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The Canterbury Tales: The Knight’s Tale, Essay Example

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“Knight’s Tale” is a medieval chivalric romance, yet not a pure one, – it has elements of epic and satire. A Knight, the teller of the actual tale who attracted the most considerable interest of mine, is introduced in the general prologue as someone who “from the moment that he first began to ride  about the world, loved chivalry, truth, honor, freedom and all courtesy.” (Chaucer). He is regarded as being noble and honorable for the battles he fought for his king in the Crusades. The author uses the Knight to show his point of view on the moral issue of killing in the name of religion. What the author believes to be praiseworthy, meaning Knight’s participation in various military campaigns appears a questionable subject of admiration to me. While Chaucer praises Knight’s bold chivalry as a brilliant motivation for creating a nice military career, I observe author’s being biased and narrow-minded in believing that religious wars are beneficial and thus essential. The following is an analysis of the Knight and how his actions reflect the author’s religious point of view.

The topic unintentionally brought up by Chaucer is the one of whether fighting battles thus killing on the basis of religious dissimilarities among peoples is fine. “Full worthy was he in his liege-lord’s war, and therein had he ridden (none more far) As well in Christendom as heathenness” the author mentions when portraying the Knight, and then goes on listing all those campaigns his hero participated in: “In Latvia raided he, and Russia, no christened man so oft of his degree. In far Granada at the siege was he of Algeciras, and in Belmarie. At Ayas was he and at Satalye.”(Chaucer). The bloody battles were justified by the attackers, because they were spreading the faith in their Christian God. This movement is known in history as the Crusades, which took place between 1095 and 1291. The aggression was not only aimed at Muslims, but also at other ‘pagan’ nations including Slavs, Russian Orthodox, Jews, and Mongols. What stands out to me as a glaring contradiction is the fact that Chaucer narrates about all those war affairs with praise and approval. Is he the one to tell for his character? Or is he simply putting into his character’s mouth the words he himself doesn’t believe to be true?

The narrator speaks very highly of the Knight and glorifies him for the many battles he fought. The reader can assume that the majority of the battles were to spread the kingdom’s religion. The Knight is depicted killing to protect and spread the Christian faith. When one reads the passages for the first time, it is natural to think that the Knight is a ruthless killer. The narrator seems to praise the Knight for his actions. Chaucer portrays that warfare in the name of Christianity, can turn one into a hero. The prologue to the Knight’s Tale is a classic depiction of a combination of chivalric romance, love, war and adventure all with a specific interest on honor and proper conduct through ritualistic code of behavior. In the prologue, there appears to be much debate in social norms concerning the role of Gods in human existence. The Prologue as well as the whole book was given birth to during a time when Catholicism was a primary religion while Chaucer chose to write about the place of Greek gods and goddesses in everyday life with no proper mention of a traditional God. The two knights pray regularly to the Greek gods and goddesses to lead them in their battles. The community as well as the Knights believed that Gods could help to determine how situations will actually unfold in life. By mentioning how people worshipped Gods and Goddesses in the story the author illustrates how the society was generally practicing its religious believes. It is clear though that the author stood strongly for Christianity. “He was a truly perfect, gentle knight,” Chaucer mentions feeling perfectly fine about Knight’s killing hundreds of people because of their not accepting Catholicism.

This is not to say that the Knight does not have good qualities. He is obviously a man that has a high regard for loyalty and good manners. Knights at the time represented positive virtues, honor, bravery and loyalty.  To even own a horse meant that you must be wealthy, successful, and disciplined because of the amount of time and money that is involved in owning a horse. It is stated that he never says a harsh word to anyone. “He never yet had any vileness said.” (Chaucer 22). According to the author the culture described in “Knight’s tale” having such distinctive characteristics as various modes of practicing violence is a result of an extremely biased official ideology subsidized by militaristic defeaters and their supporters. Moreover, if taking a more precise look on Chaucer’s poetry, it actually seems to challenge the depicted way of existence in society.

The author clarifies that in a society where Mars is worshipped, as he is by Theseus, there will not be much support of resourceful human love, let alone a “faire chain of love” binding all elements and events (Chaucer). However, what the author believes to be praiseworthy, meaning Knight’s participation in various military campaigns appears a questionable subject of admiration. It is obvious that the killing of men in the name of God during the time would have had to be a controversial subject.  The Knight, who only fights for the glory of Christian God is depicted in book as the voice of rationality, common morality, and common sense, and is considered by the rest of the pilgrims to be their moral authority.  Through Chaucer we understand the popular view on the Crusades through the actions of the Knight.

Works Cited

Chaucer ,Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. New York City, NY: Penguin Classics, 2000.

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