October 13, 2023

#08-349: The Knight’s Tale

The Knight, from an old manuscript
of The Canterbury Tales (Wikipedia)

Note: "There is no new thing under the sun": another love triangle, this one with a Chaucerian twist at the end.

Get Ready: Are there hard-and-fast rules in relationships? Or is "all fair"?

Here's another story from Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The Knight--the most noble person in the company of pilgrims going to Canterbury--tells the story of a love triangle between two noble knights and a princess.

Palamon and Arcite are (perhaps) cousins who, unconscious, were taken captive by Theseus, duke of Athens, after his battle against Creon of Thebes. One May morning Palamon looks out the window of the tower where they are imprisoned, and sees Emelye, a princess and relative of Theseus, picking flowers in a garden. He falls instantly in love.

Arcite, wondering what he is sighing about, takes a look and also falls in love. The two argue, Palamon saying he saw her first, and Arcite answering that love obeys no rules.

Some years later Arcite is released through the intervention of a friend and sent into exile. But he returns in disguise and pretends to be a servant in Emelye's household. 

Palamon, too, gets free, by drugging the jailer and escaping. One day he recognizes the voice of Arcite singing. He reveals himself, and they duel. But Theseus arrives with a hunting party, and seeing the two, plans to put them to death. Emelye and Theseus's wife beg mercy, however, and convince him to stage a mass tournament to determine which man will marry Emelye.

One year later, each knight has gathered 100 men, and the battle begins. But first, that morning, Palamon prays to the love goddess Venus for Emelye's hand; Emelye prays to Diana, the virgin moon goddess, to either remain unmarried or marry the man who truly loves her; and Arcite prays to Mars the war god for victory.

Anyone seriously injured in the melee is removed from the field. No one is killed.

Both fight valiantly, but Palamon is wounded and unhorsed. The fight is over, and Theseus declares Arcite the winner. But Saturn, god of the underworld, takes the side of Venus and causes Arcite to be thrown from his horse. Before dying he tells Emelye that Palamon is a good man who truly loves her.

All three prayers are fulfilled: Palamon gets Emelye, she gets a man who truly loves her, and Arcite has attained victory. He is buried with great honors, and Palamon and Emelye have a magnificent wedding.


Practice: Match the term to its definition:

  1. are fulfilled
  2. imprisoned
  3. intervention
  4. into exile
  5. melee
  6. sighing
  7. tournament
  8. unhorsed
  9. valiantly
  10. virgin
  1. a person who hasn’t had sex
  2. bravely
  3. happen; come to pass
  4. put in jail
  5. stepping in (to help)
  6. knocked on the ground
  7. a mock battle competition
  8. away
  9. breathing out heavily
  10. a fight; a brawl

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for October 13, 2023

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. c; 2. d; 3. e; 4. h; 5. j; 6. i; 7. g; 8. f; 9. b; 10. a