Guide to Week 2:
Read the first two parts of "Knight's Tale" carefully, and try to determine what genre or kind of tale this is. Its hero is a mythic figure, more at home in an epic than sorting out the love lives of two young knights and a young princess who clearly walked in from the romance plot next door. Nevertheless, most readers accept the narrative as it presents itself until it reaches certain points at which the choice of genre becomes crucial to what we expect to happen next. Epics typically end with deaths of major characters, and not infrequently challenge audiences to meet the epic hero's high standard of conduct. Romances typically end with marriages of major characters, or at least with erotic or political reconciliations of characters divided by the plot's serpentine turnings, and the hero almost never dies.
Since the seminar takes seriously the question of "how to read like a Medieval reader," we owe ourselves a defense of the decision to split the tale into two weeks. OK, it's huge, but that's not the only reason. Internal and external evidence suggests Chaucer routinely recited these tales in public, at court or in mixed audiences of noble and bourgeois hearers. If you calculate how long it takes to read aloud the 1021 lines assigned for this week, you will find that it takes quite a while, perhaps as much time as an after-dinner audience would care to spend listening to even a very good poet. The "parts" of KT may well have been performance units, themselves. Can you detect any evidence for or against that hypothesis?
If you want to some assistance interpreting the tale, click here to see a web page containing questions and discussions of issues relevant to specific passages, as well as secondary sources which might help.
Colin Fewer (Purdue U., English 240) summary of parallel passages comparing Boccaccio's Il Teseide and "Knight's Tale": Of course, as a good scholar and careful researcher you would always double-check Fewer's precis of the Boccaccio text against (at least!) the English translation of Boccaccio.
The book of Theseus = Teseida delle nozze d'Emilia / by Giovanni Boccaccio ; translated by Bernadette Marie McCoy