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Barron's Booknotes-The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer-Free Book Notes
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SOURCE

Chaucer takes the tale of Palamon and Arcite from Boccaccio's Teseide, which basically tells the same story but which is, believe it or not, five times longer than Chaucer's version. He condenses the first book and a half of Boccaccio's work into the first few lines of the Knight's Tale, saying the story is long enough without the detail of Theseus' battle with the Amazons.

The original has Egeus' words of comfort in Theseus' mouth; Chaucer changes it so he could give the grand ending speech to the duke. The speech itself-in fact, the whole idea of fortune's wheel-comes from Boethius, an early Christian philosopher, whom Chaucer translated into English and whose philosophy infects many of the tales. Evidently Chaucer liked the idea of wheels within wheels; fortune causes rises and falls in the world, while above it all God's providence remains stable.


SETTING

Of course the story is supposed to be taking place in ancient Greece, but that doesn't stop Chaucer from giving one of the jousting knights a Prussian (German) shield, for example, or holding a joust (a medieval game) in the first place. But Chaucer obviously thinks people are people, whether they're in ancient Greece or medieval England, and that's the major difference between his rendition of Boccaccio's tale and the original. For all the stylized descriptions and conventions, he's giving us people with conflicts who are not perfect.

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Barron's Booknotes-The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer-Free Book Notes
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