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)
Whilom as olden stories tellen us
Ther was a duc that highte Theseus;
Of Atthenes he wasa lord and governour,
And in his tyme swich a conquerour
That gretter was ther noon under the sonne.
Ful many a riche contree hadde he wonne,
What with his wysdom and his chivalrie.
This is the passage that sets up Theseus as the Big Kahuna – the most powerful person in the tale. As "lord and governour," he's the one who gets to make all the rules. Not only that, but from this passage we can assume that because of his "wysdom and his chivalrie," he rules fairly.
The remenant of the tale is long ynough.
I wol nat letten eek noon of this route,
Lat every felawe telle his tale aboute,
And lat se now who shal the soper wynne.
Here the Knight (our trusty narrator) demonstrates his conscientiousness as a competitor, which is to say, his respect for the rules of the tale-telling game. He's so concerned that everyone have time to tell their tale, that he abridges his own.
'He, for despit and for his tirranye
To do the dede bodyes vileynye,
Of alle oure lordes, which that been slawe,
Hath alle the bodyes on an heep ydrawe,
And wol nat suffren hem, by noon assent,
Neither to been yburyed nor ybrent,
But maketh houndes ete hem in despit.'
By refusing to let these wives bury their husbands' bodies, King Creon breaks one of the most important rules of Greek society, which is that the bodies of the dead must be given proper burials, including elaborate funeral rituals. These rituals were so important to the living that an entire ancient Greek play, Antigone, deals with a sister's refusal to let her brother's body go unburied despite being threatened with death. The disrespect for societal norms that Creon's actions communicate is probably why Theseus, the order-bringer, is so quick to go to battle over them.