Courtly Love in The Knight’s Tale and The Wife of Bath’s Tale

“The noble knight slays the dragon and rescues the fair maiden…and they live happily ever after.” This seemingly cliché finale encompasses all the ideals of courtly love, which began in the Medieval Period and still exists today. While these ideals were prevalent in medieval society, they still existed with much controversy. Geoffrey Chaucer, a poet of the period, comments on courtly love in his work The Canterbury Tales. Through the use of satiric elements and skilled mockery, Chaucer creates a work that not only brought courtly love to the forefront of medieval society but also introduced feministic ideals to the medieval society. At times, Chaucer even makes readers question his beliefs by presenting contrasting elements of principle in The Knight’s Tale and The Wife of Bath’s Tale, both tales told in his profound, multifaceted The Canterbury Tales.
Many tales of courtly love are also tales of chivalry. Chivalry began to develop in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and since then, chivalric literature has existed as one of the main sites of human rights and social criticism (Wollock 266). In chivalric theory, an honorable knight gives respect to others in all matters of action and of speech (267). Chaucer describes the knight in The Canterbury Tales by saying, “He nevere yet no vileynye ne sayde / in al his lyf unto no maner wight. / He was verray, parfit gentil knyght” (Chaucer 70-72). While Chaucer’s knight is not a true example of courtly love, for Chaucer assigns the Squire that trait, he does possess the qualities of chivalry, which allow him to present a story of courtly love in his tale.
While courtly love may seem like a fixation of the ancient past, the model courtship, in which two young people fall in love and e...

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