The Canterbury Tales, written by Geoffrey Chaucer around 1386, is a collection of tales told by pilgrims on a religious pilgrimage. Three of these tales; “The Knight’s Tale”, “The Wife of Bath’s Tale”, and “The Franklin’s Tale”, involve different kinds of love and different love relationships. Some of the loves are based on nobility, some are forced and some are based on mutual respect for each partner.
In “The Knights Tale”, the love between the two knights and Emily is intensely powerful. The love that Palamon and Arcite feel towards Emily is so strong that the two knights feel that it is worth more than life. At one point Palamon says to Arcite, ” Though I have no weapon here . . . either you shall die or you shall not love Emily.”
The love that Palamon feels for Emily is so overwhelming that he is willing to take on an armed man, in mortal combat, just for the love of a woman. Perhaps he feels that without her he will surely die, so why not die trying to win her.
The ironic fact about the relationship between the two knights and Emily is that Emily does not wish to marry either of the knights. she expresses this in prayer to Diana, the goddess of chaste, ” Well you know that I desire to be a maiden all my life; I never want to be either a beloved or a wife.”
This is so ironic because Arcite and Palamon are about to kill each other for her love and she doesn’t want to be loved by either of them. She enjoys the thrills of maidenhood too much to have them ended by a marriage. While all this is going on, no one stops to think that neither Arcite nor Palamon has ever even spoken to Emily.
When Palamon and Arcite are in jail Palamon says, ” The Beauty of the lady whom I see wandering yonder in the garden is the cause of all my cries and woes.” This is not something That I would want to base my ideal love on. These two knights are willing to risk their lives for the love of this woman, whom they have never even met. For all, they know she could be the most annoying person on earth. In that case, they would be risking their lives, only to spend the rest of it with a beautiful and extremely annoying woman.
In “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” A knight is forced to marry a wretched old woman to avoid death. The knight and the old woman do not get along well, and when the old woman suggests that she can make things better, the knight responds saying, ” Corrected? . . . It will never be corrected! You are so loathsome and old.” A love relationship such as this could never last because there is no attraction, physical or mental. A major factor in love is physical attraction between the two partners, here there is no attraction.
Two people cannot love each other if they can stand to be around each other. The knight can hardly bear to look at his wife, let alone sleep with her. Despite the fact that the knight despises her, the old woman persists in getting the knight to love her, which actually works in some cases. While the knight is complaining about how terrible his marriage is the old woman says, “What am I guilty of? For God’s sake tell me and it shall be corrected if I can manage.”
After this, the old woman continues on convincing the knight that she is worthy of him and he finally agrees. Sometimes it is necessary to convince the other person that they love you. The love between the knight and the old woman started out as a forced relationship and was greatly regretful. But after the old woman pointed out some good qualities their relationship blossomed into a beautiful, loving relationship. My ideal love is best expressed in ” The Franklin’s tale”.
The love between the knight and his wife is based greatly on respect. From the very beginning the knight offers her respect and free will, “He swore to her as a knight that never . . . would he take an authoritarian role over her . . . nor show jealousy to her, but would obey her . . . as any lover ought his lady.” The knight in this tale knows how to win a lady. By giving her respect and allowing her to do as she pleases, by not keeping her on a short leash, he wins her respect and therefore they build a very powerful love relationship.
Another attribute to their strong relationship is faithfulness. When a young squire tells the knights wife of his love for her she tells him, “I will never be an unfaithful wife in word or deed, . . . I will be his to whom I am knit.” With faithfulness comes safety. If a person feels safe in a relationship they tend to stay there, making the relationship that much stronger.