The Canterbury Tales: The Knight's Tale
How we cite our quotes:
'Right as ther dyed nevere man,' quod he,
'That he ne lyvede in erthe in som degree,
Right so ther lyvede never man,' he seyde,
'In al this world that somtyme he ne deyde.'
'This world nys but a thurghfare ful of wo,
And we been pilgrymes passynge to and fro.
Deeth is an ende of every worldes soore.'
These words of wisdom about death come from Theseus's father, Egeus, who, because he is elderly, has a privileged perspective on it. Just as those who died once lived, so those who live will die. His characterization of the world as a "thurghfare ful of wo" on which pilgrims pass to and fro gives new meaning to the Canterbury pilgrims' journey, enabling us to see it as an allegory of the journey from earth to heaven.
'Of man and womman seen we wel also,
That nedeth, in oon of thise termes two –
This is to seyn, in youthe or elles age –
He moot be deed, the kyng as shal a page.
Som in his bed, som in the depe see,
Som in the large feeld, as men may se;
Ther helpeth noght, al goth that ilke weye,
Thanne may I seyn that al this thyng moot dye.'
Just as he did with love in an earlier speech, here Theseus refers to death as the great equalizer – an experience that all humans share. This moment is yet another connection between love and death.
Thanne is it wysdom as it thynketh me
To maken vertue of necessitee,
And take it weel, that we may nat eschue;
And manely, that to us alle is due.
And who so gruccheth ought, he dooth folye,
And rebel is to hym that al may gye.
This idea, that it's better for a person to accept what he can't control, comes from the ancient Greek philosophy of Stoicism. Stoics believed in controlling one's emotions and living life with logic and reason. They taught that since a person had very little control over what happened in the world, it was best to accept whatever life threw at you gracefully. In this way, one avoids suffering.