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Theme Of Chivalry In The Knight's Tale

Decent Essays
Geoffrey Chaucer’s romantic poem “The Knight’s Tale” chronicles the adventures of two ancient Greek knights and their quest to win the affection of Emily, a beautiful noblewoman. Bound to uphold the chivalric code of loyalty and honor of the time, Palamon and Arcite discover themselves at odds with their noble ideals as they battle one another in pursuit of love. Unable to reconcile the knight’s oath of honor with their obsessive and selfish desires, the actions of Chaucer’s main characters fail to uphold the basic principles of chivalry.
As a first example, Chaucer highlights the knights’ struggle to uphold their pledge of chivalry when a disagreement arises between the two comrades over who holds the right and privilege to love Emily.
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Allowing their feelings to cloud their judgment and control their actions, the men lose all sense of reason and decorum as they resort to antagonistic behavior and name-calling; contrary to the standards of the pledge they have avowed to honor. Rossignol asserts Chaucer’s characters “undercut the very ethos [of chivalry] . . . the knights themselves display ambivalence toward their own motives and behavior” (Rossignol). Palamon and Arcite, oblivious to any personal responsibility or wrongdoing in the dispute over Emily, expect the other to uphold the chivalric code without doing so himself. Most certainly, if one or both of the men heeded the high expectations of conduct, they would spare their brotherhood and avoid the perils of their battle, but neither man finds it within his conscience to do so.
In like manner, Theseus’ actions also diverge from the ideals of chivalry as he aims to further his political standing. When he finds Acrite and Palamon dueling in the grove, Theseus rules the men to reassemble “this day fifty wykes, fer ne ner, / Everich of you shal brynge an hundred knyghtes / armed for lystes up at alle rightes” to win Emily’s hand in marriage (1850-1852). Instead of a traditional dual with limited bloodshed and a quick resolution, Theseus, motivated by his noble self-interests, opts for a violent spectacle to entertain his people, even constructing a grandiose arena for viewing the battle. Similarly, when charged by his parliament to
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