A Comparison of the Knight and the Squire in Chaucer's the Canterbury

Topics: Virtue, Knight, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Pages: 7 (1254 words) Published: October 8, 1999
In the medieval period that is described by Chaucer's Canterbury Tales,

chivalry was perhaps the most recognized quality of a true gentleman. This

quality is explored in Chaucer's two characters of the warrior class, the

Knight and the Squire. The squire is the son of the Knight; both ride

gallantly and have the air of true gentleman warriors. However, the two are

very dissimilar despite their appearances. The Knight possesses the true

qualities of chivalry, devotion to service, constancy in humility, and

honesty. The Squire possesses none of these qualities truly; instead his

demeanor is one that is less honorable and virtuous. Although both claim

the same vocation, the Squire and the Knight display contradicting attitudes

in respect to dedication, material possessions, and sincerity.

The main point in the description of the Knight was the abundance and

importance of his battles, while it was the least mentioned aspect in the

Squire. The entirety of the Squire's military experience is named in two

lines, "he had seen some service with the cavalry/ If Flanders and Artois

and Picardy," perchance a direct consequence of the Squire's youth (5). The

list of the Knight's battles clearly dominates the text of his description,

running many lines. He had embarked ".along the Mediterranean coast" to

such places as Alexandria, Lithuania, Russia, Granada, Algeciras, North

Africa, Benamarin, Anatolia, Ayas, and Attalia (4). Not only were the

battles of the knight more numerous, they were more extensive and required

lengthy travels to far-away lands. The Squire had "done valiantly in little

space" in these battles, but had not distinguished himself from his peers.

This is implied when it is said that he had only seen "some service with the

cavalry" (5).

The Squire had pursued no noteworthy errands in the interest of chivalry

like his father. The "distinguished knight", on the other hand, was very

chivalrous because of his unconditional dedication (4). He had been in

"fifteen mortal battles" and "always killed his men" which supports that he

is committed to his work, as opposed to the Squire, who possessed a

distracted attitude (4). "He could make sons and poems and recite, / Knew

how to joust and dance, to draw and write" and so has focused his time and

energy to many other things (5). The Squire's

priorities are in entertaining rather than in his vocation, perhaps due to

his young age. In contrast, the Knight focused solely on his chivalrous

duty; returning "home from service, he had joined the ranks / To do his

pilgrimage and give thanks" (5). Although Chaucer does not criticize the

Squire by his writing, the Squire's hesitant attitude towards putting

himself in mortal danger as well as his lack of conviction are revealed in

light of the Knight's numerous demonstrations of a willingness to defend his

faith single-handedly and also in extreme hardship and distance.

In addition to Chaucer's descriptions of dedication that distinguish the

Knight, Chaucer also provides a description of the Squire's acquisitiveness

for wealth and beauty, a quality that is contrary to the humble nature of

the knight. The Squire had "locks as curly as if they had been pressed",

while there is no such description of the Knight's appearance whatsoever

(5). I feel that Chaucer does not intend to criticize the Squire by the

mention of the beauty of the Squire's hair in conjunction with the mention

of the poor outfit of the Knight. Instead he attempts to point out that the

Squire is the lesser of the two in terms of keeping to the code of chivalry.

Regarding his articles of clothing, the Knight wore a fustian tunic, which

was only somewhat bright and only sufficiently comfortable. An example of

the Squire's meticulous appearance is:

He was embroidered like a meadow bright

And full...
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