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The Knight's Tale (Canterbury Tales Group Project Part I)

A brief Description of Geoffrey Chaucer's Knight's Tale

Michael Saporito

on 10 December 2012

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Transcript of The Knight's Tale (Canterbury Tales Group Project Part I)

The Knight's Tale Setting:
Athens By:

Chaucer Copyright Date: 1997 Narrator:
The Knight Part I Plot One day when Theseus was parading to Athens, he was stopped by a group of women in black. They tell him that their husbands were killed when fighting King Creon of Thebes. The husband's bodies were left out to be eaten by dogs in a field instead of a proper burial or burning. Outraged, Theseus marches to Thebes and kills King Creon. Theseus returns the bodies to the women but then finds Arcita and Palamon, Creon's sons, whom he locks away in a dungeon in Athens. After many years, both cousins see Emily, Theseus's sister in law, outside the dungeon and immediately fall in love with her. Later, Arcita gets released from prison but must leave Theseus's kingdom forever. In the dungeon, Palamon appeals to the gods saying that he is in the worse predicament than Arcita. Part II Plot Mercury visits Arcita in his chamber in Thebes and tells him to return to Athens. He disguises himself and joins Emily's court. Palamon escapes from prison, hiding in a tree grove. He finds Arcita and they agree to fight each other the next day in the grove. While they are fighting the next day, Theseus along with Emily walk in on them viciously attacking each other. Theseus pities them and proposes that Palamon and Arcita return in a year with a hundred soldiers to see who will wed Emily. Part III Plot Theseus erects a giant theater for Arcita and Palamon to fight in along with temples to Venus, Mars, and Diana. When Palamon and Arcita return, they both come with their band of one hundred knights. Theseus then throws a grand party for both groups. That night, Palamon prays to Venus to win the hand of Emily. Emily then prays to Diana that either Arcita and Palamon forget about her or that the one that desires her most will get her. Arcita prays to Mars for victory over Palamon. This puts Mars and Venus in a predicament because it seems as if only one of their prayers can be granted. Part IV Plot The day of the battle, Theseus announces that he has modified the types of weapons that one can bring to battle so that nobody will die. Both cousins enter from different sides of the theater and the battle begins. Arcita strikes Palamon, therefore Arcita is declared victor. To Venus, this seems as if her prayer will not come true. But suddenly Arcita falls off his horse and gets hurt. He is taken back to Theseus’s palace, but he is dying. On his deathbed, Arcita tells Emily that Palamon would be the best suitor for her. He then dies and Theseus builds a funeral pyre for him in the grove where he and Palamon first met to fight alone. The story ends with Palamon and Emily being married. Characters Theseus Emily Palamon Arcita The cousin of Palamon, Arcita is the son of King Creon. When Creon was killed by Theseus, Theseus took Arcita and threw him in a dungeon with the thought of keeping him there for the rest of his life. While in prison, he sees and falls in love with Emily. Later, one of Theseus’s friends who is also friends with Arcita convinces Theseus to release Arcita on the grounds of him leaving Athens forever. When he finally duels Palamon to become Emily’s husband, he wins the battle but falls off his horse and dies before he can marry Emily. He is very kind to others (even Palamon until they fight for Emily in the end). He is also a son of King Creon and a cousin of Arcita (because King Creon had multiple wives). He was also thrown into a dungeon with Arcita when Theseus captured him. Palamon was in fact the first person to see Emily and fall in love with her. However, he is not let out of prison like Arcita but escapes by drugging his jailer. He fights Arcita for the hand of Emily and loses the battle, but wins Emily when Arcita falls off his horse and dies. From the story, Palamon seems very chivalrous around others including Arcita until they fight for Emily. He is the Duke of Athens and is very noble. He kills Creon when he hears that Creon had fouled the dead bodies of noble warriors. From his conquest of Creon’s kingdom, he finds and takes Arcita and Palamon as prisoners. Theseus is very forgiving and noble because he forgives Palamon and Arcita when he finds them again in the tree grove. He is a gracious host when the two armies congregate in Athens. Theseus is very noble and grieves for Arcita when he dies. Emily is the beautiful woman that Arcita and Palamon fight over throughout the tale. She is Theseus’s sister-in-law because she is the sister of Theseus’s wife, Hippolyta. From her prayer to Diana, she seems averse to marrying either of the two cousins. Even though she has this attitude, she weeps heavily when Arcita dies and cries at his burning. At the end of the story, she marries Palamon and they live happily ever after. Themes Honor/Chivalry First off, Theseus goes to King Creon’s kingdom to return the soldiers bodies that were defiled and dishonored. In bringing the bodies back, the grieving wives of the dead soldiers can bury or burn their bones to honor them. So the whole idea was in restoring the honor of the soldiers. We know that knights follow the chivalric code from Gawain, so it makes sense that honor is an overarching theme in his tale. In this way, Chaucer uses the morals and general mindset of the Knight in his story. Love In this tale, the theme of love is a major topic. The fact that Arcita and Palamon fell in love with Emily at first sight shows just how passionate they are for her. Without knowing anything about her, they love her with all of their hearts. This blind love lasts for the rest of the tale and doesn’t even abate when Arcita is dying. Emily even weeps for Arcita when he dies because although she didn’t know him, she sees how passionately he loved her despite their separation. The fact that the two cousins would fight for someone who didn’t even know them is incredible and romantic. The theme of love is constant throughout the tale and is very important in showing what Arcita and Palamon were fighting for. Isolation When Palamon and Arcita are stuck in prison after seeing Emily, they become melancholy because they think that they will never be able to get out of jail and meet her. They are stuck with just watching her and are unable to communicate with her or the outside world. Instead, they can only communicate with themselves. Similar to the monster in Frakenstein and Grendel, they are cut off from the real world and are isolated from what they desire. Significant
Quotes The Women in black explain to Theseus what has become of their husbands’ bodies:

“‘Does outrage on the bodies of our dead,
On all our husbands, for when they were slain
Their bodies were dragged out onto the plain
Into a heap, and there, as we have learnt,
They neither may have burial nor be burnt,
But he makes dogs devour them, in scorn’” (Chaucer 84-9). Palamon first sees Emily:

“He chanced on Emily to cast his eye
And, as he did, he blenched and gave a cry
As though he had been stabbed, and to the heart” (Chaucer 219-21). Palamon prays to Venus to get Emily as his wife:

The ways, I care not how, whether it be
By my defeat of them, or theirs of me,
So that I have my lady in my arms.
Though Mars be god of battles and alarms
Thy power is so great in Heaven above
That if thou please I well may have my love” (Chaucer 1395-40). Emily prays to Diana to either be forgotten by Palamon and Arcita or to wed the one that desires her the most:

“Let all their violent loves and hot desires,
Their ceaseless torments and consuming fires,
Be quenched, or turned towards another place.
Yet if thou wilt not do me so much grace,
Or if my destiny ordains it so
That one shall have me whether I will or no,
Then send me him that shall desire me most” (Chaucer 1469-75). Arcita’s prayer to Mars asking to win the battle versus Palamon:

“Kindly of me that force must have its place,
And well know I know without thy help or grace
The little strength I have is all too slight;
Then help me, Lord, tomorrow, in the fight...” (Chaucer 1549-52). Emily’s reaction to Arcita’s death:

“Palamon howls and Emily is shrieking,
And Theseus leads away his sister, seeking
To bear her from the corpse; she faints away.
Why tarry on her tears or spend the day
Telling you how she wept both eve and morrow?” (Chaucer 1967-71). HI!!!! Arcita first sees Emily:

“Now, as he spoke, Arcita chanced to see,
This lady as she roamed there to and fro...
‘The freshness of her beauty strikes me dead...’” (Chaucer 254-60). On his deathbed, Arcita tells Emily that Palamon would be the best husband for her:

“‘For, as I hope my soul may have its part
With Jove, in all the world I know of none
So worthy to be loved as Palamon
Who serves you and will serve you all his life.
And should you ever choose to be a wife,
Forget not Palamon, that great-hearted man...’” (Chaucer 1942-7). After Palamon and Emily are wed:

“Palamon was espoused to Emily....
He’s tenderly beloved of Emily
And serves her with a gentle constancy,
And never a jealous word between them spoken
Or other sorrow in a love unbroken” (Chaucer 2250-8). Throughout the novel, the characters put themselves and their fate in the hands of the Gods. Palamon, Arcita, and Emily pray to the gods in order to achieve a certain outcome in their lives. Palamon prays for Emily’s hand. Arcita prays to with the battle versus Palamon. Emily prays to have Palamon and Arcita forget all about her and stop their fighting. Unfortunately, not all of these prayers can be answered. Emily’s prayer cannot be granted and so she gets her fall-back prayer of marrying the one who loves her the most. The idea here is that they know that they can’t control the outcome of the events that transpire in the tale. They ask the ones that are in charge, the Gods, for help in attaining what they want. Arcita falling off his horse was an act of pure chance, which shows that fate is in charge and not the people. Fate Conflicts Man v Man Man v Society Emily v Society:

One conflict that Emily has is with society. In the ancient times when the story takes place, women didn’t have that much of a say in marriage. The men had most of the control in daily life if not total control. When Emily prays to Diana, her first wish is that she doesn’t marry Palamon or Arcita. In the end, Emily and Diana can’t do anything to stop one of the cousins from marrying Emily. In this way, Emily tries to resist the male-lead society and customs, but loses. Arcita v Palamon:

The most prevalent conflict in the story is the conflict between Palamon and Arcita. They are both in love with Emily when only one of them can have her. They are directly conflicting each other by loving the same woman. Of course, Palamon wins the conflict when Arcita dies and Palamon weds Emily. Theseus v King Creon:

Theseus’s killing of King Creon in the beginning of the tale is an example of man versus man conflict. Creon dishonoring the bodies of the Athenian soldiers didn’t bode well with Theseus, so he decided to solve the problem. This particular conflict was solved easily because Theseus was able to kill Creon quickly. Symbols The Women in Black
Black can be a negative color and represents mourning. The women in the story are mourning their husbands whose bodies were defiled by King Creon (Chaucer 41). In today’s culture, many people wear black at funerals and sad occasions. The Month of May
May is a month that occurs during springtime. It is not a dismal time of year like the winter months are. Many of the major events in the tale occur during the month of May (the first time the cousins see Emily, when Palamon escapes, the final battle). The Band
At the end of the Knight's tale, Emily and Palamon are wed into what Chaucer calls the "band of marriage" (Chaucer 2246-7). The band is a symbol used to show something that is never ending. A band is circular in shape so it has no ends to it. In this way, marriage is shown to have no ending and therefore lasts forever. Author's Style Level 1 Question: Describe the relationship that the brothers Arcita and Palamon have with each other. A: Palamon and Arcita have a very close relationship. They are referred to as brothers throughout the tale (although they are really cousins). This reference of being brothers shows how close they are to each other. Level 2 Question: Infer why Theseus took Palamon and Arcita prisoner when King Creon was the one who dishonored the Soldiers’ bodies. In those times, much of one’s social status was based off of what you father’s social status was. The power runs in families and lineage is very important. Because King Creon did horrible things, Theseus believes that Palamon and Arcita must pay also. Creon got the death that he deserved, but Palamon and Arcita must also serve their own form of punishment: being locked away forever. Level 3 Question: Criticize the ethics of the battle Theseus created and the sensibility of fighting a family member over a girl. The battle that Theseus created did cause unnecessary violence but not unnecessary death. The way he put a limit on the type of weapons one could bring minimized the injuries that people sustained. Theseus also chose to end the conflict with this extravagant event because he saw just how much the cousins wanted Emily. They were fighting in the grove, covered in blood. The fact that they were fighting for a girl makes the story romantic in its own way, where they fight for the heart of the King’s sister. Close-Ended Question: Out of the three gods in the tale; Mars, Diana, and Venus; name the ones that fulfilled the prayers to them. To put it short, all of them answered the prayers to them. The only discrepancy is Diana because she granted Emily’s fall-back prayer (remember that she prayed to either have them forget about her or to marry the one that desires her most). Open-Ended Question: In a flip of sexes, would two women have had a battle over a man in similar circumstances? There are probably many factors that would contribute to whether two women would fight like Palamon and Arcita over a man. The situation could quite be possible given the right circumstances. Perhaps they wouldn’t go to the extreme of having a battle against each other, but they could quite possibly have the same desire to be with someone as Palamon and Arcita were with Emily. On the other side of the coin, they might have different tactics for dealing with the situation. Palamon and Arcita were very bold in their proclamations of love for Emily. Two women might be more subtle in their ways of showing affection. Of course, there are many different chains of events that could occur, making it difficult to figure out what could happen. World Connection
Question: How can people today feel isolated from others like Palamon and Arcita? People can feel isolated from other people all the time. Even though we have such advanced technology to communicate with, regions within third-world countries are isolated from other countries. They are separated from others who might have better living conditions, technology, etc. Arcita and Palamon are totally cut off from any other individuals. They can only communicate with each other. At a more local level, people can be isolated from others and groups of friends. Obviously, no one can be friends with everybody, and therefore are separated from others in one way or another. If someone feels like they can’t talk to anyone about anything, they feel isolated from others. Other people can seclude themselves and purposely isolate themselves from others. Universal Theme/
Core Question: Does not knowing your fate and the future affect your decision making in the present? Literary Analysis
Question: Not knowing what is going to happen in the future definitely affects one’s decision making in the present. Nothing in the world can be predicted exactly 100 percent of the time. Some element of chance and randomness exists. Many people plan ahead in order to secure their future, like investing, although sometimes that method ends up not working. Others could believe that they have no control on what is going to happen and in turn go with the flow. Either way, the future is difficult to predict and can change anytime. How does Chaucer’s diction correspond with the beliefs of the Knight? Throughout the tale, the Knight makes the characters mention God and the Knight himself refers to God. Chaucer included this because the knights during the 1300s were Christian and they had strong Christian beliefs. Therefore, it makes sense that the Knight’s Tale is influenced by the Knight’s beliefs. In this way, Chaucer tries to make the Knight’s Tale individual from any of the other tales because the Knight is different from the other Canterbury pilgrims. The knight uses allusions in his story. One passage has allusions to the Bible, The Odessey, and other characters from Greek Mythology (1089-93). In the passage, Venus’s temple is portrayed to be better than many characters from a variety of literary works. He has another allusion to the Iliad (1982-3) where he compares the mourning of Arcita to the mourning of Hector in Troy. This is used to show how significant the mourning of Arcita is because in the Illiad, Hector of Troy is a great prince and warrior. And like Arcita, Hector also died in a duel, which also makes this allusion fitting. These allusions to other texts show that the knight is well-versed and rounded in the many forms of literature and mythology that were around in the 1300s. The diction that Chaucer uses stays consistent with the Knight, who is narrating the tale. Lines 28, 459, 1932, and 2216 use the word God, which corresponds with the fact that the Knight is Christian. In this way, this tale reflects the values and views of the Knight through the Knight’s reference to God throughout the tale. In lines (177-8), the Knight compares Young Emily’s mien or look to the lily to give the reader a better idea of what she looks like by the complexion of her skin. This metaphor gives the reader an image of how beautiful Emily is. Lines (179-80) compare Emily’s coloring to that of a rose. From this, the Knight is describing Emily as someone who would have been considered really pretty at that time. This section has great imagery because of Chaucer’s words and comparisons. When the characters are praying to the gods, Chaucer uses apostrophe. In lines 1371, 1447, and 1552 Palamon, Emily, and Arcita, respectively talk to their gods using apostrophe. The characters are by themselves in the temples when they are praying so this can be considered apostrophe. The use of apostrophe in the passage offers somewhat of a view into what it might have been like in the Greek times when people would pray to their gods. And Now..... Our
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