The Canterbury Tales is a book authored by Geoffrey Chaucer (1342 to 1400). The author was well known as a diplomat in the Royal Service, best known for his contribution to the world of literature in the form of writings on various subjects. His work has been notable for the tone that it manages to set in the context of depicting people and their lives. This book has been translated by Nevill Coghill, who has occupied a variety of positions at Oxford University.
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The volume is a classic that revolves around the times and life of a group of pilgrims who travel the world in search of symbols that depict the times that marked the horizon of fourteenth-century England. These pilgrims belong to various levels of sensibilities and communities and each of their stories depicts a certain sensitivity that endears each of them to the reader. From a brave knight to a God-fearing nun, from a well-read physician to a lesser known canon yeoman, this book shows a range of emotions and portrayals that have touched the hearts of readers the world over. Through a rare combination of poetry and realistic ideals that the portrayals are drenched in, the book effectively works are a piece that in modern times, pays homage, through its various chapters, to heroes and characters like Sir John, Sir Topaz, Dame Prudence, Lord Phoebus, King Arthur, and many others. In doing so, the volume upholds ideals connected with martyrdom, ordinary labor, and other such walks of life. One of the most notable features of this book is the fact that despite its many kinds of characters, who hail from various walks of life, the book is held together by a common and subconscious belief that they are all somehow held together. In this belief, the author manages to reveal similarities as well as dissimilarities between the characters and depicts the level and instances at which they connect with each other, and as a group.
The story that is being analyzed in this paper is titled The Knight’s Tale. The prologue talks of the fellowship that these characters display throughout the book as they all travel together towards Canterbury. The conditions that meet them along the way help them connect with each other and rediscover themselves. One such pilgrim in the group is the Knight. His is the first story. The Knight has been described as a distinguished person capable of demonstrating the principles attached with chivalry as well as warfare. He is a warrior and protector and someone who spreads fear and commands respect. The Knight has been depicted by the author as a noble person in the true sense of the word as far as upholding various ideals in society is concerned. These ideals include generosity as well as a sense of duty and responsibility. The very way in which he carries himself and rides with the rest of the pilgrims shows that he is a force within himself. Yet, he keeps to himself and tends to speak only when action is required of him. (Chaucer et al, P 4)
The Knight has been depicted as a person full of purpose. His life’s aim is to live honorably and help people around him do the same. His story revolves around the battles he has led from Attalia to Africa, from Lithuania to Russia, and so forth. The Knight depicts that part of society that is vulnerable and forceful all at once. The Knight is full of faith and helps restore lost faith as well. He is capable of bringing out strength and evoking fear at the same time. (Chaucer et al, P 4)
The Knight is pitched against a boorish canon yeoman as well as a revered Monk. He finds solace in the words of the physician and shuns a life of farce and fear. (Chaucer et al, P 26). Throughout his story, the Knight reveals a gentle as well as a strong side. He shows the balance that can be struck between evoking fear and restoring faith. His ideals in life have come from battlefields and not merely from books. In this sense, he is more knowledgeable about the best and heartiest way to lead life than even the monk. This is demonstrated in the text where he is said to be crowned with his laurel wreath and lives life the way he wants to. (Chaucer et al, P 31).
An example of the Knight’s gentle side lies in the text where he shows compassion towards a woman who helps him when he faints. This woman herself shows compassion towards the war-waging Knight and realizes that his ideals are to live fearlessly and not to merely evoke fear. (Chaucer et al, P 28). His gentle side is also shown when he falls on his knees and prays to Venus for his love. (Chaucer et al, P 33).
These lines help demonstrate that the Knight is indeed a compassionate person whether at war or whether in love. This helps him see the good and bad sides of the pilgrims he travels with. Here there is a strong connection between the moral of the tale and the motive behind narrating it. While the moral involves showing a gentle side to solve fear-related problems, the motive lies in spreading awareness regarding the basic human right to live and let live. In this, there is an implication that the Knight has used his gentle side to win life’s greater battles and live happily.
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- Chaucer, Geoffrey; Coghill, Nevill (2003). The Canterbury Tales. Penguine Classics: Rev Ed Edition.