Lesson 8

The Knight's Tale

The Knight's Tale is a much longer and somewhat more solemn work than either the Shipman's Tale or The General Prologue. Before you begin your reading of this tale, look through this summary of the action:

[Theseus, duke of Athens, returning with Ypolita from his conquest of the Amazons, turns aside to defeat Creon, the tyrant of Thebes, who has unjustly refused burial for his victims. Among the wounded are Palamoun and Arcite, young Thebans of royal blood. Theseus condemns them to perpetual imprisonment. From the window of their cell they see the lovely Emily, Ypolita's young sister, with whom both fall in love.

They argue over who shall have her, though both are helplessly imprisoned. Perotheus, a friend of Theseus, obtains Arcite's release on the condition he never returns to Athens.

Arcite is so ravaged by love he is no longer recognizable; he returns to Athens, disguised, and takes service in Theseus' household. Palamon, by help of a friend, escapes from captivity. He hides in a woodland where he comes upon Arcite bemoaning his love for Emily. The two former friends engage in deadly battle. Theseus, hunting with his queen Ypolita and Emily, comes upon the duel and stops it. The ladies plead for the lives of the young men, and Theseus spares them and arranges for a great tournament, with one hundred knights to a side, to determine who shall have Emily.

The tournament is held a year later. Palamon prays to Venus to grant him Emily and the goddess agrees; Arcite prays to Mars for victory, and Mars agrees. Wise old Saturn finds a way to satisy both Mars and Venus. Palamon loses the tournament; he is captured, and Arcite rides through the arena in triumph. But a fury sent from hell by Saturn frightens his horse, who suddenly rears and fatally injures him. Medicine does not avail, and he dies. All are deep in mourning, Theseus is so saddened that only his old father Egeus can comfort him. But years ease the pain, and in Parliament Thesus proposes the marriage of Emily and Palamon, which brings final peace between Thebes and Athens. They live in perfect love, with never a harsh word between them.]

Since this is the first long narrative assigned in this course, students may wish to read through a more detailed summary of the Knight's Tale in order to get a clearer idea of the story.

Then read carefully through the Knight's Tale in the interlinear version. At the end of each of the four parts of the Knight's Tale you will be offered a chance to check your progress by taking a brief quiz on the vocabulary. It is up to you whether you take those quizzes. You may feel that you are doing well enough that you do not need them or you may simply be tired of doing these quizzes. That is up to you. To begin your study of the interlinear text (whether or not you take the quizzes) click here.

When you have finished reading through the interlinear text, read the Knight's Tale in your printed text; go slowly; read for pleasure, and make use of the Explanatory notes.

When you have finished your reading of the printed text you may want to check how much you have learned from the Notes; if so, take a brief quiz.