Study Guide

The Canterbury Tales: The Knight's Tale Part 3, Lines 1351-1624

By Geoffrey Chaucer

Part 3, Lines 1351-1624

  • It's Sunday morning and Palamon has just woken up. He decides to visit the new temple of Venus, the goddess of love.
  • When he gets to the temple, he prays to the goddess, telling her about how much he's been suffering for love. He tells Venus that he really doesn't care if he wins or loses the contest against Arcite. All he wants is Emily, and he doesn't care how he gets her. If Venus will help him out, he'll be the goddess's servant forever.
  • Palamon finishes up by performing a sacrifice to Venus, and then notices that the statue of Venus moves a little. Seems like a good sign, right?
  • Palamon isn't the only one to pray to a goddess, though. When Emily wakes up, she heads to the temple of Diana, goddess of chastity.
  • Emily performs some kind of secret ritual and offers the goddess a sacrifice.
  • She prays to Diana, saying that she hopes to be a virgin forever. She never wants to be a wife or mother. She begs the goddess to make peace between Palamon and Arcite, and also make them fall out of love with her. If the goddess can't grant her this request, then Emily prays that she'll simply be the wife of the man who loves her best.
  • Like Palamon, Emily gets a sign that Diana is listening. One of the fires in the temples goes out, and the branches that were burning start to drip blood. Hmm. Sounds like a bad sign.
  • Then Diana herself shows up and tells Emily that she will marry one of the knights.  But she can't say which one.
  • Like Palamon and Emily, Arcite also visits a temple. Instead of praying to the goddess of love or the goddess of chastity (yeah, why would he do that?), he prays to Mars, the god of war.
  • Arcite offers a sacrifice and prays. He tells Mars how much he suffers for love, and how he must win Emily through strength. He begs the god to help him win victory in battle tomorrow. In exchange, Arcite will honor Mars for the rest of his life. He ends his prayer by asking for victory. (Notice how he doesn't ask to be Emily's husband.)
  • Then Arcite receives a sign from Mars. The fires in the temple flare up and the statue of Mars says "Victory!"
  • Now we're up in the heavens with the gods. Venus and Mars are fighting, and Jupiter (a.k.a. Zeus), King of the gods, has had it up to here.
  • The old, wise Saturn comes up with a solution. He promises Venus that Palamon will get the girl in the end. Still, he says that Mars can help Arcite win the battle. Wait, if Palamon doesn't win the battle, how will he get Emily? You'll see…