The Canterbury Tales: The Knight's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Knight's Tale Competition Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
Ful many a riche contree hadde he wonne,
What with his wysdom and his chivalrie;
He conquered al the regne of Femenye,
That whilom was ycleped Scithia,
And weddede the queene Ypolita,
And broghte hir hoom with hym in his contree,
With muchel glorie and greet solempnytee,
And eek hir yonge suster Emelye.
This passage at the very beginning of "The Knight's Tale" foreshadows the rest of it by portraying marriage to a woman as part of the prize to be won in a competition. Theseus marries Hippolyta after a battle, just as later Palamon and Arcite will decide who "wins" Emily by fighting a joust.
And certes, if it nere to long to heere,
I wold have toold yow fully the manere
How wonnen was the regne of Femenye
By Theseus, and by his chivalrye,
And of the grete bataille for the nones
Bitwixen Atthenes and Amazones,
And how asseged was Ypolita
The faire hardy queene of Scithia.
Theseus conquers Scithia by winning a battle with the Amazons, mythical women warriors. Hippolyta ("Ypolita") was the queen of these, but after being conquered by Theseus, she is relegated to the more "proper" womanly role of wife. This shows that the competition here isn't just between two nations; it's between two ways of life, with the male-dominated Greek way winning out.
But shortly for to speken of this thyng,
With Creon, which that was of Thebes kyng,
He faught, and slough hym manly as a knyght
In pleyn bataille, and putte the folk to flyght;
And by assaut he wan the citee after,
And rente adoun bothe walle, and sparre, and rafter.
In every competition, there's always a loser. Here, it's the Thebans who are put "to flyght," their city torn down "bothe walle, and sparre, and rafter." In fact, this passage portrays the siege of Thebes matter-of-factly, as if it's just something Theseus must do in order to be considered the winner.