The Knight of The Canterbury Tales: Chivalry and Contradiction

Category: Fiction, Poetry
Last Updated: 29 Aug 2023
Pages: 2 Views: 49
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Readers travel through literature with a variety of characters in Geoffrey Chaucer's masterpiece, "The Canterbury Tales," each of whom represents a distinct aspect of medieval society. The Knight, a representation of the great virtues of chivalry, loyalty, and duty, leads the procession of pilgrims. The Knight, like many of Chaucer's characters, is a complicated interplay of virtues and ambiguities rather than a one-dimensional figure. This essay provides an analysis of the Knight from "The Canterbury Tales," examining his representation of chivalry and the subtle contradictions within his character. The references provided can be consulted for a deeper exploration of the topic.

The Exemplary Knight

It is no coincidence that Chaucer introduces the Knight as the first traveler in the General Prologue. Readers get a picture of a guy who has seen several fights by the description of his chainmail as being "stained by his armor." His vast list of military operations in places like Lithuania, Spain, and even the Middle East demonstrates how dedicated a life he led to the values of chivalry and military devotion.

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The Paradox of Peace and War

Chaucer's knight is paradoxically portrayed as being "gentle" and having "fine manners," despite his battle-hardened demeanor. This contrast suggests a medieval view of chivalry in which the qualities of courtesy and gentility were valued equally with fighting skill. The Knight seeks spiritual redemption while also being a fearless fighter.

A Portrait of the Hero: The tale the Knight choose to tell serves as a portrait of who he is. The story, which centers on the aristocratic cousins Arcite and Palamon, examines concepts of love, honor, chivalry, and destiny. The Knight's decision reveals his own inner struggles and moral principles. He says that although wars may be fought on battlefields, the human heart also engages in conflicts. He values love equally to combat.

Contradictions and Criticisms

Chaucer does not completely exonerate the Knight from criticism, despite the fact that he is given a lot of credit. Some contend that the Knight's many expeditions, in which he often fought on opposing sides of wars, may have shown him to be more of a mercenary than a chivalric hero. The nuanced representation adds layers of depth and serves as a reminder to readers of the complexity of mankind.


In spite of serving as a shining example of chivalric values, the Knight in "The Canterbury Tales" is not without flaws. Chaucer deftly spins a tale through this figure that upends preconceived ideals of heroism and serves as a reminder to readers that genuine heroes, like real people, are sometimes a combination of virtues and vices. The Knight's presence acts as a mirror for the complexity of medieval society and, by extension, for the universality of the human experience.


  1. G. Chaucer (2003). The Tales of Canterbury. Penguin Books.
  2. David Pearsall (2008). Geoffrey Chaucer's Life: A Critical Biography. Wiley-Blackwell.
  3. R.A. Pratt (1966). Chaucer and the Middle Ages. Nicolson and Weidenfeld.
  4. H. Cooper (1996). The Canterbury Tales in the Oxford Guide to Chaucer. Press of Oxford University.

Cite this Page

The Knight of The Canterbury Tales: Chivalry and Contradiction. (2023, Aug 22). Retrieved from

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