The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Elbow, Peter H. "How Chaucer Transcends Oppositions in the Knight's Tale." 7 (1972): 97-112.
Though there are a number of opposing elements in the tale, the opposition between Palamon and Arcite is based on a number of subtle differences. Palamon is "open, impulsive, and naive" (98), while Arcite is "toughminded" (99). Thus, Arcite can distance himself from the events which occur, but Palamon cannot. The two lovers are, however, remarkably similar, and this similarity allows Chaucer to examine the question of comparative worth. Chaucer uses Theseus, Saturn, and the First-Mover speech to broaden his examination of the central problem: which lover is more worthy to be loved? The First-Mover speech indicates that neither lover deserves Emily more than the other and also draws other opposing elements of the tale into accord.
Fifield, Merle. "The Knight's Tale: Incident, Idea, Incorporation." 3 (1968): 95-106.
In his sermon, Theseus does not reach a Boethian philosophy of order. Instead, he suggests that one must accept disorder in the universe as something God has made. Each incident in the tale exemplifies a section of Theseus's sermon. The first section in which Theseus captures Palamon and Arcite and the two companions fall in love with Emily illustrates Fortune's control over human events. The duel, the construction of the lists, and the tournament itself show the inefficacy of personal deeds, earthly order, and corporate acts. Fortune arbitrarily decides who will win and who will lose. Even the gods fail to order the course of events. Finally, Arcite's death and the marriage of Palamon and Emily show that the disorderly decrees of Fortune must simply be accepted.
Gaylord, Alan T. "The Role of Saturn in the Knight's Tale." 8 (1974): 171-90.
The Knight's Tale is more about people than about supernatural powers, and it demonstrates Chaucer's continuing interest in destiny and free will. Saturn plays a minor role as symbol of different kinds of order and as a function of Boethian providence. As the god who works the outcome, he is an extension of Venus and Mars in a rebellion against Theseus, a Jupiter figure who wants to create order and build an Athenian kingdom.
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).
Turner, Frederick. "A Structuralist Analysis of the Knight's Tale." 8 (1974): 279-98.
The myth on which the Knight's Tale is based contains all the experiences of its culture, leaving no place for questions. Thus, the tale is structured around a number of different oppositions which can be examined in light of the disputatio tradition in medieval logic: Mars to Venus, male to female, and youth to age. The structure of the tale is also apparent in triads: one god and two goddesses, one woman and two suitors, two supplicants and one judge, and the colors associated with Venus (white), Mars (red), and Saturn (black). Each of these triangular structures invokes the hierarchy of medieval society. Finally, readers may examine the tale in light of quadratic structures. There are four primary characters associated with four colors (white, red, gold, and green), four seasons, four elements, and four humours. In addition, the two suitors are connected to two supernatural figures. Readers recognize the encompassing nature of the myth in the circular plot which coordinates a wedding and a funeral at the beginning and at the end. In addition, the circle of the list imitates the structure of the tale. As the tale is organized on kinship lines, readers may also consider the tale in terms of sibling relationships and social taboos on sexual practices. The Miller's Tale requites the Knight's Tale by structural variations. In the Miller's Tale, art overpowers myth, making the tale "mock-mythic" (293). The Reeve's Tale seems to participate in similar structural variation, although certain parts of the structure have disappeared. Such analysis suggests that the General Prologue presents the whole poem in miniature.