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Exaggeration in The Canterbury Tales Essay


An interesting aspect of the famous literary work, "The Canterbury Tales," is the contrast of realistic and exaggerated qualities that Chaucer entitles to each of his characters. When viewed more closely, one can determine whether each of the characters is convincing or questionable based on their personalities. This summary will analyze the characteristics and personalities of the main character the Knight.

One of Geoffrey's less believable main characters is the Knight, for reasons of courtesy. The knight displays many traits which make him seem almost too good to be true, and a true gentleman that rarely exists in reality. The narrator sums up the knights character by stating that "Though he were worthy, he was and of his port as meeke as is a mayde." (pg. 5, The Canterbury Tales) The knight holds four main admirable traits, making him the most liked traveler in "The Canterbury Tales," and also implying the doubt of his realism. The reader is prepared to learn of each of his noble accomplishments and importance when the narrator remarks that" A knight there was, and that a worthy man, that for the time that he first began to ridden out, he loved chivalrye, Trouthe and honor, freedom and courtesy." (pg. 4, The Canterbury Tales) From the characters impressive introduction, it is clear that this man is the most valued and honorable traveler among the group. This perfect gentleman holds a love of ideals that are often not displayed by people. First and foremost, he believes in the ideals of chivalry, and always stays true to its principles. He also feels that one should be honest, truthful and faithful, which many people are not all of these ideals. The knight thinks one should only do what is right, and what will gain him honor and reputation. This character also believes in freedom and generosity towards all, and displays this ideal repeatedly throughout the novel. And lastly, the knight also strongly feels that any proper person should display courtesy and elegance at all times. Another aspect of this character's life which makes him seem too prestigious to be truthful is his impressive military career.

He fought in the holy war, known as the Crusades and was involved in 15 mortal battles. In the prologue, the narrator informs the reader that "Full worthy was he in his lords were, and there to hade he ridden, no man ferret, As well in Christendom as heathenness, and ever honored for his worthiness." (pg. 4, The Canterbury Tales) The knight obviously held a very respectable reputation, and was treated with much honor and respect. He was a perfect gentleman, showing kindness and understanding to everyone he came in contact with. The knight was extremely well-mannered, always being on his best behavior. His appearance was the "finishing touch," adding honor and integrity to his courageous and gentle spirit. This main character was clothed still in his armor, wearing a tunic of harsh cloth and his coat of mail is rust-stained, clearly showing remaining signs of past battles. "Of fustian he wired a gipoun/Al bismotered with hishabergeoun; /for he was late y-come from his viage." (pg. 4, The Canterbury Tales) The qualities of the knight resemble those of very few people in modern society, giving a quality of exaggeration to the perfectness found in the knight. He represents the embodiment of the ideal man as seen by Chaucer.

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