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The grete Theseus, that of his sleep awaked
With minstralcye and noyse that was maked,
Held yet the chambre of his paleys riche,
Til that the Thebane knightes, bothe y-liche
Honoured, were into the paleys fet.
Duk Theseus was at a window set,
Arrayed right as he were a god in trone.
The peple preesseth thider-ward ful sone
Him for to seen, and doon heigh reverence,
50And eek to herkne his hest and his sentence.
All that noise and clatter from the streets below woke up Theseus, who decided to remain inside his bedroom in the palace until Arcite and Palamon arrived at the palace to begin the tournament. He sat on a chair that looked out a window upon the chaotic scene below as if he were one of the gods on high sitting in his throne. The crowds surged forward beneath his window so that people could get a look at him and pay their respects, and to hear the announcement that he was about to make.
An heraud on a scaffold made an ho,
Til al the noyse of the peple was y-do;
And whan he saugh the peple of noyse al stille,
Tho showed he the mighty dukes wille.
When the time was right, a palace servant shouted, “Listen, listen, everyone!” to shush the crowd. When everyone had quieted down, he said:
‘The lord hath of his heigh discrecioun
Considered, that it were destruccioun
To gentil blood, to fighten in the gyse
Of mortal bataille now in this empryse;
Wherfore, to shapen that they shul not dye,
60He wol his firste purpos modifye.
No man therfor, up peyne of los of lyf,
No maner shot, ne pollax, ne short knyf
Into the listes sende, or thider bringe;
Ne short swerd for to stoke, with poynt bytinge,
No man ne drawe, ne bere it by his syde.
Ne no man shal unto his felawe ryde
But o cours, with a sharp y-grounde spere;
Foyne, if him list, on fote, him-self to were.
And he that is at meschief, shal be take,
70And noght slayn, but be broght unto the stake
That shal ben ordeyned on either syde;
But thider he shal by force, and ther abyde.
And if so falle, the chieftayn be take
On either syde, or elles slee his make,
No lenger shal the turneyinge laste.
God spede yow; goth forth, and ley on faste.
With long swerd and with maces fight your fille.
Goth now your wey; this is the lordes wille.’
“Our lord, Theseus, has been thinking things over and has come to the conclusion that it would be an awful waste if so many honorable knights died in the tournament today. Therefore, he’s decided to change the terms of the original agreement he struck between Palamon and Arcite by declaring that the participants can’t kill each other in the fight. That means knights are only allowed to bring non-lethal weapons with them, such as broad swords and maces. Deadly weapons, including short swords made for stabbing, battleaxes, daggers, or arrows are prohibited. And knights can use their spears only one time against each opponent so as not to kill them when they’re down. The official referees, meanwhile, will take fallen knights—by force, if it comes to that—to their respective penalty boxes, where they’ll wait out the rest of the tournament. If either Arcite or Palamon is taken to a penalty box, however, then the tournament will be finished immediately. Now, fight hard, good luck, and God be with you.”