The character the Knight is the first person analyzed in the General Prologue. This implies clearly that the Host is keen on him. The Knight also has his own tale, which is the first one in “Selected Canterbury Tales,” The Knight’s Tale. Within this tale the Knight himself is personified through Theseus, the duke of Athens. Chaucer is able to keep some qualities of a knight in perspective throughout his description and the Knight’s tale. The qualities include the “Knight’s ideals” (chivalry, honor, generosity, and refinement), notable military career, his mannerisms, and his clothing.
The Knight’s ideals encompass him. To be considered a knight you truly need to have these traits. Being that he is personified through Theseus, you see exactly how “knightly” he is. Webster’s dictionary defines chivalry as “the sum of the ideal qualifications off a knight including courtesy and generosity, valor, and dexterity in arms. ” A good example of his chivalry is within the first three (3) pages of the novel. Theseus encounters the older women who are mourning over the deaths of their husbands and Creon refuses to bury their bodies.
Theseus being not only chivalrous but a “ladies man,” shows pity for the women and agrees to return their husbands bodies to them. He is able to win the hearts of the women by risking his life for the bodies of their dead husbands. This shows his chivalry, he does the right thing and also adds another place to his list of “wins. ” When you think of a knight, you think honor and that is exactly what the knight was an honorable character. When he battled he never did it to kill, there was always a better motive. When he found Palamon and Arcite he doesn’t kill them he heals them and imprisons them.
To have honor though you must also be refined and generous. Refined in how he does things and generous with time, and money. The knight has participated in formal duels, which take a lot of manners and refinement. The refinement of the knight extends off the battle field. This is seen a lot in part three, when Theseus begins preparations for the tournament, by building the stadium. The descriptions of these 3 elaborate temples to the gods, Venus, Diana, and Mars, show his refinement. Everything is perfect and in place. To construct these, a ‘generous’ amount of money is needed.
Theseus generously gave his money for not only the temples but the stadium itself. That is generosity. When the Knight is described in the General Prologue the narrator makes a point to talk of all his successes as a military leader. He has numerous winnings and can easily conquer places. Just a note, that all of the knight’s battles are religious battles. “At Alexandria, he, when it was won… In Latvia raided he, and Russia… far Granada… Algeciras and in Belmarie, At Ayas was he and at Satalye (2). ” The body of his description was of his many wins.
He is also dressed in rusted mail because he just returned from a battle. Because the Knight’s tale shows the traits of the knight, Theseus has an impressive military career. He easily captured Thebes from Creon, battled in Egypt, Spain, and Turkey. It seemed as if there wasn’t a place he couldn’t capture. When you think of this great conqueror you’re prone to think of him as hard in mannerisms, or a very tough “macho” type man. Well in reality the Knight is “meekly as a maid (3). ” He is a very gentle man, who kills only when killing is necessary, so Theseus is the same.
Theseus appears to be a very mercifully person; he shows his gentle side when instead of killing the cousins he heals them and only imprisons them. He lets all speak their opinion and keeps them in mind when making a judgment. When comparing the knight to other characters in the book, and Chaucer’s reaction to the knight versus his reactions to the other characters, a big gap is seen. The Knight wears drab clothing, where all the other male characters (i. e. the squire, the merchant) wear brightly colored clothing.
All the characters strive to be an elite aristocrat, something they are not; they appear to be out of character. A good example of this is the prioress. She had perfect manners, and tried to come across as an aristocrat. As a nun she shouldn’t be so concerned with the little things (how she eats, sits, speaks). The knight is one of the few ‘ideal’ characters; even the friar (a clergy member) is corrupt. The friar is said to arrange marriages and willingly put up the dowry. This implies that he corrupts the women then makes sure he doesn’t get caught, by arranging their marriages.
It is hard to trust the narrator’s descriptions of all the characters, because he calls the knight worthy four times in his description of the knight. It seems as if he already decides nobody else can compare to the knight, being that he went first, and does nothing to make the other characters look noble. Geoffrey Chaucer’s knight is the perfect knight. He perfectly grasps all ideals associated with being a knight; honour, refinement, courtesy, and chilvary. The knight through his tale and Theseus, perfectly shows his knightly ideals and all he has achieved.