The Canterbury Tales: The Knight's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Knight's Tale Strength and Skill Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
Of Atthenes he was 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;
He conquered al the regne of Femenye,
That whilom was ycleped Scithia,
And weddede the queene Ypolita.
This passage at the very start of "The Knight's Tale" establishes the rules of its world. One of those rules is that military skill – the ability to conquer another person in battle – is rewarded with marriage to a desirable and wealthy woman. This rule will hold fast at the end of the tale as well, but will be complicated by the intervention of Fate.
[He] swoor his ooth, as he was trewe knyght,
He wolde doon so ferforthly his myght
Upon the tiraunt Creon hem to wreke,
That all the peple of Grece sholde speke
How Creon was of Theseus yserved,
As he that hadde his deeth ful wel deserved.
Here Theseus demonstrates one of the possible uses of military strength, which is the ability to avenge wrongs and uphold the rules of his society. It's an example of might making right, something in which Theseus wholly believes. His defeat of Creon will not only avenge the lamenting womens' loss, but will also shame Creon before everyone, so that people will know not to break the rules in the same way Creon did.
He fil in office with a chamberleyn,
The which that dwellynge was with Emelye,
For he was wys and koude soone espye
Of every servant which that serveth here.
Wel koude he hewen wode, and water bere,
For he was yong and myghty for the nones,
And therto he was strong and big of bones
To doon that any wight kan hym devyse.
Arcite's success as a servant at Theseus's court is dependent not only upon the strength with which he chops wood and hauls water, but also upon the a certain instinct he has that enables him to figure out which servants are the most powerful. This enables him to get in with one who works in Emily's household so that he can secure a position there.