The Knight: Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Essay
The Knight is the narrator of the first tale in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The Knight’s character is the complete opposite of the knight in the Wife of Bath’s Tale who rapes a girl. During the group’s pilgrim to Canterbury the Host suggests a story telling competition. The Knight draws the shortest stick and tells his tale first (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2013). Getting to tell his tale first is a sign of his social standing in medieval England.
His tale is about a love triangle involving two knights and a woman. The two young knights, Arcite and Palamon, are prisoners of Theseus, Duke of Athens. While locked up in a tower they see Emelye in a nearby garden and fall in love with her. Later Arcite is set free but on condition that he never sets foot in Athens again.
The Knight presents us with the cruelty played by fate. Arcite is a free man but cannot access Emelye while Palamon can see Emelye but is in captivity. Arcite manages to make his way back to Athens in disguise. Palamon eventually escapes and bumps into Arcite singing about love and fortune.
A duel between the two is thwarted by the appearance of Theseus. The Duke organizes a proper duel between the two where the victor gets Emelye’s hand in marriage. Arcite prays to Mars for victory and Palamon prays to Venus to make Emelye his bride. Arcite defeats Palamon but falls off his horse before he can claim Emelye. Before dying he urges Emelye to marry Palamon. The gods had managed to grant both men their prayers (Finlayson, 1992).
Through his tale, the Knight depicts the knightly aspect of courtly love which was common in medieval Europe. Signs of courtly love in the tale include the two knights falling in love with Emelye at first sight and Arcite risking his life by coming back to Athens. Other displays of courtly love include the mass duel to win Emelye’s love. In courtly love easy attainment of love was of little value (Lords and Ladies, 2013).
The Knight is the ideal medieval crusader. He is brave, a man of honor and morally upright. The tale the Knight tells is full of knightly noble ideals. Chaucer describes him as one who has never spoken a harsh word to anyone (Finlayson, 1992). The Knight is also an idealist, demonstrating an aversion to conflict and gloominess.
In the Pardoner’s tale the Knight makes peace between the Host and the Pardoner. He comes across as the voice of reason in the group (Aers, 1980). He takes offence when the Pardoner tries to sell fake relics to the pilgrims. This further illustrates his morally upright character (A Knight’s Tale, 2002).
Despite being a well travelled and wealthy warrior, the Knight is not vain. Like one dedicated to the Christian cause he projects a humble and prudent image. His upright character is a strong contrast with other narrators such as the Miller and the Reeve. Unlike the Knight, the Miller is rude and contemptuous while the Reeve has a temper (Chaucer: The Knight’s Tale, 2013).
The Knight introduces the concept of justice and judgment to his audience. After Arcite is freed he asks the audience to consider the two knights and ponder on who is better off. (The Knight’s Tale, 2013).
The Knight is keen on creating meaning and order in matters that are ruled by passion and chance (Aers, 1980). He stops the Monk from finishing his tale which he reckons is too sad and gloomy. He prefers a story where the fortunes of the characters make a turn for the better.
Aers, D. (1980). Chaucer, Langland, and the creative imagination. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Encyclopedia Britannica (2013). The Canterbury Tales (work by Chaucer). Web.
Finlayson, J. (1992). The” Knight’s Tale”: The Dialogue of Romance, Epic, and Philosophy. The Chaucer Review, 27 (2), pp. 126–149.
Lordsandladies.org (2013). Courtly Love. Web.
Pathguy.com (2013). Enjoying “The Knight’s Tale”, by Geoffrey Chaucer. Web.
Public.wsu.edu (2013). Chaucer: The Knight’s Tale. Web.
Sites.fas.harvard.edu (2013). The Knight’s Tale (general note). Web.
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