The Canterbury Tales

Chaucer's Knight: A Mercenary in Need of Redemption

Based on several Chaucer scholars' analyses of the description of the Knight in the general prologue, it appears as though there are not two distinct schools of thought on the controversial character, but rather two "poles," with a significant number of scholars camped out in the gray area in between. Chaucer clearly intended his Knight to harbor some definitive personality underneath the "besmottered habergeon" - and not one word is wasted in his detailed description. No doubt the master of ambiguity intended for his character to have debatable characteristics; unfortunately, however, 600 years of separation from the original context have made Chaucer's social commentary far more complex and contentious than he may have intended. Today's scholars are lost in a sea of historical accounts, opinions, and controversies. For every "crusade" in which the Knight reportedly participated, there are multiple reports of the events that took place; the differing attitudes of the survivors have created three unstable English classes back home.

Not only do the Knight's reported conquests contribute to his questionable character, but so does his manner of dress. Chivalry, love, warfare, religion...

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