The Canterbury Tales: The Knight's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Knight's Tale Fate and Free Will Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
[…] 'Venus, if it be thy wil,
Yow in this gardyn thus to transfigure
Bifore me, sorweful wrecched creature,
Out of thisprisoun helpe that we may scapen!
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 tirannye.'
Palamon concludes his prayer to Venus with a seeming willigness to accept the shape of his "destynee," whatever it may be. However, he asks that his lineage live on, revealing his belief that the continuance of one's bloodline may be the sole means of thwarting death.
'Wel hath Fortune yturned thee the dys,
That hast the sighte of hir, and I th'absence;
For possible is, syn thou hast hir presence,
And art a knyght, a worthy and an able,
That by som cas, syn Fortune is chaungeable,
Thow maist to thy desir som tyme atteyne.'
Here, Arcite, who is newly released from prison, considers that Fortune has favored Palamon, who still gets to see Emily from his prison cell every day. Arcite's words of despair actually contain the seeds of hope for him: if, as he says, Fortune is "chaungeable," isn't it possible that she will soon decide to favor him again?
'Allas, why pleynen folk so in commune
On purveiance of God or of Fortune,
That yeveth hem ful ofte in many a gyse
Wel better than they kan hemself devyse?'
Arcite follows this question with many examples of people who asked for something from the gods, only to have that very thing they asked for be the cause of their own demise. Arcite's point is that he was foolish to pray for his release from prison, since now that release is the cause of his despair. Of course, Arcite's speech here also casts doubt upon the justifiability of his sorrow: how is he to know that the fate Fortune has prepared for him is not what he wants? Arcite gives himself no position from which to judge what happens to him as either good or bad.