In the history of the English literature Geoffrey Chaucer is undoubtedly the biggest poetic name up to Shakespeare, where the best of his works — “The Canterbury Tales” is certainly one of the greatest literary works of the English Middle Ages in which Renaissance features are clearly breaking through. The Canterbury Tales-the most celebrated Chaucer work is a collection of stories concluded in one framework. The Canterbury Tales, in general represent a moral tale in which the customs and the traditions of English modern society were written off directly from nature. Considering the image of the Knight, as an ideal figure presented by Chaucer in “The Knight’s Tale” as an embodiment of virtue, nobleness and honor, this figure represented by the novel’s characters describes the components of Chivalry. This paper analyzes the presence of these components, which are Prowess, Truth, Honor, Freedom, Courtesy and Glory, in the light of story’s structure and the poetic means used by the author to give a complete picture of the novel’s characters.
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The central figures of the narration are Arcite and Palamon, although it could be noticed that the central image is Theseus, duke of Athens. He was presented at the very beginning of the story as an ideal image, an embodiment of nobleness, wisdom, justice and military qualities. The narration opens as a representation of the duke, and the description of his merits, although it would be logical to expect at the very beginning of the story to be representative of the central figures of the narration, Arcite and Palamon. Theseus is the ideal figure, and further as the judge in the dispute between Arcite and Palamon.
The first component of chivalry – Prowess, i.e. the ability to subdue a foe in battle, it could be seen from the description of Duke’s greatness, “He conquered Creon there, the Theban king, and slew him manfully, as became a knight,” (29)
The second component – Truth, i.e. the ability to make good all vows and obligations owed in a hierarchical world can be seen from the verse, “And swore on oath that as he was true knight, So far as it should lie within his might” (29)
The next chivalry component –Honor, i.e. an honorable conduct with allies, foes, prisoners, or those with whom you had a bond or obligation can be seen in such verses To Emily. To this I give my name, my faith and honour, as I am a knight” (53)
Another chivalry component is Freedom, i.e. the generosity and the readiness to give up one’s possessions as an act of fairness or charity. This component can be sensed through the verses that describes multiple virtues, among which the freedom could be found as openness of heart, “Of life, namely good faith and knightly deed, Wisdom, humility and noble breed, Honour and truth and openness of heart”(77)
The Courtesy as good manners can be considered as one of chivalry components, as for example Theseus is an ideal in respect of knightly qualities: he protects those who needs it, judicious in contentious cases, and sensitive to others sufferings, “And the n compassion in his heart had risen Seeing these ladies weeping there together, and in his noble heart he wondered whether.”(50)
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The last chivalry component is Glory, which is the fame of a knight and his good name. It could be seen in the example of Theseus, “Crowned with the laurel of his victory, and there in honour and felicity.” (31) Theseus, unlike Arcite and Palamon, had the desire to fight for his name, where Palamon expresses his prays, “For I don’t care to boast of arms displayed Nor ask that mine shall be the victory, And fame; I do not seek the vanity. Of warriors’ glory, praised both far and wide; I wish but full possession as my bride”
Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales (Penguin Classics). Penguin Classics, 2003.