The Canterbury Tales: The Knight's Tale
How we cite our quotes:
We stryven as dide the houndes for the boon,
They foughte al day, and yet hir part was noon.
Ther cam a kyte, whil they weren so wrothe,
And baar awey the boon bitwixe hem bothe.
And therfore at the kynges court, my brother,
Ech man for hymself, ther is noon oother.
Arcite compares himself and Palamon to hounds that fight over a bone, only to see it snatched away by a bird. His point seems to be that he and Palamon should pay attention to the object of their affections rather than to who gets her or doesn't. His declaration that at the king's court it's "ech man for hymself" doesn't mesh very well with the idea of sworn brotherhood. With this statement, then, he's effectively declaring their oath meaningless.
But to th'effect, it happed on a day
To telle it yow as shortly as I may,
A worthy duc, that highte Perotheus,
That felawe was unto duc Theseus
Syn thilke day that they were chidren lite,
Was come to Atthenes his felawe to visite.
Immediately following the falling-out between Arcite and Palamon, the tale gives us an example of another childhood friendship – one that's lasted for many years. Palamon and Arcite's apparently weak bond appears all the more feeble in comparison.
For in this world he loved no man so,
And he loved hym als tendrely agayn.
So wel they lovede, as olde bookes sayn,
That whan that oon was deed, soothly to telle,
His felawe wente and soughte hym doun in helle.
It may sound strange to our modern ears to hear a friendship between two men described in these terms of tender love. But describing friendships between men this way is a tradition that medieval writings inherit from the classical era. In fact, ancient Greek philosophers believed that the friendship between two men was the strongest and most sacred bond of all human relationships. Theseus and Perotheus's friendship is what a friendship should be, and you get the feeling that, unlike Arcite and Palamon, they wouldn't abandon it for anything.