Canterbury Tales: the Knight

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Canterbury Tales: The Knight

In his prologue, Geoffrey Chaucer introduces all of the characters who are involved in this fictional journey and who will tell the tales. One of the more interesting of the characters included in this introductory section is the Knight. Chaucer initially refers to the Knight as "a most distinguished man" and, indeed, his sketch of the Knight is highly complimentary. In this essay, I will contrast Chaucer's ideal Knight with its modern equivalent. The Knight, Chaucer tells us, possessed good horses, "but he was not gaily dressed". Indeed, the Knight is dressed in a common shirt "much stained" by where his armor had left its mark. In other words, Chaucer is telling us that the Knight has just arrived home from service and is in such a hurry to go on his pilgrimage that he has not even paused before embarking on it to change his clothes. Additionally, the Knight has led a very busy life as his fighting career has taken him to a great many places. He has seen military service in Egypt, Lithuania, Prussia, Russia, Spain, North Africa, and Asia Minor where he always "won the highest honor". Amazingly, even though he has had a very successful and busy career, he remains an extremely humble man: indeed, Chaucer maintains that he is meek "as a maiden". Moreover, Chaucer claims the Knight has never said a rude remark to anyone in his entire life. Clearly, the Knight possesses an outstanding character, and Chaucer gives to the Knight perhaps one of the most flattering descriptions in the General Prologue than any other character. His Knight can do no wrong: he is an outstanding warrior who has fought for the 'true faith' (according to Chaucer) on three continents. In the midst of all this, however, Chaucer's Knight remains modest and polite. Thus we see him as the embodiment of the traditional chivalric code: bold and fearless on the battlefield, devout and courteous off it. Apart from the moral message contained in the...
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