The Knight’s Tale

of 13 /13
LECTURE II – BOOKS THREE AND FOUR COSMIC ORDER AND EARTHLY DISASTER The Knight’s Tale

description

The Knight’s Tale. Lecture II – Books three and four Cosmic order and earthly disaster. Cosmic order and earthly disaster*. 1. The law of unintended consequences how attempts to impose order and alleviate suffering in this dark world create new suffering and chaos - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

Transcript of The Knight’s Tale

Page 1: The Knight’s Tale

LECTURE I I – BOOKS THREE AND FOURCOSMIC ORDER AND EARTHLY DISASTER

The Knight’s Tale

Page 2: The Knight’s Tale

Cosmic order and earthly disaster*

1. The law of unintended consequences how attempts to impose order and alleviate suffering in this dark world create new suffering and chaos

2. The role of the gods/planets in this process3. The identity of order/symmetry and chaos/pain4. The aesthetic possibilities of this identity5. The problem of meaning // the question of

agency Theseus as the key to the poem

* “dis-aster” = disorder among the stars (astra)

Page 3: The Knight’s Tale

Vignette: Astrology and the Gods

Page 4: The Knight’s Tale
Page 5: The Knight’s Tale

Movements of planets through heavens influence weather, crops, personalities,  health, politicalevents. Astral influence was a scientific theory, going back to Greeks. Advanced thinking on, e.g., the science of “rays,” was Arabic-influenced.

Astronomy connected to medicine, psychology, and politics. Subject to theological concerns about where it leaves human agency, the ability to choose good or evil.

Page 6: The Knight’s Tale

Planetary Influence in the Knight’s Tale

Arcite comforts Palamon, Book 1 (1084ff)For goddes love, taak al in pacience Oure prisoun, for it may noon oother be. Fortune hath yeven us this adversitee. Som wikke aspect or disposicioun Of Saturne, by som constellacioun, Hath yeven us this, although we hadde it sworn; So stood the hevene whan that we were born. We moste endure it; this is the short and playn.

Page 7: The Knight’s Tale

Planets as Gods in the Knight’s Tale

Saturn comforts Venus in Book 4 (2453ff)My deere doghter Venus, quod Saturne, My cours, that hath so wyde for to turne, Hath moore power than woot any man. Myn is the drenchyng in the see so wan; Myn is the prison in the derke cote; Myn is the stranglyng and hangyng by the throte, The murmure and the cherles rebellyng, The groynynge, and the pryvee empoysonyng; I do vengeance and pleyn correccioun, Whil I dwelle in the signe of the leoun. […]And myne be the maladyes colde, The derke tresons, and the castes olde; My lookyng is the fader of pestilence.

Page 8: The Knight’s Tale

Divine and Human Symmetries

Saturn: first father of the gods EgeusJupiter: ruler of heavenTheseus(Juno: wife of Jupiter Hippolita)Mars: god of warArciteVenus: god of love Palamon(Mercury: messenger of the gods)Diana : god of chastity/hunting Emily(Pluto: god of the underworld)

Page 9: The Knight’s Tale

What to do about chaos and suffering in this world? Four Solutions

1. Aesthetic: build structures of beauty1. Beauty of battle (2600ff)2. Beauty of description (1975ff)

2. Communal: create bonds of human affection1. Arcite’s death scene (2765ff) – also pleasure of pathos

3. Philosophical: search out the order behind the chaos

1. Theseus’s “prime mover” speech (2987ff). Glimpse of ultimate order and justice

4. Practical: learn to put up with it1. End of Theseus’s speech (3041ff), Egeus (2843ff)

Page 10: The Knight’s Tale

Aristotle on the pleasure of pain (Poetics I)

Imitation is natural to man from childhood, one of his advantages over the lower animals being this, that he is the most imitative creature in the world, and learns at first by imitation. And it is also natural for all to delight in works of imitation. The truth of this second point is shown by experience: though the objects themselves may be painful to see, we delight to view the most realistic representations of them in art, the forms for example of the lowest animals and of dead bodies.

Page 11: The Knight’s Tale

What to do about chaos and suffering in this world? Four Solutions

1. Aesthetic: build structures of beauty1. Beauty of battle (2600ff)2. Beauty of description (1975ff)

2. Communal: create bonds of human affection1. Arcite’s death scene (2765ff) – also pleasure of pathos

3. Philosophical: search out the order behind the chaos

1. Theseus’s “prime mover” speech (2987ff). Glimpse of ultimate order and justice

4. Practical: learn to put up with it1. End of Theseus’s speech (3041ff), Egeus (2843ff)

Page 12: The Knight’s Tale

Theseus

1) Does Theseus, uniquely, have “agency” in KT?

2) Does Theseus control the poem’s action?3) Does it matter to him to do so?4) How are we to understand his “prime

mover” speech?5) If Theseus represents “heroic masculinity,”

also rational masculinity, how are we meant to think of this quality?

6) Is Theseus a power for good in his world?

Page 13: The Knight’s Tale

Possible way of constructing tale

1) Femenye (Amazonia): the untamed feminine: defeated as a precondition of poem’s assertion of heroic masculinity 2) Athens: site of heroic masculinity, marked, in part, by its ability to subdue the female, an act that also demands a subduing of the self

3) Thebes: site of passionate, thus corrupted, masculinity, still in thrall to the female. In this model of the poem, Theseus finally unites Thebes and Amazonia into a harmonious whole through marriage of Palamon and Emely, a marriage that replicates his own with Hippolita.

This heroic “knight’s tale” has Theseus at its dead center.