The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Bergan, Brooke. "Surface and Secret in the Knight's Tale." 26 (1991): 1-16.
Language constantly fluctuates between transparency and opacity, and standard forms are always shifting. The Knight's Tale can be read with greater understanding when readers recognize the "transitional moment" in which "the shock of the new makes us conscious of language as surface" (3). Comparison to Boccaccio's Book of Theseus shows Chaucer's rhetorical changes and choices. Ironic subtext lies under every intense emotional moment. The narrator maintains the suddeness that ceremony should ritualize out of existence. The Knight's fascination with order leads him to partition off sections of his tale, as he does in the three temples, the three prayers, and the three signs. The Knight is, however, intent on subverting the romance genre, so the order he creates is always undercut. The "interpenetration" of romance and epic that the Knight creates mirrors Chaucer's interpenetration of oral and written tradition in the Canterbury Tales (14).
Haller, Robert S. "The Knight's Tale and the Epic Tradition." 1 (1966): 67-84.
Though modeled on Boccaccio's Teseida, the Knight's Tale shows Chaucer at his most epic, but the tale focuses on love, not politics. Love becomes the reason for Palamon and Arcite to repeat the political blunders that have made them the two surviving members of their family. The blindness of Palamon and Arcite to their own actions allows them to repeat history and to use that history as support for their complaints against the gods while denying any personal responsibility for what occurs. By treating love as the proper subject for an epic, both Chaucer and Boccaccio suggest that the hero cannot separate public from private life. The marriage of Palamon and Emily at the end of the tale is also a political event: the Theban ruler has restored order, inaugurating a love and a government that can allow for "felaweship," not rivalry. Finally, Theseus's actions demonstrate his position as the ideal ruler, but Theseus-ruler is not separate from Theseus-lover. Thus, he responds to Palamon and Arcite in justice and mercy, not from fear of rivalry. The epic, then, provides Chaucer with an opportunity to examine specific political theories.
Middleton, Anne. "The Modern Art of Fortifying: Palamon and Arcite as Epicurean Epic." 3 (1968): 124-43.
Dryden's attempt to change the Knight's Tale into an epic is unsuccessful. He removes the very things, particularly the narrator's occasional lapses of tone, which Chaucer included to prevent the reader from seeing this tale as an epic. Dryden emphasizes love and arms and focuses on the visual arts, attempting to present a "speaking picture" (126). Instead of leaving the changes Chaucer made to his sources by making Palamon and Arcite similar, Dryden recasts them to make Arcite the warrior and Palamon the lover so that he could have a conflict between love and war. Also, Dryden alters the characterization of the gods so that they become human, no longer detached powers. The changes Dryden makes to Chaucer's tale hide its heroic theme. In addition, the alterations in the deathbed scene modify the tale to such an extent that the reader cannot see the events from a "Chaucerian distance" (140). In the end, he sacrifices "heroic trappings to the truth of the story" (143).