The Knight's Tale
The Knight’s Tale
The Knight begins his tale with the story of Theseus, a prince, who married Hippolyta, the queen of Scythia, and brought her and her sister, Emelye, back to Athens with him after conquering her kingdom of Amazons. When Theseus returned home victorious, he became aware of a company of women clad in black who knelt at the side of the highway, shrieking. The oldest of the women asked Theseus for pity. She told him that she was once the wife of King Cappaneus who was destroyed at Thebes, and that all of the other women lost their husbands. Creon, the lord of the town, had simply tossed the dead bodies of the soldiers in a single pile and refused to burn ...view middle of the document...
After spending two years in Thebes, one night Arcite dreamt that he saw the god Mercury standing before him, bidding him to be free of hope and care, and telling him to go to Athens to relieve his grief. Arcite decided to disguise himself, return to Athens and pass unknown.
Arriving at the court, Arcite offered his services, and took a post with Emelye's steward under the name of Philostratus. Arcite worked as a page in Emelye's house and was so well loved that Theseus soon made him squire of his chamber. Meanwhile Palamon had lived for seven years in his dungeon, before, eventually, he escaped from the tower and fled the city, with the intention of disguising himself and making toward Thebes. That morning Arcite went horseback riding. In the area outside of the city, he dismounted and began to speak to himself, lamenting life without Emelye. Palamon, overhearing, leapt out and revealed himself to Arcite. Since neither had weapons, they made a vow to meet in the same place tomorrow and fight to the death over Emelye.
They returned the next day armed for battle. At the same time, and in the same place, Theseus, Hippolyta and Emelye were out hunting, and, reaching the area where Arcite and Palamon were fighting, Theseus stopped the battle. Palamon told Theseus that Arcite is the man who was banished (and that he has returned, disguised as Philostratus), while he himself is the escaped prisoner. He also told Theseus that both men love Emelye. Theseus ordered the death of both, but the queen and Emelye took pity on the two men, and begged Theseus for mercy. Considering how much they loved Emelye to risk death by not escaping to Thebes, Theseus asked them to swear that they will never make war against any realm of his. Theseus then decided that the two will wage war on each other, each with one hundred knights, in order to decide whom Emelye will marry.
Theseus commissioned the building of a stadium a mile in circumference for the duel between Arcite and Palamon. This stadium was opulent, featuring carvings and portraits as well as temples honoring Mars, Diana and Venus. When the day of the duel approached, Palamon brought Lycurgus, the king of Thrace, to fight with him, while Arcite brought Emetreus, the king of India.
The night before the duel, Palamon prayed to Venus to solace his pains of love, asking Venus (goddess of love) to let Arcite murder him if Arcite will be the one to marry Emelye. The statue of Venus shook, an omen that the goddess was listening. Emelye prayed at the shrine to Diana, the goddess of chastity. She prayed that she could remain a maiden all her life and not be a man's lover nor wife. She prayed, moreover, for peace and friendship between Arcite and Palamon. But if it was to be her destiny to marry one against her will, she asked to have the one who wants her most. The statue of Diana shed tears of blood, another omen. Then Diana herself appeared to Emelye and told her that she will marry one of the two. Arcite...