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)
Everich of you shal brynge an hundred knyghtes
Armed for lystes up at alle rightes,
Al redy to darreyne hire by bataille.
And this bihote I yow withouten faille,
Upon my trouthe, and as I am a knyght,
This is to seyn, that wheither he, or thow
May with his hundred, as I spak of now,
Sleen his contrarie, or out of lystes dryve,
Thanne shal I yeve Emelya to wyve.
Here Theseus lays down the rules of the game that's going to have Emily as its prize. He proposes a huge joust between two hundred knights, the winner of which gets Emily. The winner is the one who either slays the other or manages to remove him from the "lystes," or group of jousting knights, by taking him prisoner.
No man therfore, up peyne of los of lyf,
No maner shot, ne polax, ne short knyf
Into the lystes sende, ne thider brynge.
Ne short swerd for to stoke, with poynt bitynge,
No man ne drawe, ne bere by his syde;
Ne no man shal unto his felawe ryde
But o cours, with a sharpe ygrounde spere.
Foyne, if hym list on foote, hymself to were.
Theseus lays down some additional rules for the joust just before it begins. Since he has decided it would be a shame for any of the knights to lose their lives, he forbids the knights from bringing any weapons into the stadium except for dull spears. The only exception is if a knight is unhorsed. Then he can use other kinds of weapons to defend himself, although it's not clear here exactly what these are.
And he that is at meschief shal be take,
And noght slayn, but be broght unto the stake
That shal ben ordeyned on either syde,
But thider he shal by force, and ther abyde.
And if so be the chevetayn be take
On outher syde, or elles sleen his make,
No lenger shal the turneiynge laste.
Theseus's other rule to prevent loss of life is that defeated knights shall be taken prisoner at the stake, rather than killed. Since Theseus's real aim in proposing the joust is just to decide who gets Emily, and not to somehow punish the weaker knight, it makes sense that he would revise the rules to prevent loss of life.