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The Canterbury Tales: The Knight's Tale

The Canterbury Tales: The Knight's Tale

by Geoffrey Chaucer

Friendship Theme

Arcite and Palamon have sworn an oath of brotherhood to one another, promising to defend one another's interests in everything. Yet the first we hear of this oath is when it's in danger of dissolving. Why might they break their promise? Because the love the same girl, that's why. Both Palamon and Arcite seem to think that romantic love is more important than bonds of friendship, and "The Knight's Tale" doesn't do much to question that point of view.

In contrast to Palamon and Arcite's fair-weather friendship, however, a brief passage just after their falling-out details the devotion of Perotheus to Theseus. Apparently, these guys are such good friends that they're willing to go to Hell and back for one another. So, despite the main, unsuccessful friendship in the tale, we do get an inkling that other, deeper possibilities exist for the bond between two friends.

Questions About Friendship

  1. What are the obligations of the oath that Palamon and Arcite have sworn to one another? How do these obligations compare to your idea of the obligations of friendship?
  2. Why do Palamon and Arcite choose to dissolve their friendship?
  3. How does the briefly-described friendship between Perotheus and Theseus compare to the one between Palamon and Arcite?
  4. It seems that Arcite renews his friendship with Palamon just before he dies. Why is he now able to be friends again? If he weren't dying, would there be any hope for their friendship?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The friendship between Perotheus and Theseus causes the reader to question Palamon and Arcite's decision to dissolve their bond.

Theseus's implication that it's better for a man to die than disgrace his friends reveal his view that the most important obligation of friendship is to bring honor to one another.

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