“The General Prologue” is the first part of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer which is a descriptive list of a diverse group of pilgrims who journey to Canterbury. Geoffrey Chaucer composed the prologue and some of The Canterbury Tales in Middle English during 1380- 1392. Chaucer had completed The Canterbury Tales by 1400. The frame story is about a religious pilgrimage set in April. Chaucer, who is also the narrator, gives a description of the month at the opening of the poem. He describes the rain, the flowers and the chirping birds. Chaucer is staying at the Tabard Inn where he meets a large and diverse group of pilgrims who are also going to Canterbury to pray. Over time, he speaks with each of the pilgrims and ends up becoming a member of their group. He then describes the appearance and behavior of each of the pilgrims. In The Canterbury Tales, the Knight, through Chaucer’s eyes, is the most uplifting character as he is portrayed as the noblest of the pilgrims, a symbol of impressive military prowess and a man of good manners. (Example of an Analytical Essay by Psychology Homework Help )
Chaucer’s description of the Knight as the noblest character makes him more memorable as compared to the other pilgrims. The Knight is of noble birth and holds a high status in society. The Knight possesses qualities that Chaucer believes a Knight should have. He is described as a distinguished man who upholds noble qualities such as truth, courtesy, honor, chivalry and generosity. Chaucer describes the Knight using the following quotes:
A Knight there was, and that a worthy man,
That fro the time that he first began,
To ridden out, he loved chivalry,
Trouthe and honour, freedom and curteisye,
Ful worthy was he in his lords were,
And thereto hade he ridden, no man ferret.
The Knight is very humble in the way he dresses as he does not dress to show off his status in society. Chaucer describes his mode of dressing: “His hors were goode, but he was not gay, / Of fustian he wered a gipoun” (74-75). Despite being a noble knight and his horse being gaily dressed, the Knight only wore a simple tunic. In contrast, the Knight’s son referred to as the Squire, is not as humble in his dressing like his father. The Squire dresses in a tunic that has flower patterns: “Embrouded was he as it were a moude, / A ful of fresshe flower, white and rede” (89-90). His clothes were bright and full of colour which was a sign of high class.
The Knight is described as having an impressive and prestigious military career as he was recognized and respected as an honorable knight. He often had a place in the seat of honor during military feasts: “Full often time he hade the bored bygone” (52). The Knight had proved himself countless times in the battlefield as Chaucer reveals that he had fulfilled his duties as a knight and won many battles. He is respected and admired as he always showed great skill and strength in battle. He was victorious against his enemies countless times: “In lists threes, and ay slain his fo (63). The Knight is committed to fighting for his faith as he had battled Muslims in Turkey, Spain and Egypt. Chaucer describes the Knight’s commitment: “At mortal battalias hade he been fifteen, / And fourteen for our faith at Tramissene” (61-62). This means that he was brave and committed enough to even engage in tournaments fought to the death.
The Knight is described as a man who has good manners that are reflected in his behavior and the way in which he conducts himself. He conducts himself in a very polite manner as Chaucer reveals that he is not one to speak unkind words about other people. He is humble and does not display any rudeness to his fellow pilgrims. The Knight is also a quiet and meek man. Despite being a knight who has been in many battles, the Knight is gentle and does not show any brutality towards his companions. Chaucer describes the Knight’s manners in a respectful way using the following quotes:
And though that he were worthy, he was wish,
And of his port as meek as is a maide,
He never yet no villainy ne aside,
In al his life unto no manure Wight,
He was a very parfait gentile knight.
This description shows that Chaucer sees the Knight as an inspirational character that can be idealized. This makes the Knight the most memorable and inspirational character from all the other pilgrims as the way the narrator describes him depicts a character that is perfect beyond comparison.
Overall, “The General Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales offers brief and visual key details of the descriptions of the pilgrims such as the Knight. The portraits are portrayed in a lively and individualized manner that enables the reader to form a clear mental picture of the characters. This information is objectively given by the narrator who idealizes the Knight throughout his description by using glowing words to describe him. The Knight is portrayed as a perfect man without any faults. However, it is often said that it is wise to be wary of a person who has never failed or seems to have no faults at all as perfection sometimes hides something.
Chaucer, Geoffrey. General prologue to The Canterbury tales. Bloomsbury Publishing, 1969.