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The Canterbury Tales

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I wrecche, which that wepe and waille thus,
Was whylom wyf to king Capaneus,
That starf at Thebes, cursed be that day!
And alle we, that been in this array,
And maken al this lamentacioun,
We losten alle our housbondes at that toun,
Whyl that the sege ther-aboute lay.
And yet now the olde Creon, weylaway!
That lord is now of Thebes the citee,
Fulfild of ire and of iniquitee,
He, for despyt, and for his tirannye,
To do the dede bodyes vileinye,
Of alle our lordes, whiche that ben slawe,
Hath alle the bodyes on an heep y-drawe,
And wol nat suffren hem, by noon assent,
Neither to been y-buried nor y-brent,
But maketh houndes ete hem in despyt.’
And with that word, with-outen more respyt,
They fillen gruf, and cryden pitously,
‘Have on us wrecched wommen som mercy,
And lat our sorwe sinken in thyn herte.’
“I look wretched now because I’ve been crying and wailing so much. But I used to be the wife of King Capaneus, who died at the Battle of Thebes, damn it all! All of us miserable women you see here lost our husbands in that battle when the city was attacked. And just the other day, that good-for-nothing tyrant Creon—who defeated our husbands, conquered Thebes, and now rules the city—ordered that the dead bodies of our husbands be piled up so that he can let them rot like trash. He won’t let us bury them or even burn them, but lets the dogs eat them out of spite.” And at that moment the women started crying again and threw themselves face first on the ground, saying “Have mercy on us poor women, and take pity on us!”






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This gentil duk doun from his courser sterte
With herte pitous, whan he herde hem speke.
Him thoughte that his herte wolde breke,
Whan he saugh hem so pitous and so mat,
That whylom weren of so greet estat.
And in his armes he hem alle up hente,
And hem conforteth in ful good entente;
And swoor his ooth, as he was trewe knight,
He wolde doon so ferforthly his might
Upon the tyraunt Creon hem to wreke,
That al the peple of Grece sholde speke
How Creon was of Theseus y-served,
As he that hadde his deeth ful wel deserved.
And right anoon, with-outen more abood,
His baner he desplayeth, and forth rood
To Thebes-ward, and al his host bisyde;
No neer Athenës wolde he go ne ryde,
Ne take his ese fully half a day,
But onward on his wey that night he lay;
And sente anoon Ipolita the quene,
And Emelye hir yonge suster shene,
Unto the toun of Athenës to dwelle;
And forth he rit; ther nis namore to telle.
The noble Theseus did feel sorry for them and thought his heart would break after hearing their story and seeing how poor and miserable these once royal women now were. He got off his horse and hugged them all and swore an oath to them that he would avenge their husbands’ deaths and make the tyrant Creon pay for what he’d done. In fact, he promised the women that he would let everyone in Greece know what Creon had done and why Theseus had killed him in vengeance. He ordered Queen Hippolyta and Emily to wait for him in Athens. And right then and there he got back on his horse, turned around, and took his entire army to the city of Thebes. He didn’t even make any stops along the way and would camp every night by the side of the road. It all happened just like that.

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