What might be Emily's thoughts in the Knight's tale?

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noahvox2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chaucer's "Knight's Tale," two young noblemen, Arcite and Palamon, fall in love with an Athenian maiden named Emily. Initially, both Arcite and Palamon are in the same prison, but they both eventually get out of the jail, and are discovered fighting over Emily. The Athenian duke Theseus, who found the young men, arranges for them to have a jousting tournament. Whoever wins will become Emily's husband.

Before the tournament takes place, Emily prays to her patron divinity Diana. Because Emily is a virgin, it is appropriate for her to pray to a divinity who is also a virgin. Emily prays to remain unmarried:

I long to be a maiden all my life,

Not ever to be lover or a wife.

If, however, Diana will not grant Emily's desire, she prays that "You'll send me him with most desire for me."

After Emily's prayer, Diana appears and tells Emily that she will have to marry one of the young men, but that she (Diana) cannot tell her which one of the young men at that particular time. Eventually, after the jousting tournament and the death of Arcite, Emily, after a period of mourning, discovers that she will marry Palamon. The narrator Knight indicates that their marriage will be a happy one:

And Emily loved him so tenderly,

And he served her with such nobility,

That not one word between this man and wife  

Would ever be of jealousy or strife.

Thus, while it would appear that Emily did not want to marry anyone, eventually she seems to have had a happy marriage to Palamon.

Read the study guide:
The Canterbury Tales

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