Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale and the Misogyny of Courtly Love

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Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale is a romance in which Chaucer, through his character the Knight, expresses his views on the courtly love system of the Middle Ages. I will further discuss this story and how it reflects the criticism of a society that applauds a system that takes little stock of a woman’s true feelings on being involved in courtly love. The tale takes on a typical plot of a romance and in the eyes of the aristocrat that is simply all the story is about. However, to the rest of the literate population out of the penumbra of that high level of the hierarchy, the tale is more about the unfairness of the courtly love system. The men are supposed to be sick with love, vehement about it, and so sweet a woman would have to accept his advances. The woman’s role is very much a broad, sweeping statement. This allows for the notion that women are property to be claimed to run as the undercurrent to the courtly love system. This is evident in the way that Arcite and Palamon, Theseus, and even the Gods force Emelye into a marriage she wants no part in. The Knight tries his best to maintain a noble and romantic air to his story but the tale itself contradicts that. From the very first interaction between the men and their love interest it is apparent that the only party whose opinion and emotion matters is the male. Palamon is the first to spot Emelye in the garden outside of his and Arcite’s prison cell. At first sight he is struck with the deepest love that he doesn’t know if she is a Goddess or a woman. He gasps in awe of her and startles Arcite, who then spots Emelye as well. Arcite then tells Palamon that he has fallen in love with Emelye and the two enter a bitter feud, claiming each loved her before the other. This reaction is very much standard in the courtly love system. It is considered sweet and gentlemanly for a man to swoon so over a woman and

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