The Canterbury Tales

Chaucer's Knight - Dichotomy and Contradiction

In the General Prologue of Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, the first character portrait presented is that of the Knight. Though the knights of Chaucer's time were commonly perceived as upstanding, moral, Christian leaders in society, underlying Chaucer-the-Pilgrim's largely complimentary and respectful portrayal of the Knight is Chaucer-the-Poet's slightly sarcastic and accusatory version of the depiction. By comparing and contrasting these two representations of the Knight, the reader realizes that the Knight is a character of dichotomy and contradiction, neither wholly "good", nor wholly "bad".

While Chaucer-the-Pilgrim's portrayal of the Knight is one of a man with a high moral character, Chaucer-the-Poet subtly inserts hints that the Knight is not as respectable and honorable as he appears. Chaucer-the-Pilgrim relentlessly overpraises the Knight. He uses some form of the word "worthy" to describe him four times in the 36 lines of the Knight's portrait (in lines 43, 47, 50, 68). The reader is told that the Knight "loved chivalrye/ Trouthe and honour, freedom and curteisye" (45-46). He was also "evere honoured for his worthinesse" (50) and had...

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