Chaucer's Canterbury Tales - Importance of Order in Knight's Tale Essay

Chaucer's Canterbury Tales - Importance of Order in Knight's Tale Essay

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The Importance of Order in Knight's Tale

 
Chaucer claims to place the Knight's Tale just after the General Prologue by chance, the drawing of lots. The Knight draws the short straw, and all are glad for it. The appropriateness of his lengthy tale to follow is clear on some levels, and barely perceptible on others. I intend to launch my investigation of the Knight's Tale with a scrutiny of these three statements, and perhaps we shall find an interesting conclusion in this, albeit a disputable one.

The honorable Host, Harry Bailey, begins this famous day of pilgrimage by calling everyone together to draw lots, "He which that hath the shorteste shal beginne." (838) He calls the Knight to draw first, presumably as a gesture of respect, as he refers to the Knight as master and lord. Harry continues to speak for a short moment, as we have the visual image of the Knight stepping up to claim his straw. The host continues to call up two more pilgrims, but quickly decides that everyone might as well draw in a free-for-all. And surprise! The Knight finds himself holding the short cut. Is it possible that Harry managed to give the Knight the short straw intentionally? "Now draweth cut," says he, "for that is myn accord" (840). A close eye may suggest some punning going on in that line: Now draw the cut (short) straw, for it is my wish. The words "cord" and "accord" were both used in Middle English, so we may be able to find some double meaning there as well. If indeed Harry wishes to give the Knight the "cord," there are several interesting cases to think on: a) the cord is simply the short straw, b) the cord is the hangman's rope, or c) the cord is a unit of wood cut for fuel. The hangman's rope would make for subtle sarcasm, but...


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... immediate effects on the Miller, who cares not a bit for courtesy or order but only reckless lust. Hence, the Miller follows with a tale that Palamon could have appreciated, had he not known the ways of chivalry, but only those of lechery.

Works Cited and Consulted

Benson, Larry D., ed. The Riverside Chaucer. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987.

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. The Norton Anthologyof English Literature. Seventh Edition. Two Volumes. Ed. M. H. Abrams. NewYork: Norton, 2000.

Cooper, Helen. The Structure of The Canterbury Tales. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1983.

Modern Critical Views: Geoffrey Chaucer, Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1985.

Spearing, A.C. Chaucer: The Knight's Tale. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995.

Williams, David. The Canterbury Tales, A Literary Pilgrimage. Boston:
Twayne Publishers, 1987.

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