451 Study Questions for Chaucer's
anachronism, Boethian, brothers in arms, chivalry, cosmic irony, courtly
love, ecphrasis, feudalism,, lists,prologue, trial by
Lecture or Handouts:
How did Duke Theseus come to marry Hippolyta?
What would the story of a tempest intercepting the wedding
company ring a discordant note for Chaucer's audience? What
historical events might it connect to?
What classical Latin work first described the symptoms of
love-sickness that became popular in the Middle Ages and was the source of Andreas Capellanus' Art of Courtly Love?
What are some indications of how popular Boethius's Consolatio
Philosophiae was in the medieval period? What are some
signs of its influence on Chaucer?
What is the longest sentence in all
of Chaucer (i.e., what does this sentence deal with and
in what work does it appear?)
Identify the following characters:
Palamon (or Palamoun), Arcite (Arcita),
Emily (Emilye), Duke Theseus, Hippolyta, Saturnus (Saturn),
Venus, Mars, Dyane (Diana), Pluto, Creon, Duke Perotheus,
King Lycurgus (Lycurge), King Emetreus, King Egeus (part
- Prima Pars
- Of what Greek city is Duke Theseus the "lord and
- What is Theseus's wife's name? What has Theseus just
finished doing to her homeland of Scithia, where the Amazons
- Who is Emelye related to?
- What sight interrupts Theseus' victory march?
- When Theseus is particularly angry at this sight, what
motivation does he suggest the women have for making
such a ruckus?
- When the eldest women speaks, to whom does she attribute
Theseus's victory over the Amazons? (Hint:
it's not God or fate.)
- Where have the women been waiting for the last two weeks?
Why is that an appropriate place for them to wait while
planning to ask Theseus's mercy?
- The eldest woman speaking in the company of mourners
is the widow of what ruler? Who is now ruling her husband's
- What has Creone ordered concerning the bodies of his
- How does Theseus react to the women emotionally after
hearing of their plight?
- What emblems does Theseus carry on his banner and coat-of-arms?
Why is this image appropriate or inappropriate?
- When Theseus orders his forces to loot and strip the
bodies of the deceased who fought against him, what do
his men discover among the bodies?
- How are Palamoun and Arcite related to each other?
- What does Theseus order be done with Palamon and Arcite?
What is unusual about this?
- When Emilye arises to enact Mayday honors for Spring,
what type of flowers does she gather (i.e., what colors
- Which imprisoned knight spots Emilye first? How does
- What is Arcite worried about Palamoun after Palamoun
falls in love? What reason does Arcite give for the pair's
- What does Palamoun assume mistakenly about Emily's identity?
- To what deity does Palamoun pray after he is uncertain
about Emily's identity?
- What happens to Arcite when he looks out the window
to see what has so impassioned Palamon?
- When Palamon realizes Arcite is gawking at Emilye and
hears his protestations of love, what does Palamon ask
- When Palamon reiterates that he saw Emilye first, what
does he conclude about which knight should "have"
- How does Arcite respond to Palamon's argument about
"I saw her first"? Why does he think Palamon's
point about seeing her first doesn't count? (I.e., what
did Palamon mistakenly think as he viewed Emilye, according
- What does Arcite argue in response to Palamon's claim
that Arcite is bound by oath to help Palamon achieve his
- What favor does the visiting Duke Pirotheus ask of Duke
Theseus when he is visiting?
- What limitation does Duke Theseus put on Arcite's freedom?
What is the punishment if Arcite violates this condition?
- Why does Arcite envy Palamon even though Palamon is
still in prison?
- When Arcite bemoans his fate, he notes that "we
[humanity] seken faste after felicitee" [I (A) 1266].
What prevents humanity from finding this felicity, according
to his earlier discussion?
- Why does Palamon envy Arcite even though Arcite is banished
from Athens and stuck in Thebes?
- Given Middle English spelling conventions, in line 1304,
when Palamon makes an apostrophe to "O crueel goddes
that governe / This world," what are two ways of
interpreting the word "goddes"? If we interpret
this word as singular, what deity do you suppose Palamon
- What problem does Palamon leave to "dyvynys"
(diviners or theologians)?
- In lines 1346, to whom is the Knight apparently addressing
in his discussion?
- Secunda Pars (Part
- What happens to Arcite's appearance as the months go
by? What bodily humor dominates his "celle fantastik"
(the visual imagination organ of his brain)?
- What deity comes to Arcite in a dream? What does this
deity prophesy concerning Arcite's situation?
- How does Arcite arrange to travel back to Athens without
- What sort of work does Arcite do for Emilye? Why is
he particularly suited for such jobs? What nom de
guerre does Arcite adapt instead of his own name?
How long does he stay hidden in this role?
- How many years does Palamon pine away in prison?
- How does Palamon escape from prison?
- Why does Palamon return to Thebes? What does he hope
- How far out does Arcite ride on his trip to do May observances?
Where does he ride out to? (i.e., what sort of terrain?)
Who, by chance, is hidden in the brush nearby, eavesdropping?
- What does Arcite do at the end of his lamentation?
What does Palamon do after that?
- Why do Arcite and Palamon postpone their fight until
the next day? Why don't Arcite and Palamon immediately
- When the two cousins meet for their duel, how do they
treat each other?
- The two knights are compared to what two animals as
they fight in 1656? To what animals are they compared
in line 1699?
- How high does the blood flow from the two knights' wounds
as they engage in combat?
- Our narrator (presumably the Knight), pauses the combat
scene to talk about the "ministre general."
Who or what is this "ministre general"?
- What is Theseus doing that brings him out to the same
area where Arcite and Palamon are fighting? How does this
connect with the statement that he is "serving Diana"
after previously "serving Mars"? What two women
accompany Duke Theseus on this expedition? What color
does Emelye wear? What do you suppose is the significance
of this color?
- How does Theseus break up the fight? By what god does
he swear as he does this action? Is Theseus upset by the
violence? Or is he upset by something missing from the
violence? If it's the violence that makes him upset, why
does it bother hiim so much? If he's angered by something
missing, what is that missing element?
- What does Palamon ask Theseus to do to both him and
- Around line 1745, what punishment does Theseus initially
decree for them? Who or what talks him out of that initial
- Why does Duke Theseus say the god of love is particularly
powerful in his miracles?
- When Duke Theseus states, "For in my tyme a servant
was I oon" (1814), what is he admitting about himself?
Hint: Look online or in a dictionary
of mythology for the following women: Perigenia, Ariadne,
and Antiopa. Who were these people and how were they connected
to Theseus? When Theseus states he was a servant of love,
"ful yore agon" and uses the past tense to talk
about his time as love's servant, what does that suggest
about his current marriage? How do you suppose Hippolyta
must be reacting to all this?
- What solution does Theseus offer since Emilye cannot
marry both of them?
- How many knights should each suitor bring with him?
How long do they have to prepare for the tournament?
- Where does Theseus build the tournament lists for the
- Pars Tercia (Part 3):
- How big is the tournament arena Theseus makes? What
shape is it? Why are the stadium's seats set at 60 degrees?
How many gates does the arena have? To which deity is
each gate dedicated?
- Each marble gate contains an oratory in an attached
architectural turret. The questions below deal with the
decorations for each oratory.
- Venus's Temple:
- What torments are depicted on the wall of Venus's
temple? List two or three. What personified beings
stand beside these torments? List two or three of
- Why does the mountain of Cytherea appear on the
wall? (Hint: check out a dictionary of mythology
look online for a discussion of Venus's birth).
- In the painted garden, what personified being is
the "porter" who lets lovers into the
Garden of Love?
- What does the statue of Venus look like?
- What physical handicap does Cupid (Cupido) suffer
from? Why is that appropriate or inappropriate?
- Mar's Temple:
- What cold, rocky region is depicted as the setting
for Mar's Temple in the wall paintings? Why is this
region historically appropriate or inappropriate?
- When the narrator describes Mars as being "armypotente,"
what word in Christian theology is he punning upon?
- What is the temple of Mars made out of? What is
the door to the temple made of?
- What are some of Mars' personified companions in
the temple paintings? List two or three of them.
- What animal stands before the feet of the statue
- Diana's Temple:
- What sort of paintings appear in Diana's temple?
Describe one or two of them.
- What animals is Diana riding upon "ful hye"
in the paintings? What animals run about her feet?
What does Diana have beneath her feet?
- The statue of Diana wears what color of cloth?
- What does Diana carry in her hand?
- Tournament (Continued)
- For which knight (Palamoun or Arcite) does Lycurgus
fight? What country does Lycurgus rule? What is
unusual color(s) of Lycurgus's eyes?
- Emetreus is king of what country? Does he fight
for Palamoun or Arcite in the tournament?
- For a king of such a country, Emetreus has some
unusual hair coloration. What color is his hair?
it is not iron-gray--the
word "yronne" in line 2165 is a past-participle
- When Palamon wakes up on Sunday night before dawn,
he takes a pilgrimage. To what location does he
To what deity does he pray? What does he ask for
from this deity?
- What omen or divine sign appears as Palamon kneels
in front of the statue?
- When dawn comes, and Emilye awakens, where does
she go to make sacrifice? How does she ritually
herself, and what is the narrator's attitude to this
- To what deity does Emilye pray? She asks for one
of two wishes to come true. What is the first wish
she requests? If that wish won't come true, what
does she ask as an alternative?
- What pyromantic evidence suggests the deity hears
her prayer? What noise follows this omen? What leaks
out from the torches after this?
- Why do you suppose Chaucer chooses to place Emilye's
prayer between Palamon's prayer and Arcite's prayer?
How is that effect different than if the two knights
had prayed first and Emilye prays last?
- An hour after Emilye's prayer, Arcite gets up to
pray. To what god does he address his prayers? What
sacrifice does he make to Mars?
- What signs indicate that the god Mars has heard
Arcite's plea favorably?
- At the end of these three prayers, what causes
strife in heaven/Olympus? Which god alone has the
resolve the conflicting promises? Why is this god
particularly appropriate or inappropriate as one
have the final word
- Pars Quarta
- How do Duke Theseus's men quiet the noisy crowd
as they await the joust?
- When the herald addresses
the crowd, what change
to the rules does he announce? How
do the people react to this change in the rules?
the contestants enter the arena, which gate does
each one pass through?
- What color is Palamoun's
banner? What color is Arcite's banner?
- While Arcite
and Palamon fight, who sneaks up behind Palamon
and stabs him? What happens to
this sneaky combatant after he stabs Palamon?
does Duke Theseus declare the winner?
- What does
Venus do when she hears who is declared the winner?
What does Saturn do when he sees Venus's
- When Arcite pulls off his helmet and
looks up toward Emilye, what is Emilye's emotional
- What causes Arcite's horse to panic (i.e.,
what god is responsible)? What happens to Arcite
- Why do you suppose Chaucer has Arcite's
breastbone crushed? Why not his neck or skull
or some other
- When Arcite is dying, what are some
of the "pet-names"
he gives to Emelye? What command does he give
to his "wife" concerning Palamon?
are Arcite's last words?
- When the entire town
breaks into mourning, who is the one person who
can console Duke Theseus?
What does this character
know or understand in particular?
- Where does
Theseus decide to build the tomb for Arcite? What
happens to all the trees of
area? How is
the mythological ecology disturbed by this?
to Theseus's final speech, what being/force from
is responsible for determining
the length and
duration of pain in the "wrecched
provide to illustrate
of the world?
- If Theseus
in his assessment
of the physical
is the only wisdom
- Why does Theseus argue people should
be more glad for a friend who dies honorably?
Theseus says he will make one perfect joy out of "sorwes
is he talking
he will begin "wher
moost sorwe is herinne," which
person is he talking about?
- In line
3097, we hear that all is "blisse
melodye" after Theseus orders
Emilye to marry Palamon. Does
this seem realistic to you? Why
or why not?
What does this reveal about the
Knight as a narrator or
what does it reveal