The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story
How we cite our quotes:
At many a noble armee hadde [the Knight] be,
At mortaille batailles hadde he been fiftene
And foughten for oure feith at Tramyssene
In lystes thries and ay slayn his foo.
(General Prologue 60 – 64)
Chaucer is careful to emphasize that the Knight fights for the Christian faith. He does not engage in competition for no reason whatsoever, like some of the other characters we meet in the Prologue.
If that he faught and hadde the hyer hond,
by water he sente hem hoom to every lond.
(General Prologue 401 – 402)
It's interesting that among the first competitions we hear about in The Canterbury Tales are the Shipman's physical fights that end in death by drowning. This colors our perception of the conflicts between the pilgrims that follow, some of which also threaten to become physical and violent.
In all the parisshe wyf ne was ther noon
That to the offringe bifore [the Wife of Bath] sholde goon.
(General Prologue 451 – 452)
The Wife of Bath is in competition to be seen as the most important woman in her parish church. Not only does this provide us with an important piece of information about the Wife's character, it also tells us about what could serve as a status-enhancer for a medieval woman: in this case, being first to give the offering at mass.