The Canterbury Tales: The Knight's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Knight's Tale Rules and Order Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
This was the forward, pleynly for t'endite,
Bitwixen Theseus and hym Arcite,
That if so were that Arcite were yfounde
Evere in his life, by day or nyght or stounde,
In any contree of this Theseus,
And he were caught, it was acorded thus,
That with a swerd he sholde lese his heed;
Ther nas noon oother remedie ne reed.
Theseus lays down the condition of Arcite's release, which is that he must leave Athens forever and never return, upon pain of losing his head. This rule puts Arcite in between a rock and a hard place: without seeing Emily, he's metaphorically dead. But if he returns to Athens, the only place where he can see Emily, he's physically dead.
Now artow hent that lovest my lady so,
For whom that I have al this peyne and wo,
And art my blood, and to my conseil sworn,
As I ful ofte have seyde thee heerbiforn,
And hast byjaped heere duc Theseus,
And falsly chaunged hast thy name thus.
Palamon paints Arcite as a rule-breaker by laying out his transgressions one by one. One, Arcite has broken their oath of sworn brotherhood. Two, Arcite has broken Theseus's rule that he stay away from Athens as a condition of his release. And three, Arcite has deceived everyone in Theseus's court by changing his name and appearance.
'Have heer my trouthe; tomorwe I wol nat faille
Withoute wityng of any oother wight
That heere I wol be founden as a knyght,
And bryngen harneys right ynough for thee,
And ches the beste, and leef the worste for me.
And mete and drynke this nyght wol I brynge
Ynough for thee, and clothes for thy beddynge;
And if so be that thou my lady wynne,
And sle me in this wode ther I am inne,
Thow mayst wel have thy lady as for me.'
Arcite proposes that he and Palamon resolve their dispute according to the rules of chivalry, in a duel. Chivalry requires that neither party have the advantage in the fight. This is why Arcite promises to bring not only weapons, but also food and comfortable bedding so that Palamon can get a good night's sleep. The two agree to the duel in a "trouthe" that makes them honor-bound to show up for it.