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)
Thus may ye seen, that wysdom ne richesse,
Beautee ne sleighte, strengthe ne hardynesse,
Ne may with Venus holde champartie,
For as hir list, the world than may she gye.
Lo, alle thise folk so caught were in hir las,
Til they for wo ful ofte seyde 'allas!'
The poet portrays Venus, or Love, as the most powerful god, against whom mere mortals are powerless to resist. In fact, all the people painted on her walls were just caught in her "las," or lasso. Their lives were subject to forces greater than themselves.
Depeynted was the slaughtre of Julius,
Of grete Nero, and of Antonius;
Al be that thilke tyme they were unborn,
Yet was hir deth depeynted ther-biforn
By manasynge of Mars, right by figure.
The deaths of Caesar, Nero, and Marc Antony are preordained and painted on the walls of Mars's temple before these men are even born. The presence of this fortunetelling on the walls of the stadium where Palamon and Arcite are to fight their joust gives a sense of inevitability to its outcome. Whoever the winner and loser, his fate was "shapen" just as surely as the fates of these Romans who are yet to be born.
So was it shewed in that portreiture,
As is depeynted in the sterres above
Who shal be slayn or elles deed for love.
Here the narrator compares the paintings on Mars's temple walls to the constellations. Just as the stars foretell the future, so do the paintings on the walls tell who will be killed or otherwise die for love. This passage links love and death as inevitable destinies men are powerless to resist.