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The Canterbury Tales: The Knight's Tale

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)

Quote #1

[…] 'Lord, to whom Fortune hath yiven
Victorie, and as a conqueror to lyven,
Nat greveth us youre glorie and youre honour.'

The oldest of the lamenting woman begins her petition to Theseus by reminding him not only of the gifts he's been given – victory and the life of a conqueror – but also of the fact that his successes are dependent upon Fortune, or fate. She wants to remind Theseus of a sort of "karmic debt," that is, to make him feel obligated to repay the universe for the gifts it's given to him by helping these women in need.

Quote #2

'For certes, lord, ther is noon of us alle,
That she ne hath been a duchesse or a queene.
Now be we caytyves, as it is wel seene,
Thanked be Fortune, and hir false wheel.'

The mourning woman has just attributed Theseus's success to Fortune; now she calls Fortune false. She's reminding Theseus that, just as she quickly fell from prosperity to poverty, so can he. He'd better try to please the powers that be in order to try to stay on top. And why does this woman call Fortune's wheel "false"?  Maybe because you can't trust Fortune to allow your prosperity to last.

Quote #3

'For Goddes love, taak al in pacience
Oure prisoun, for it may noon oother be;
Fortune hath yeven us this adversitee.
Som wikke aspect or disposicioun
Of Saturne, by sum constellacioun
Hath yeven us this, al though we hadde it sworn;
So stood the hevene, whan that we were born.
We moste endure it, this the short and playn.'

Arcite counsels Palamon to have patience, for their imprisonment is the will of Fortune. He attributes it to a "wikke" position of the constellations on the day they were born, linking their fate to astrology.  His advice to "endure" the hand they've been drawn echoes the later reflection of Theseus that it's best to accept one's fate with patience and good will.

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