equal in prowess, age and nobility, and Arcite pursued Palamon viciously, and Palamon returned with equal severity. But Emetreus seized Palamon and pierced him with his sword. In the attempt to rescue Palamon, King Lycurgus was struck down, and then Emetreus himself was wounded. Theseus declared that Arcite had won. Venus was disappointed at the outcome, but Saturn told her that Mars was now appeased and she would receive a similar appeasement. Suddenly, as Arcite was proclaimed victorious, there was an earthquake sent by Pluto that frightened Arcite's horse, which swerved and fell, throwing off Arcite and mortally wounding him.

Before he died, Arcite tells Emelye that she could have no more worthy husband than Palamon. His last word before he died was her name. It is a very free adaptation of a story by an Italian writer, Boccaccio, whom it seems clear Chaucer very much admired. The Tale is undoubtedly a romance as Chaucer presents it, supposedly a true history of many hundreds of years ago told by an authoritative, high-status figure in this case the Knight.

Yet Chaucer never merely adopts a literary tradition without commenting on it, and the oddities of the Tale often lie in the way it over-stresses the traditional things expected of a romance of its genre. For example, the question of status raised at the end of the General Prologue when the Host — perhaps duplicitously — has the Knight picked as the first teller and rank is immediately raised by the progression of the tale.

The Knight begins not with the main characters of the tale, Arcite and Palamon, but instead, he begins at the apex of society, describing the exploits of Theseus of Athens, working downward until he reaches the less distinguished Theban soldiers. Moreover, the tale is deeply improbable in all sorts of ways, and the situation and the moral questions it poses seem more important than the qualities of the individual characters. Characters, in fact, exist only to be moved by the events of the story: to be imprisoned and set free whenever the plot demands, or to fall in love at first sight when it is dramatically convenient.

Even the characters acknowledge their lack of free will within the story. The two knights pray to Venus for a literal deus ex machine , for they are unable to control their own fate. The Knight's Tale very openly acknowledges the role of fate through the gods: Palamon leaves his fate to theology, blaming his fate on Venus, Juno and Saturn. Arcite and Palamon as characters, then, without any real autonomy and speaking only formal, elegant laments, are virtually indistinguishable from each another.

During what century did Chaucer live?

There is no information on which a reader may base an opinion on their respective virtues. Emelye is equally something of a cardboard-cutout, rather than a fully rounded character compare her, for example, with the garrulous, fully-individualised Wife of Bath. She even first appears in a garden, a pastoral symbol that balances both purity and fertility.