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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 Part 2, Lines 765-1022 Summary

  • The next day, Arcite collects weapons and two sets of armor before heading to the grove.
  • The two knight choose their armor and start the duel.
  • These guys go at it so fiercely that the narrator compares Palamon to a crazy lion and Arcite to a cruel tiger.  The knights foam and froth like angry wild boars. They're both battered and blood is flying everywhere.
  • Meanwhile, Theseus has picked this fine May morning to go hunting with Emily and Hippolyta. They head straight for the grove of trees.
  • Fate, it seems, is bringing Palamon, Arcite, Theseus, and Emily all to the same place.
  • In the grove, Theseus immediately sees the two knights fighting.
  • Theseus: Stop fighting right now or I'll have your heads hacked off! [Man, Theseus is really into beheadings.] Who the heck are you guys anyway?
  • Palamon: We're two wretches and we both totally deserve to die. Kill me first. But be sure you kill my friend too. On second thought, kill my friend first. You don't know it, but he's Arcite, your mortal enemy. And he loves Emily. I'm Palamon, and I'm also your mortal enemy…who also loves Emily. So kill me, but kill Arcite too. OK?
  • Theseus: Sounds good to me.
  • But then Hippolyta, Emily, and all of the other women start crying. They fall at Theseus's feet and beg him to have mercy.
  • Theseus calms down and thinks about what a good, merciful ruler should do. He decides that he shouldn't treat humble men so harshly, even if they have committed crimes.
  • Theseus muses out loud about the two knights, who have acted foolishly out of love. He also thinks it funny that these two have been fighting for years over Emily, without Emily even knowing about it.
  • Theseus says that he can sympathize – he's done some pretty stupid things for love too. Really, who hasn't? He decides to forgive both men, so long as they swear never to wage war against Athens.
  • Palamon and Arcite agree.
  • But Theseus isn't done yet. He says he knows that both knights come from the royal family, so they're both worthy of marrying Emily. The problem is, she can't marry both of them.  (Obvi.)
  • How will they decide who gets the girl? Theseus has a solution. Here it is:
  • In one year, both Palamon and Arcite must return to Athens with a hundred knights each. There will be a big jousting competition, and whichever man wins gets to marry Emily.
  • The two knights are overjoyed.
  • Actually, everyone is overjoyed. They're all overcome by Theseus's awesomeness and mercy.
  • Happy for the first time in seven years, Palamon and Arcite ride off to Thebes to prepare for their final showdown.

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