The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

Love

1

This prison caused me nat for to crye, But I was hurt right now thurghout myn ye Into myn herte, that wol my bane be. The fairnesse of that lady that I see Is cause of al my crying and my wo.

In the Knight’s Tale, Palamon explains what has caused him such pain and “wo.” He has just seen Emelye walking through the garden. Palamon feels so taken by her beauty, he believes his feelings reflect love at first sight. Readers know, however, that he has been locked in a tower for some time, so perhaps this sudden and new flood of highly charged emotion does feel like pain. The other knight, Arcite, also falls instantly in love with the beautiful Emelye, and the two men, once loyal friends, become enemies. The fact that the Knight includes two examples of love at first sight also provides some insight into his character: He clearly believes or wants to believe that such an event is real.

2

He ne hadde for his labour but a scorn. And thus she maketh Absolon hire ape, And al his ernest turneth til a jape. Ful sooth is this proverb, it is no lye, Men seyn right thus, ‘Alwey the nye slye Maketh the ferre leeve to be looth.’ For though that Absolon be wood or wroth, By cause that he fer was from hire sight, This nye Nicholas stood in his light.

In the Miller’s Tale, the Miller explains that Alisoun, the carpenter John’s wife, has two admirers: Absolon and Nicholas. Despite Absolon’s attempts to politely woo John’s wife, even going to the effort of serenading her outside her window, Alisoun repays him by making him an “ape” or fool and laughing openly at him with her chosen lover, Nicholas. Clearly, the Miller admires and sympathizes with Absolon’s honest efforts to win Alisoun’s love, but the tricky and aggressive Nicholas ends up getting her in bed. Clearly, the Miller has a low opinion of both Nicholas and Alisoun and uses his tale to warn others of people like these two lovers.