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Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales Essay

1268 words - 5 pages

Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales are a series of entertaining stories told along a religious pilgrimage from London to Canterbury. Each of the tales are related by a different member of the traveling group and represents their views on the society they live in. One pilgrim tells most of the tales about another, and either praises them or accuses them as a fraud or a sinner. These tales are actually much more than just entertaining stories told to pass the time during the trip. The Canterbury Tales are Chaucer's social commentary of his time. However, these tales are truly universal. Even though they where written over six centuries ago, they still have a relevant message for our current society.The "Knight's Tale" represents many different things; courtly love, the ideal woman, honour among friends, and how fate can move in such a strange way.Courtly love denotes a knight prepared to go to any lengths to win the affection of his desired woman. Palamon and Arcite, the two knights from Thebes, demonstrate this throughout the entire tale. They even go as far as dissolving their sworn friendship and duelling each other on several occasions, during which they could have killed one another. However they do keep a certain respect for each other throughout; it would be much easier to hire a murderer to kill the other and thereby eliminate the competition. Only their respect for each other and their sense of honour keeps them from doing this. "Honour among friends" can be hard to find in such an uncivilized time, but Arcite truly demonstrates this when he actually suggests Emily marry Palamon, instead of letting jealousy take control and forbidding their marriage on his death bed. Courtly love and honour among friends is difficult to find in our current society. Jealousy and rage are more commonly seen, but this tale reflects the genuine value of true, devoted friends.Emily, the heroine, plays the role of the perfect woman in the tale. She is not very convincing as a real woman. She only does a few things in the story, but when she does so something, she acts exactly as society dictates. When Palamon and Arcite are sentenced to death, she begs for their lives. When she prays at the alter, she prays for the one whose love is greater to be successful in battle and win her. When Arcite wins the match, she readily accepts him as her husband. When Arcite dies she mourns his death but still continues on a happy life with Palamon. In all of her actions and her appearance throughout the tale, she represents the ideal, gentle feminine love that all knights dream of.Fate versus justice is a prominent theme in the "Knight's Tale". When Palamon wins the hand of Emily in the end due to Arcite's untimely death, it seems more an unfortunate twist of fate than justice. It its almost as if fate had an ironic sense of humour, for Arcite won the match but lost the woman and his life for it. This reflects the irony of love and life, a valid message up to this day."The...

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