The Knights Tale
Courtly love is a common theme in medieval literature and is certainly prolific throughout Chaucer's story the Canterbury Tales. The most obvious example of courtly love in Chaucer's works rests within the Knights Tale.Get help from Paper Masters in understanding the complicated themes throughout Chaucer's work.
According to previous research by Paper Masters, the Knights Tale contains the elements of chivalry, romanticism and virginity, the sum total equaling courtly love. Thus, within the scope of an examination of The Knight's Tale, courtly love will be dissected for the elements of the following:
These elements are witnessed in the following characters of The Knight's Tale:
- Palamon - Palamon's actions represent romanticism
- Arcite - Arcite's actions are representative of chivalry
- Emelye - Emelye, as the object of Palamon's and Arcite's attraction, represents the common expectation for women prior to Chaucer's time, virginity
The first element of courtly love is chivalry. Within the Knights Tale, Arcite is representative of chivalry in the dynamic of courtly love. In the traditional sense, chivalry brings to mind knights in shining armor, damsels in distress, and fair play. Arcite represents chivalry in his actions, such as prolonging the dual between Palamon and himself until he could bring armor for both knights. Chaucer sites fairness as an element of chivalry within The Knight's Tale.
And certeinly a man hath moost honour 
To dyen in his excellence and flour,
When he is siker of his goode name;
Thanne hath he doon his freend, ne hym, no shame.
And gladder oghte his freend been of his deeth,
Whan with honour up yolden is his breeth,
Than whan his name appalled is for age,
For al forgeten is his vassellage.
Thanne is it best, as for a worthy fame,
To dyen whan that he is best of name.
Geoffrey Chaucer frequently displays keen interest in questions of female agency and responsibility by rendering his female characters at key moments in silences, deferred answers, absences, and unexpected submissiveness. The poets interest in these moments is not to portray these female figures as merely passive recipients either of the forces that construct women in texts, or of our own critical constructions. Rather, at these crucial junctures where the tale requires (but does not fully enable) us to construct an interpretation, the poet invites us to critically examine the ideological and social assumptions and limitations imposed on those figures and on the act of interpreting them itself.
An excellent approach to Chaucer's The Knight's Tale is to select three female characters whose agency, or lack of, hinges on measured or protracted silences. Are those silences indicative of personal moral strength (even virtue) in the face of adversity or a stark indication of the kinds of abuses endured by women and other subjects in social circumstances where male rule is the only legitimate authority? What role does gesture play in these silences? Is it possible for both men and women to rise up to their moral potential? Does gender or marriage complicate things for those who try?