The Canturbury Tales Knights Tale Summary

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The narrator describes the night as a noble and honorable character, typical of the chivalrous knight type of the times. He is said to be fearless on the battlefield and very humble off the battlefield and believed to have never been rude to anyone. Chaucer's description of the knight leads us to believe that the story he is about to tell is in fact authentic, as he wouldn't tell a lie.

The knight's story begins when Theseus, who just prevailed in battle, found two Theban enemy soldiers on the battlefield that were injured and most likely going to die. The king decided to lend them help and allow them to heal instead of leaving them to a certain death. But Theseus feels they must live a life of imprisonment if he is to save them. The two former warriors were imprisoned in an Athenian Tower. The prisoners, named Palamon and Arcite, were cousins and were held in the tower for many years.

One morning, Palamon looked out the window and he saw a beautiful woman outside making flower garlands. He immediately fell in love with her sheer physical splendor. He moaned at her beauty and awakened Arcite, who proceeded to look out the window and had the same reaction to the woman as Palamon did. The Woman was Theseus' sister-in-law, named Emelye. The two argued over her but realized it was pointless due to the fact that they would be imprisoned for the rest of their lives anyway. One day their fate changed and a friend of theirs petitioned for the release of Arcite. Theseus agreed under the stipulation that Arcite be banished from Athens and never return or he would be punished by death. By that time, the free Arcite was jealous of Palamon because he could still see Emelye everyday from the tower, while the imprisoned Palamon envied Arcite's freedom and the possibility of him returning to Athens and taking Emelye forcefully. Arcite received ideas in his sleep to return to Athens in a disguise. He did just that and accepted a job as a page in the Emelye's chamber. Palamon escaped and ventured through the woods and met with Arcite who challenged his cousin to a dual the next day. Theseus found the two and planned on killing them both when it was suggested that the two have a tournament and the winner would be awarded Emelye. The great battle occurred in a stadium Theseus erected for the occasion. Arcite was victorious and was declared winner of Emelye but as he was riding his horse he was flung off leaving him fatally wounded. Before he died he stated that if Emelye is to marry another, she should consider the honorable knight, Palamon. After a long period of mourning, Palamon and Emelye were scolded by Theseus to stop weeping and to accept death. He suggested that the two marry at once. They took the great one's advice and lived a long happy life of marriage together.