The Knight’s Tale Canterbury Tales British Literature
I. Elements to observe in “The Knight’s Tale” “joy follows sorrow” – the idea that life is truly a balance of good and bad, positive and negative Fate – the idea that some higher power is in control of human characters Courtly love – love as physical pain “Chivalry” – The Code of Knights “Competition and Rivalry” – among men
II. Symbols Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts – Springtime – Clothing – Red and White; Green – Animals – Wrathful Lion, Tiger, Wild Boars – Blood
III. Courtly love Conception of nobly and chivalrously expressing love and admiration Secret and between members of the nobility Not between husband and wife Balance between desire and spirituality “lady on a pedestal”
Courtly love Illicit and morally elevating, passionate and disciplined, humiliating and exalting, human and transcendent. Idolization The lover accepts the independence of his mistress and tries to make himself worthy of her by acting bravely and honorably and by doing whatever deeds she may desire.
The object of attraction may be a marriedwoman; and the goal was not alwaysphysical pleasure.Marriage and love not a sin, but elevating.The woman had POWER – she enabledspiritual and moral growth.
IV. Stages of Courtly Love: Attraction to the lady, usually via eyes/glance Worship of the lady from afar Declaration of passionate devotion Virtuous rejection by the lady Renewed wooing with oaths of virtue and eternal fealty
Stages of Courtly Love Moans of approaching death from unsatisfied desire (and other physical manifestations of lovesickness) Heroic deeds of valor which win the ladys heart Consummation of the secret love Endless adventures and subterfuges avoiding detection
V. Image of Women Emily * the gazed object * a prize to men The Theban women & the court women * pleaders
Trial By Battle trial by battle was when two nobles fought, usually until one of them died. the winner was assumed innocent because God would only protect an innocent person only noblemen had the right to trial by battle noblewomen could choose any champion to fight on her behalf trial by ordeal and trial by battle were common ways of deciding if a person was innocent or guilty but were outlawed later in the Middle Ages
Plot Summary Theseus’s returning from Amazon Discovery of Arcite and Palamon Courtly love to Emily Escape of the two imprisoned knights The encounter of Arcite and Palamon A just duel between the two knights The final destiny of the knights
Courtly Love Having quarrels * Arcite: “yours is no more than a religious felling: mine is real love, love of human being.” (p.89) * Arcite: :”Love is a mighter law, upon my soul, than any made by any mortal rule.” (p.89) Arcite’s modified name -- Philostrato Palamon’s escape Fighting in the wood Competing in the arena Arcite’s contribution to love
God’s Power v.s. Human Will Human being’s will * praying to gods for fulfilling their wishes Palamon Venus, praying for winning Emily Emily Diana, praying for keeping her virginity Arcite Mars, praying for achieving victory in the duel
* succeeding in pleading to save lives Theban women husbands Pirithous Arcite Court women Arcite and Palamon God’s Power * holding power over human being’s destiny * quarreling over the winner The dispute between Venus and Mars
Questions Who is in the worse situation, Arcite or Palamon? * Arcite, who is free, but will never see his beloved. * Palamon, will see his lover everyday, but is imprisoned
* Death with good-name is the most honorable Theseus: “And, certainly, a man gains most honor indying in his excellence and flower, when he is sure of hisgood name; then he has done no shame to his friend, or tohimself. And his friend ought to be happier for his deathwhen his breath is given up with honor, then when his nameis faded with age; for then his prowess is all forgotten.” (p.191)Do Now: What is Theseus’ message to Palamon and Emilyin this excerpt of his final speech?
Each of the final events in the story is punctuated by great pageantry. What was a simple duel between Arcite and Palamon becomes a gala event with the construction of a massive coliseum for two armies to wage war on one another. Intervention of the gods for the two nobles.
Part IVAnalysis The Knights Tale adheres to traditional values of chivalric, knightly honor in which there are strict codes of behavior which one must follow. As the Knight sees it, by dying in honor, we should be glad for those who so die.
Theme The main theme of the tale is the instability of human life—joy and suffering are never far apart from one another, and nobody is safe from disaster. When one person’s fortunes are up, another person’s are down.
Characters are always subject to dramatic reversals of fortune. Theseus argues that excessive mourning over disaster is inappropriate. Suggests that some kind of moral order underlies the apparently random mishaps and disasters of the narrative.
The moral questions the tale poses seem more important than the qualities of the individual characters. “What is this world? What does man ask to have?”(p. 175, line 1919) – Arcite’s speech before he dies.
Characters 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 – by praying to each god in Part III.
Theseus’ final speech… eloquently relates the events we have witnessed to a predestined view of the universe and of man’s place within its order. The statements he makes are sober and realistic. – “Look at the oak … all these things have an end” (p.189). – “In the case of man and woman … all go that same way” (189). – “It is wisdom to accept willingly what we may not avoid” (190).
Paganism All this represents a Pagan philosophy, rather than a Christian outlook. This is a tale of Pagan times that we have been following. The ways of life resume their course after we die (Nature).
Emily’s marriage to Palamon Theseus prepares to make one joy out of two sorrows in the process of marrying Emily to Palamon. The tale ends on a note of fulfilled happiness as the Knight invokes the blessing of the pilgrims in the form of a solemn and appropriate final ‘Amen’.
Closing Question: Does the concept of destiny change in the end of the Knight’s tale? How does it change?
Questions Who is in the worse situation, Arcite or Palamon? * Arcite, who is free, but will never see his beloved. * Palamon, will see his lover everyday, but is imprisoned Does the concept of destiny change in the end of the Knight’s tale? How does it change?
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