The Knights Tale


Text 16

Geoffrey Chaucer

The Knights Tale

In the morning, the pilgrims got up early and travelled for some time. Then, at dinner time, they drew straws to see who would tell the first story. The shortest straw was the knight’s. He began like this:

Well, since I must begin the game, Then welcome to the short straw, in God’s name! Now let’s ride on and listen to what I say.

Once upon a time, there was a duke called Theseus of Athens and his wile Hippolyta. She had a very beautiful young sister, Emily, who lived with them in the palace. One day, Duke Theseus went to war with Thebes and conquered the city. After the battle, two Theban knights, Arcita and Pa I am on, were captured and taken to Athens.

Theseus put Arcita and Palamon, who were cousins, into a dark, high tower in his castle. Then, one morning in the month of May, Palamon saw a beautiful young woman in the garden below the tower. She was picking (lowers and singing like an angel. She was wearing bright clothes and had lovely, long, blonde hair. The young woman was Emily.

Palamon cried out violently. Arcita leapt up. “Cousin, why are you so pale’ Are you ill?” “1 have been pierced to the heart,” replied Palamon. “The beauty of that lady I see is the cause of all my pain. I don’t know if she’s a woman or goddess!”

Arcita turned to look at the girl and also fell in love instantly. “Unless 1 can see her every day, I’m better dead,” he cried.

Palamon turned on him angrily, from that moment, the two cousins began arguing about their love of Emily, like two dogs fighting over a bone.

One day, a friend of Arcita came to Athens, lie asked Theseus to free Arena. Theseus agreed, but if Arcita were found in Athens he would lose his life.

“Now I’m in a worse prison than before.” thought Arcita.

“At least my cousin Palamon can see Emily every day.”

But Palamon was even more unhappy.

“Now Arcita is free. He can organize an army and attack this city. Then he can ask Emily to become his wife. I must stay here in this prison.”

When Arcita got home, he was so unhappy that he did not sleep, eat or drink. After a few months, the god Mercury visited him.

“You look a different man now. You can go back to Athens. Nobody will recognize you.”

Arcita put on poor clothes and went to Athens. He got a job as a servant to Emily to be close to her.

Meanwhile, Palamon spent seven years in his dark and horrible prison; finally, a friend helped him to escape from the tower. He came to a wood where he decided to hide during the day. By chance, Arcita was out riding in the wood.

. “What can 1 do?” Arcita said to himself. “1 am a servant. What can I do to please my Emily?”

Palamon heard this and jumped out. “Arcita, you are a traitor, a liar! 1 am Palamon. Give up your love of Emily or die!”

The two cousins agreed to fight. Arcita came back the next morning with two horses and amour. The combat began. The two fought like wild boars, running against each other, mad with anger.

That morning, Duke Theseus was out hunting when he saw the two knights fighting furiously.

“Stop! No more! Why are you fighting here?”

The cousins told him their stories. Theseus decided to settle the matter between the cousins once and for all.

“Come here in twelve months’ time, each of you with a hundred knights,” he said. “We will have a tournament.”

When the day of the tournament came, both Arcita and Palamon arrived with their knights. Duke Theseus made the rules of the tournament. He prohibited any sharp or pointed swords or knives. Any man knocked down had to be captured and not killed. When everything was ready, the Duke, Hippolyta and Emily took their seals and the tournament began.

The battle was furious. Arcita fought like a cruel tiger and Palamon like a bloodthirsty lion, finally, towards the end of the day, Palamon was captured. Arcita took off his helmet and rode towards Emily. But just at that moment, his horse stumbled and Arcita fell badly. They took him back to Athens and tried to cure him. But the pain in his chest grew worse and worse. Arcita turned to Emily.

“For love of you, Palamon and 1 have fought for so long. But now dying, think of my cousin. If you ever think to be a wife, do not forget the noble Palamon.” With these words he died.

Some time after Arcita’s death, Duke Theseus sent for Palamon. When he came to Athens, Theseus made the following speech: “Our good Arcita has departed with honour from the horrible prison of this life. But now is time to make happiness from this terrible story. Sister,” he said to Emily, “Palamon has served you for years. He has loved f you and suffered for you for so long that you should consider marrying him.”

Emily agreed and with great joy she and Palamon were married. Both of them loved each other tenderly. And between the two of them there was never an angry word.

No more of Palamon and Emily.

And God save all this noble company!’

And like this the knight finished his story.