The Canterbury Tales: The Knight's Tale
How we cite our quotes:
'And if so be my destynee be shapen
By eterne word to dyen in prisoun,
Of oure lynage have som compassioun,
That is so lowe ybroght by tirranye.'
Palamon's prayer to Emily (who at this moment he thinks is Venus) reveals that his desire to avoid death is due not so much to self-interest as to a desire for his family line to prosper. If he can't live, he asks that Venus at least allow some of his lineage to have success.
'The fresshe beautee sleeth me sodeynly
Of hire, that rometh in the yonder place,
And but I may seen hir atte leeste weye,
I nam but deed, ther is namoore to seye.'
Arcite's claim that he will die if he cannot see Emily every day comes directly from the courtly love tradition. The idea is that the beloved is supposed to be so central to the lover's being that a separation from her is like a separation from one's heart or soul, which causes death.
'Som man desireth for to han richesse,
That cause is of his mordre of greet siknesse.
And som man wolde out of his prisoun fayn,
That in his hous is of his meynee slayn.'
Here, Arcite reflects on the seeming randomness of fate. He thinks that no matter how carefully he tries to plan his life for the better, a man can't possibly anticipate what will happen to him. It's significant that Arcite chooses to use the unpredictability of death as the example of this principle, given the way Arcite's own death illustrates it at the end of the tale.