In Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The General Prologue”, the narrator tells us of the many pilgrims who plan to journey to Canterbury. Many characters are vividly described and clues about their character and persona are revealed. Throughout the various tales, many characters reappeared to add their opinions, agreeing or disagreeing heartily with whatever is being said, further developing their character. The Knight is the first pilgrim to be described, and he is afforded this honor due to his noble birth, being the only character of aristocracy in this group. The narrator seems to have a deep admiration for the knight,
a valiant man,
who, from the time when he had first begun
to ventured out, had loved chivalry,
truth and honor, liberality and courtesy.
The Knight holds a deep respect for qualities of the code of chivalry and seems to hold true to these old fashioned ideas. Exemplifying these qualities he is able to win over the narrator, and the reader, seeming to be one of the few morally decent characters. The Knight has been in many wars and there are twenty lines dedicated to listing the great battles he participated in, giving us the impression of the skill he must possess to not only have fought, but survived so many. Along with all of his great qualities and extensive deeds he is a humble man, “and bore himself as meekly as a maiden” (l. 69). It is clear he has been in many conflicts and seen much bloodshed, however, he seems rather adverse to conflict, breaking up the Host and Pardoner when the begin to bicker in “The Pardoner’s Tale”. He has seen enough conflict and seems determine to face as little of it is possible on his journey.
Questions about the truth of his aristocracy are raised, many critics questioning whether this man was created as a comment on the class hopping that was so common in Chaucer’s time. Was he truly the man he claimed to be or was he less than he appeared? He had good horses and good manners, but his dress was less than impressive. His tunic is described as being, “much stained by his hauberk” (l. 76). This description gives him a well-worn, well-used appearance, also once again adding to his humble character. It is entirely possible it was in such a state “for he had just come back from his expedition” or because he didn’t have the means to acquire more suitable attire for one of his station (l. 77). This question can not entirely be answered but it adds intrigue to the already wonderful and diverse characters of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
What I find so incredibly amusing was I wrote this paragraph speculating about his birth and then a little later I watched A Knight’s Tale for the second time, (After having actually read Geoffrey Chaucer), it was only then that it hit me, all the subtleties and humor of that movie. I mean it is literally called A Knight’s tale, Heath Ledger’s character, William Thatcher, is the Knight and he is without a doubt class hoping. Paul Bettany’s as Geoffrey Chaucer is probably the greatest part of the whole movie. If you enjoy Chaucer and even more importantly enjoy delightful comedic movies watch A Knight’s Tale. It is amazing and such a great group of actors. It’s cheesy and hilarious and the jokes are just spot on.