The Canterbury Tales: The Knight's Tale
How we cite our quotes:
'Thow shalt,' quod he, 'be rather fals than I.
But thou art fals, I telle thee outrely,
For paramour I loved hir first er thow.
What, wiltow seyn thou wistest nat yet now
Wheither she be a womman or goddesse?
Thyn is affeccioun of hoolynesse,
And myn is love, as to a creature.'
Arcite tries to get the upper hand on Palamon by holding out Palamon's portrayal of Emily as a goddess as evidence of spiritual worship rather than love. Of course, as we students of the courtly love conventions now know, to place one's lover on a pedestal is actually evidence of true love. Part of the point of courtly love is that a person's reverence for his beloved blurs the boundaries between human and divine. In other words, sorry Arcite, that argument won't hold water in the court of courtly love.
So muche sorwe hadde nevere creature,
That is, or shal whil that the world may dure.
His slep, his mete, his drynke is hym biraft,
That lene he wex and drye as is a shaft.
Hise eeyen holwe and grisly to biholde,
His hewe falow and pale as asshen colde;
And solitarie he was and ever allone
And waillynge al the nyght, makynge his mone
And shortly turned was al up so doun
Bothe habit and eek disposicioun
Of hym, this woful lovere daun Arcite.
This passage is significant because it gives the classic portrait of a courtly lover separated from the beloved. Unable to sleep, eat, or drink, the lover turns pale and hollow-eyed, and spends most of his time moping about the separation. He is so "up so doun," or upset, by this separation, both physically and emotionally, that even his closest friends hardly know him. This is lovesickness in its classic form.
'The God of love, a benedicite!
How myghty and how greet a lord is he!
Ayeyns his myght ther gayneth none obstacles,
He may be cleped a god for his myracles,
For he kan maken at his owene gyse
Of everich herte as that hym list divyse.'
Theseus says that love has the power to bend every heart to its will. Palamon and Arcite are prime examples of this because they are willing to break their oath of sworn brotherhood and, in Arcite's case, risk death in order to win their beloved. Thus they demonstrate the way in which love trumps every other consideration.