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The Boundaries of the Human in Medieval English Literature$
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Dorothy Yamamoto

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780198186748

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198186748.001.0001

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A Reading of The Knight’s Tale

A Reading of The Knight’s Tale

(p.132) chapter six A Reading of The Knight’s Tale
The Boundaries of the Human in Medieval English Literature


Oxford University Press

This chapter presents a reading of Chaucer's Knight's Tale, which takes up the theme of human-animal relations as an enterprise of control. It is argued that in the Tale, the degree to which the human characters attain mastery over events is partly expressed through the way in which they are linked with different animals. Heraldic elements, as well as real animals, permeate the descriptions of Lygurge and Emetreus; while Palamon and Arcite are linked with more lowly bodies — the drunken mouse, the crow's black carcass, the hunted deer — in keeping with their socially marginal status, fated to be acted upon rather than actors themselves. The Tale ends without resolving these questions, despite Theseus's attempt at philosophizing in his closing oration.

Keywords:   Geoffrey Chaucer, The Knight's Tale, heraldry, hunting, Palamon, Arcite, Theseus

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