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Chaucer's Canterbury Tales - Chivalry by the Knight and the Squire Essay

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Different Perspectives of Chivalry by the Knight and the Squire in Canterbury Tales        


In the medieval period that is described by Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, chivalry was perhaps the most recognized quality of a true Christian gentleman. This quality is explored in Chaucer's two characters of the warrior class, the Knight and the Squire. The Squire is in fact the son of the Knight; both ride gallantly and have the air of true gentleman warriors. However, the two are very dissimilar despite their appearances. The Knight possesses the true qualities of chivalry, devotion to service, constancy in humility, and honesty. The Squire possesses none of these qualities truly, instead his demeanor is a shell that encloses a less virtuous constitution. Although both claim the same vocation, the Squire and the Knight display contradicting attitudes in respect to dedication, material possessions, and sincerity.

The most recurrent point in the description of the Knight was the abundance and importance of his battles, while it was the least mentioned aspect of the Squire. While the entirety of the Squire's military exploits are named in two lines, "he had seen some service with the cavalry / In Flanders and Artois and Picardy.", the list of the Knight's battles clearly dominates the text of his description, running for many lines:

When we took Alexandria, he was there

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

In Lithuania he had ridden, and Russia,

No Christian man so often, of his rank.

When, in Granada, Algeciras sank

Under assault, he had been there, and in

North Africa, raiding Benamarin;

In Anatolia he had been as well

And fought when Ayas and Attalia fell...

This pass...


... middle of paper ...


...o some degree boastful, lusting, or superficial. The Squire was never directly criticized by Chaucer, but the implications that resulted from the description amounted to an extravagant, un-chivalrous image, a reflection of the actual knights of Chaucer's day. Because of the reality of the corruption that was portrayed by the Squire, the true and complete chivalry portrayed by the Knight was unknown. Therefore, it follows that Chaucer was not merely comparing two knights and delineating the virtues that comprised chivalry, but in a grander sense was re vealing many of the corrupting point of humanity by comparing the fundamental difference between the reality of our humanity with the ideal of perfection.

Works Cited:

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. Ed Mack, Maynard et al. W. W. Norton and Co. New York, NY. 1992.


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