The Canterbury Tales: The Knight's Tale
How we cite our quotes:
Swelleth the brest of Arcite, and the soore
Encresseth at his herte moore and moore.
The clothered blood for any lechecraft
Corrupteth, and is in his bouk ylaft.
The pipes of his longes gonne to swelle,
And every lacerte in his brest adoun
Is shent with venym and corrupcioun.
This passage about the physical illness of Arcite reveals a lot about medieval medicine. It identifies the root cause of Arcite's malady as the "clothered blood," or clotted blood, that doctors are unable to remove from around his heart with their leeches. This blood is corrupt with venom and poisons Arcite until he dies.
Shrighte Emelye, and howleth Palamon,
And Theseus his suster took anon
Swownynge, and bar hir fro the corps away.
What helpeth it to tarien forth the day
To tellen how she weep bothe eve and morwe?
For in swich cas wommen have swich sorwe
Whan that hir housbond is from hem ago,
That for the moore part they sorwen so,
Or ellis fallen in swich maladye,
That at the laste certeinly they dye.
Despite the fact that Palamon also howls at the death of Arcite, the narrator here identifies extreme sorrow as particularly characteristic of women. The narrator says that women can become ill or die from grief. Besides revealing a common stereotype about women, this passage shows how medieval people were as aware as we are of the mind-body connection – the way in which a psychological upset can cause physical illness.
So greet a wepyng was ther noon, certayn,
Whan Ector was ybroght al fressh yslayn
To Troye. Allas, the pitee that was ther,
Cracchynge of chekes, rentynge eek of heer.
The Greeks express their grief over Arcite's death by scratching their cheeks and tearing their hair. This physical expression of grief creates wounds on the body as signs or expressions of the condition of the mourner's heart.