General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales

by Geoffrey Chaucer

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Student Question

Describe the knight in "General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales."

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The knight is described in this introduction to the tales as being a man who is beyond reproach as regards his honour and devotion. He has fought in various campaigns and is very experienced in battle. He is clearly presented as a good man who has not let his prowess go to his head. Note how the speaker characterises him in the following quote:

Though eminent, he was prudent and sage,

And in his bearing mild as any maid.

He'd never been foul-spoken in his life

To any kind of man; he was indeed

The very pattern of a noble knight.

In spite of his obvious strength and massive experience, he still remains humble and wise. He is not affected by arrogance or by pride, and by saying he is "the very pattern of a noble knight," the speaker indicates that the knight is an example of chivalric England in all of its glory, which clearly relates to the story that the knight subsequently tells the pilgrims. The only negative words that the narrator has to say about him relate to his appearance. Because the knight has just returned from action, he is described as being "begrimed with rust" and unkempt. This, however, is small criticism compared to the praise that is lavished upon his figure.

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