The Canterbury Tales: The Knight's Tale
Death Quotes Page 4
How we cite our quotes:
[He] seyde, 'Sire, what nedeth wordes mo?
We have the deeth disserved, bothe two.
Two woful wrecches been we, two caytyves,
That been encombred of oure owene lyves.'
Palamon says that he and Arcite both deserve death. His characterization of himself and his cousin as "encombred of oure owene lyves" may reflect how depressed he is about being separated from his beloved. It may also show how hopeless he feels about seeing her again.
And with that word his speche faille gan,
And from his herte up to his brest was come
The coold of deeth, that hadde hym overcome.
And yet moreover in hise armes two
The vital strengthe is lost and al ago.
Oonly the intellect, withouten moore,
That dwelled in his herte syk and soore
Gan faillen, when the herte felte deeth.
This extremely detailed description of Arcite's death reveals clearly the narrator's belief that it is possible for someone to remain alive after their body dies completely. Only when the "intellect," or what we might think of as the soul, passes from the body, is a person truly dead. This passage also indicates the medieval belief in the heart as the dwelling-place of consciousness, rather than the brain.
His spirit chaunged hous, and wente ther
As I cam nevere, I kan nat tellen wher,
Therfore I stynte; I nam no divinistre;
Of soules fynde I nat in this registre,
Ne me ne liste thilke opinions to telle
Of hem, though that they writen wher they dwelle.
Here, the narrator says that death marks the limits of his knowledge. We wonder what he thinks about writers who do dare to write about the afterlife, like Virgil or Dante. Would he consider those poets to be "divinistres," or philosophers, rather than poets?