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“THE BESTE GAME OF ALLE”: BOOK OF THE DUCHESS KNIGHT’S TALE

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“THE BESTE GAME OF ALLE”: BOOK OF THE DUCHESS KNIGHT’S TALE
“THE BESTE GAME OF ALLE”:
PLAYING CHESS WITH FORTUNE IN THE BOOK OF THE DUCHESS
AND THE KNIGHT’S TALE
Gerry Wolfson-Grande
Master of Liberal Studies Program
Rollins College
Winter Park, Florida
September 15, 2011
Gerry Wolfson-Grande 1
I.
Introduction
While the Knight’s Tale does not incorporate a direct chess metaphor, an analogy may be
made between its central themes and the game of chess, particularly when it is read in connection
with the Book of the Duchess. Both poems are based on love pursued and won, only to be lost
arbitrarily and capriciously despite the ordered environment in which they take place. In the
Book of the Duchess, this process is compared specifically to a chess game between two
individuals, the grieving Man in Black and the personification of fortune. The Knight’s Tale
increases the cast of characters, the playing field, and even the number of levels of the game,
wherein Fortune is not portrayed so much as a specific character but as an impersonal force
which influences the actions of gods and humans, and the struggle to impose order on disorder
plays out in both spheres as well. While there is no direct evidence that Chaucer may have
entertained such a premise, in effect, the Knight’s Tale can be viewed as a multi-dimensional
chess game played by primary and ancillary opponents on a variety of levels from the individual
and mundane to the cosmic.
II.
Chaucer and Chess
According to historian David Shenk, the game of chess is “a miniature reflection of
society” which has been used as a metaphor encompassing “everything from romantic love to
economics” for the entirety of its history.1 In the Middle Ages, it was a part of the nobility’s
education (male and female), as well as an often illicit amusement among the religious orders,
despite frequent bans due to its association with gambling. By Chaucer’s day, several literary
works on chess had been published. He would have been familiar with at least two of them,
Jacobus de Cessolis’ Liber de moribus hominum et officiis nobelium (“Book of the customs of
men and the duties of nobles”), or The Book of Chesse, and Jeu de Echecs by Jehan Vignay. 2
Gerry Wolfson-Grande 2
There has been some debate among chess scholars as to the first, as Caxton did not publish the
first English version until the mid-fifteenth century; but, as Guillemette Bolens and Paul
Beekman Taylor point out, numerous translations did exist in French, Latin, and German prior to
that point, and Chaucer likely would have read it in either French or Latin. 3 Even though
Chaucer made few references to the game in his own work other than the Black Knight’s
soliloquy in Book of the Duchess, historian Jenny Adams concurs with Bolens, stating that
Chaucer’s access to the poems and romances of the period, rich in “chess lore and myth,” would
have given him more than enough familiarity with the game and its conventions, literary and
otherwise. 4 Furthermore, according to medievalist Mark Taylor, Chaucer’s reference to
“jeopardyes”5 is based on specific knowledge of written collections of chess problems, also
known as jeopardies or partita, two of which surviving today have been dated to the late
thirteenth or early fourteenth century in England.6
Interestingly, medieval chess games frequently played out in violence once the issue of
checkmate, or pending checkmate, arose, the implication being that losing or resigning did not
rest easily on the medieval mind. Many of the romances refer to games ending in duels, or even
outright brawls, rather than in checkmates, complete with pieces being thrown and boards being
used either as weapons or shields. 7 In this light, even a tournament is not outside the realm of
possibility!
III.
Fortune and Her Wheel
The influence of fortune is at the heart of both poems. In the Book of the Duchess,
Chaucer links it directly to the chess metaphor, presenting “fals Fortune” as the Black Knight’s
opponent.8 As was common in both chess practice and literature in the Middle Ages, 9 the Black
Knight has chosen to gamble on this match, but the stakes are much more substantial than a
Gerry Wolfson-Grande 3
typical wager, for he is playing with the life of his lady.10 It is also a pointless bet; at a crucial
point in the game, Fortune captures the Black Knight’s fers, or queen, representing his lady, and
polishes him off with an errant pawn one move later.11 Within a few moves, Fortune displays just
how quickly her wheel can fling a hapless mortal from its top to the ground. Taylor points out
that the Black Knight’s ignorance of Fortune’s dual nature allowed him to delude himself as to
“what to expect at the height of his happiness.”12 But the Knight’s resentment of Fortune’s whim
is temporary; he eventually does acknowledge, however ruefully, that he “wolde have drawe the
same draughte” regardless of any opportunity for foreknowledge of Fortune’s capricious
nature.13 His grief, then, is for the actual physical loss of his love rather than constituting an
embittered outcry towards his opponent, whose influence over the lives of men he understands
and accepts even while wishing she had treated him differently.
The concept of Fortune as an impartial and arbitrary entity was a continuing focus during
the Middle Ages. Howard Patch delineates three primary viewpoints: the romantic, “content to
leave things to chance, with or without personification”; the rationalist, who, in the AristotleanAquinian tradition, denied Fortune’s existence; and those in the middle, who “held to a belief in
chance subordinate to reason, a kind of personification of Aristotle’s causa per accidents.”14 He
notes that, in a contest between the philosopher and the poet to further define the third category,
the poet would succeed in refuting the “hardheaded philosopher” by “replying that even the
philosopher must admit the existence of apparent chance.”15 Patch also contends that Fortune’s
increased literary visibility during a time when poets freely borrowed from their predecessors
and each other, as well as the highly unstable political and social environment, increasing a sense
that “circumstances really turn on the wheel of the fickle goddess,” also contributed to bringing
Fortune’s role, now super-sized, back into the popular spotlight.16
Gerry Wolfson-Grande 4
This is the Fortune of the Knight’s Tale, perhaps more force than persona, but Chaucer
deliberately makes her powerful enough to affect the orderly progression of life and the fates of
the tale’s characters, diverging from Boccaccio’s example. In the Teseida delle Nozze d’Emilia,
Fortune is frequently characterized as “angry,” 17 “wretched,”18 and “cruel,”19 or reviled with
specific reference to the individual complaint. Only at the beginning of Book VI does Boccaccio
acknowledge her random whimsy:
Fortune, that lofty governess of the world who changes one thing into another
over and over with her inconstant movements . . . just as it suits her to do and how
and when it suits her.20
Chaucer views her with more consistent objectivity. 21 Palamon and Arcite are ruled by Fortune
in all of her aspects, although Arcite acknowledges it far more frequently, beginning with his
observation while both share the same prison that Fortune gave them “this adversitee.”22 Having
acknowledged Fortune’s influence, Arcite is even inclined to fling himself toward what she
might hold for him regardless of any potential cost, proclaiming, “And everich of us take his
aventure,” and clings to this belief despite being exiled from Athens (and Emelye).23 While
Palamon acknowledges the power of Fortune, he does not understand the connection between it
and any actions he might take.24 This dynamic is emphasized in the relationships between the
two and their respective patron gods, Mars and Venus, who “act along the most simple lines of
policy as if they were pieces in a game of chess,” 25 as well as the influence of Fortune on all
four. Alexandra Cook has observed that the lovers perceive a connection “between the act of
surrendering oneself to the mercy of capricious, whimsical gods and surrendering oneself to the
experience of romantic love.”26
Nor is Fortune content with merely ruling the affairs of Palamon, Arcite, and the object
of their mutual desire, Emelye. Even the social and political structure created by Theseus is
Gerry Wolfson-Grande 5
subjected to Fortune’s regard, and the case could be made that it is the true target of Fortune’s
actions. The Knight’s Tale contains a distinct progression of actions and events, much as the
progression of a chess game: move, encounter/attack, immediate result, and ramifications
reaching beyond the initial battle to affect the stability and fortunes of both sides. The element of
chance represented by wagering in the medieval game, including dice play that frequently
involved variations to moves dictated by the roll of the dice, 27 equates to the role of Fortune in
the tale. Even when a particular encounter appears to be moving toward a specific and perhaps
obvious conclusion, Fortune’s hand tosses the dice and introduces an unexpected element to
change the direction of the game.
Merle Fifield has analyzed the patterns of specific incidents within the Knight’s Tale,
contending that they “follow a simple cause-to-result climactic order resolved by the intervention
of Fortune or her agent,” with the additional element of celestial disorder “resolved by the
intervention of Fortune in the character of Saturn” during the theater section:
The opening section demonstrates the irresistible force of Fortune; the duel
illustrates the failure of individual action; the description of the theater proves the
failure of all earthly order; the tournament illustrates the failure of corporate
action; and the sermon offers the only solution to survival in a world governed by
eternal change against which both man and society are powerless. 28
This pattern is not dissimilar to a chess match: opening exploratory moves; interaction between
questing lesser pieces aimed at winnowing down the opponent’s forces; extended battling by
lesser and key pieces; and eventual mate or resignation acknowledging inescapable helplessness.
Even though, like Arcite, the player may attempt to anticipate his opponent’s actions, accepting
their likelihood and that of his own contribution to the direction of play, the element of the
unknown, or chance, can deliver the unexpected at any time and send the game careening in a
different direction. Fifield points out that the “consistent original impetus of all action is force—
Gerry Wolfson-Grande 6
Theseus’ force and Fortune’s force—neither of which can be directed or reversed by Palamon
and Arcite.”29 One goes off into exile, the other remains in prison, and the Knight asks the
company which “hath the worse.”30 The hand of Fortune lies equally heavily on them both.
Fortune returns with equally arbitrary impartiality in Part II of the Knight’s Tale. Through
somewhat vague circumstances involving assistance by an unidentified “friend,” but which the
Knight imputes to “aventure or destynee -- / As, whan a thing is shapen, it shal be,” Palamon
slips his leash and escapes.31 Fortune then turns her attention to Arcite, who coincidentally
manages to blunder into the exact same shrubbery where Palamon lurks “as by aventure.”32
Fifield contends that the degree to which their enmity is renewed is the result of their mutual
realization that, rather than each being free to pursue Emelye’s hand without interference, they
have both been duped by Fortune once again, and that this is the cause of the animal viciousness
with which they fight.33 Once again, however, Fortune interferes, this time by utilizing the
would-be agent of order, Theseus, who stops the duel, separates the players, and imposes his
own interpretation of Fortune’s will upon them: “That ech of yow shal have his destynee / As
hym is shape, and herkneth in what wyse; / Lo heere youre ende of that I shal devyse.”34
The construction of the lists and associated temples in Part III is representative of the
continued order instituted by Theseus, the wheel of Fortune notwithstanding. Chaucer’s lengthy
descriptive passages accentuate this aspect by their comprehensiveness, to the point where, as
Muscatine remarks, the descriptions seem to “consume the full fifty weeks that Theseus allows
for it.”35 The ponderous progression is also reminiscent of the mid-game in chess, as lengthy
combinations of moves are made in an attempt to establish a defensive bulwark from which to
launch one’s own offensives. The setting is relatively secure as the three supplicants visit the
temples of their respective patron gods (or goddesses). Even the varying degrees of vague
Gerry Wolfson-Grande 7
assurance rendered are not overly disturbing: Venus shakes and makes an indeterminate
“signe”;36 the metal accoutrements and doors on Mars’ temple ring and clatter, and Arcite
believes he hears a voice saying “Victorie.”37 Ironically, the ever-present Wheel does not cast as
large a shadow for the young men during their supplications, despite their frequent references to
its owner up to this point, as for Emelye. Only Diana is willing to concede the potential influence
of Fortune, telling Emelye that she cannot say which rival will claim the reluctant maiden.38
With the focus on the two young men and their patrons, this reminder of Fortune’s role
may not necessarily seem significant. Chaucer’s descriptions of the temples, however, should
give it more weight. His inclusion of a blind Cupid “as it is often seene” in Venus’ temple 39 as
well as geomantic figures Puella and Rubeus in Mars’ entourage40 point more specifically to
Fortune’s influence. Then there is Diana’s temple, where the goddess, standing on a “wexynge”
moon that “sholde wanye soone,”41 is surrounded by representations of unfortunates in Greek
mythology who underwent transformations of some sort through her agency, 42 and most of
whom were her victims. 43 When the mutability aspect of the moon, personified in Diana, is
added to these representations, the looming persona of Fortune is no longer avoidable.44
Once Fortune enlists the participation of Saturn, however, the course of the tournament is
firmly under her control. This is a major deviation from the Teseida; Boccaccio does not release
Saturn from his Tartarean pit, but assigns the task of retrieving the hellish Furies to Venus in
accordance with the agreement she has made with Mars as to the resolution of the battle. 45
Chaucer, however, frees the Saturn/Cronus figure and puts him to work. In fact, he first appears
in Arcite’s initial mention of Fortune and her influence upon the unfortunate cousins’ paths in
life:
Fortune hath yeven us this adversitee.
Som wikke aspect or disposicioun
Gerry Wolfson-Grande 8
Of Saturne, by som constellacioun,
Hath yeven us this, although we hadde it sworn;
So stood the hevene whan that we were born. 46
One school of criticism sees Saturn as the “evil genius” of the Knight’s Tale, a
malevolent power superseding even Jupiter.47 Yet the Knight’s introduction of Saturn does not
appear to ascribe absolute independence to Saturn’s force; at most, it implies equality with
Fortune. However, Fortune receives primary billing where Arcite (who comments frequently on
Fortune and her actions) is concerned, and it is only a heavenly “aspect or disposicioun” of
Saturn, rather than the entire personality, which he mentions secondarily. Additionally, Saturn
himself is surprisingly reticent about the extent of his powers. He begins by claiming that his
“cours, that hath so wyde for to turne, / Hath moore power than woot any man.”48 Yet his selfproclaimed orbit of influence is limited; although he governs such matters as punishment of
criminals, pestilence, and other dark and fatal areas, he then points out that “I do vengeance and
pleyn correccioun, / Whil I dwelle in the signe of the leoun.”49
This last statement presents an interesting question as well. In The Age of Saturn:
literature and history in the Canterbury Tales, authors Brown and Butcher examine several of
the tales, including the Knight’s Tale, in the context of historical events during the latter part of
the fourteenth century. 50 Saturn’s journey from one zodiacal sign to another takes about twentyfive months, requiring approximately twenty-nine years (including retrograde movement) to
complete the entire tour; it would have been in Leo between July 1387 and August 1389.51 If one
accepts Brown and Butcher’s premise, Chaucer might very well have taken this factor into
consideration. However, according to astrologer Stephanie Johnson, Saturn’s dominant signs, its
“Essential Dignities,” are Capricorn and Aquarius; Leo, as a sign in direct opposition and thus an
“Essential Debility,” would have actually decreased Saturn’s influence. 52 Considering the
Gerry Wolfson-Grande 9
various astronomical and astrological references in the Knight’s Tale alone, it seems that
Chaucer would have been aware of Saturn’s ascribed abilities in the different signs. While Saturn
would still evince his malefic aspect during his journey through Leo, he would not have been
considered to possess any significant degree of clout at that time. Chaucer could have easily
placed him in Aquarius or, better yet, Capricorn, the stronger of Saturn’s two dominant signs,
thus giving him the necessary standing.
Chaucer deliberately evokes Saturn’s planetary aspect rather than giving him omnipotent
maleficent powers, referring to him as “pale saturnus the colde,” with orbit “so wyde for to
turne.”53 According to David Gaylord, Saturn may have more power than any man knows, 54 but
he is only “an astrological adjunct to Boethian themes of providence, destiny, and free will.” 55
Dorothy Bethurum Loomis makes a similar observation, noting that Chaucer’s use of Saturn
represents the Neoplatonist view that “all [planets] express the will of Providence.”56 Perhaps
even more significant is the fact that, as Gaylord points out, other than Arcite’s initial reference
to Fortune and Saturn,57 none of the key human players even acknowledge Saturn’s existence in
general or view him as a maker of destiny, much less as one on a par with or superior to
Fortune.58
Given the overwhelming influence of Fortune through the first three parts, then, as well
as the failure of any character to echo or even refer to Saturn’s declarations, not to mention the
purely arbitrary choice of mechanism employed to fling Arcite from the top to the bottom of
Fortune’s wheel, embodied in the Fury summarily summoned by Pluto at the snap of Saturn’s
fingers, it is difficult to credit that Fortune has conceded her control of the game to a sole god,
however inimical, who is technically subservient to another god. An analogy could be drawn
between the Fury of the Knight’s Tale and the “poune erraunt” of the Book of the Duchess;59
Gerry Wolfson-Grande 10
having established her supremacy on both playing fields by capturing the Black Knight’s queen
on the one and successfully inciting Venus and Saturn to conspire to wreak havoc on the other,
Fortune can employ lesser means to finish off her chosen victims.
It is far more conceivable, therefore, that Saturn is acting as Fortune’s agent. Fifield
states that men and gods alike are ruled by Fortune; “a meaningless human order is dedicated to
a disordered hierarchy of minor controlling forces who, in turn, are subject to Fortune grinding
all beneath Her wheel. . .the intervention of Saturn [in achieving Arcite’s downfall], as Fortune
and not what men think Fortune is, makes the expected reversal which more completely
separates the lovers than before.”60 Even Brown and Butcher concede that Egeus, Saturn’s
representative, possesses “mind-numbing ‘wisdom’. . .based on the life-long observation of
change. . .The ‘up and down’ process is the movement of Fortune’s wheel.”61
Chaucer leaves no room for doubt in the Knight’s Tale as to the role of Fortune and the
effect of her wheel, deliberately choosing to intermix the latter concept with the Knight’s
“concern with the instability of human ‘wele’ astride the ever-turning wheel of Fortune.”62
Saturn’s comment to Venus concerning his wide-turning course63 is further evidence of
Chaucer’s play on words, emphasizing the fact that neither gods nor humanity have any control
over either the wheel of Fortune or the course of her agents, the planet deities.64 As Kathleen
Blake notes: “The deciding force is actually Fortune, which pervades the tale. At every step of
the way we hear of Fortune, Fortune’s wheel, Fortune’s dice, Fate, ‘Nature,’ ‘aventure,’ ‘cas,’
‘nedes coste,’ providence, Boethian ‘destinee,’ the stars, the gods.”65 Clearly, it is Fortune who is
in charge here, of men and gods alike. 66
Gerry Wolfson-Grande 11
IV.
Order and Disorder
Chaucer explores the antagonistic interaction between order and disorder, or logic and
chaos, to a small extent in the Book of the Duchess before adopting it as a primary theme in the
Knight’s Tale. The narrator, observing a hunt passing through the woods, inquires of one of the
dog handlers who hunts there, and is told, “the emperor Octovien.”67 James Winny interprets this
reference to an unseen authority and the potential disruption stirred up by the hunt as an
indication that Chaucer was feeling his way towards “expression of this emerging interest” in the
“contest between authority and disorder.”68
While Winny’s conjecture is relatively minor, the significance of the relationship
between order and disorder is more substantial in the Knight’s Tale. Along with Fortune, it
defines the relationship and rivalry between Palamon and Arcite, the actions of the various gods
who become involved, and Theseus’ efforts to arbitrate suitable outcomes; the effect of Fortune’s
chaotic influence on each exacerbates all three areas. Robert Blanch and Julian Wasserman relate
the separate choices of traditionally linked colors made by the two heroes (red for Arcite, white
for Palamon) to a “dualism that is of their own making rather than of ontological
fact . . . . separating those things which are traditionally intertwined and are hence disrupting
what might be viewed as a natural unity.”69 It is up to Theseus to combine the two colors, and
presumably repair this dualism, as the “practitioner of moderation” and “arbiter and. . .restorer of
balance and order.” Fifield suggests that it is in fact the “trial and error method of meditation,
action, and defeat” employed by Palamon and Arcite that allows Theseus to evolve from his
early role as conqueror to that of problem-solver, developing “a progression of logical
deductions, each of which proceeds from his earlier deduction and all of which appear in his
sermon as necessary steps in achieving his conclusion.”70
Gerry Wolfson-Grande 12
According to Charles Muscatine, the Knight’s Tale is a “poetic pageant” in which the
“general tenor of noble life. . .invokes order” with a “constant awareness of a formidably
antagonistic element—chaos, disorder—which in life is an ever-threatening possibility.”71 This
order is supported by symmetry in the various groupings of characters, whether they are humans
or gods, and even the descriptions of structures contain a balance.72 As king and proponent of the
principles designated by the Prime Mover, Theseus is the primary representative of order in the
poem. 73 In fact, Muscatine contends, “When the earthly designs suddenly crumble, true nobility
is faith in the ultimate order of all things. Saturn, disorder, nothing more or less, is the agent of
Arcite’s death, and Theseus, noble in the highest sense, interprets it in the deepest perspective.”74
Not all Chaucer scholars agree with Muscatine in his glorification of Theseus as prime
standard-bearer for Order. Joseph Westlund believes that Theseus is woefully inadequate to the
task, and that the Knight’s true focus is the “subversion of noble efforts to bring order out of
disorder.”75 He does not so much assign responsibility for this subversion to Fortune as to the
entire pantheon of gods, although he assigns the role of “misfortune” to Saturn; more
importantly, Westlund considers the presence of the gods and their attendant disruptive aspects
to imply that the lives of mortals have little meaning in this context, particularly absent any
constructive effort by Theseus to resolve the situation in favor of order. 76 Blake contends that
Theseus’ “ordering will is not a medium through which chaos is subdued and divine providence
put into effect on earth in the form of civil law and the civilized life.” 77 E.D. Blodgett takes
opposition to Muscatine’s premise a step further: “Theseus provides a static order within chaos
by providing prisons, temples, and elaborate tournaments. Each is a spatial and geometric
response to events, and each issues, wittingly or not, in strife and finally death.” 78 This statement
is particularly interesting in terms of a chess-related reading of the Knight’s Tale, as it conjures
Gerry Wolfson-Grande 13
images of formations of chess pieces, with rooks (prisons), bishops (temples), and knights
(tournaments), along with the inherent symmetry of the game and the concept of ordered battles
between pieces.
Muscatine considers Chaucer’s attitude towards disorder perhaps as being even more
significant than his treatment of order, although, again, it could be said that it is the resolution
toward order which enhances that significance. He describes the “subsurface insistence on
disorder,” including Saturn’s speeches, to be “the poem’s crowning complexity, its most
compelling claim to maturity.”79 In that sense, as noted above, Muscatine’s conclusion that
Theseus, as interpreter and problem-solver, is a vital representation of order, is reasonable. 80
Others are not willing to go quite that far, preferring to cast Saturn in the role of chief
agent of chaos, who may or may not be acting in accord with Fortune, or who may be acting
entirely independently of any other influences. According to Robert Emmett Finnegan, Chaucer
chose to add Saturn to the cast of characters borrowed from Boccaccio in order to emphasize
“the problematic character of his gods, the serious nature of the division in heaven, and the
ominous inability of the high god to resolve it.”81 Blake views Saturn as an outsider, a type of
universal outlaw, who creates “arbitrary and willful” solutions to problems with little or no
concern for the ramifications of his actions. 82 Interestingly, she also comments that here one sees
that “order may be created out of nothing, for no all-encompassing rational purpose, but out of
gratuitous impulses of will.” 83 Considering that Saturn even admits that his primary motive for
involving himself is to achieve peace between the squabbling Mars and Venus, 84 rather than any
significant demonstration of his power, Blake may have a valid point. This does, however, then
beg the question as to whether the influence of disorder, possibly operating at Fortune’s
command, can actually create the opposite condition, in which case perhaps Theseus may
Gerry Wolfson-Grande 14
actually be on the right track. Regardless of the nature of Saturn’s compulsions, he represents the
major voice of disorder in the Knight’s Tale, thus providing an underlying support to Fortune’s
directives.
V.
Conclusion: The “Beste Game of Alle”
Having made his plan for the tournament, Theseus congratulates himself on having
perpetrated the “beste game of alle” on the two knights because the object of their desire,
Emelye, is totally unaware of her role in their rivalry. 85 Larry Benson, editor of the Canterbury
Tales Complete, defines “game” here as “joke,”86 although the Middle English “game” carries a
variety of other meanings as well, including “[a]n athletic contest; also, a game of chess,
backgammon, dice, etc.; a tournament or jousting.”87 This incorporates the sense of a prank
being played within the larger gameplay of the tournament, and within the even larger cosmic
game of chess. It is not unreasonable, then, to view Chaucer’s choice of words as significant.
When Fortune takes her place in the design, the scope of the “game” transforms from a
minor contest into the greater conflict between chaos and order, with the element of
dispassionate chance perpetually shifting the balance. Fortune’s wheel does not dictate a specific
fate for the individual. Rather, it allows for the possibility of change, which may be the
consequence of mischance or occur at the arbitrary instigation of some other factor, and which
may have a positive or a negative result, or both. The Book of the Duchesse and the Knight’s
Tale ultimately end in tragedy, capped by the actions of the errant pawn and the short-lived Fury,
both representations of Fortune’s capricious nature. Whether in play with a single individual or
on a larger cosmic board, Fortune wields the chess pieces, enlisting the assistance of forces of
order and chaos as she sees fit.
Gerry Wolfson-Grande 15
1
David Shenk, The Immortal Game: A History of Chess (New York: Random House, 2006), 15.
2
Guillemette Bolens and Paul Beekman Taylor, “The Game of Chess in Chaucer's Book of the
Duchess,” The Chaucer Review 32.4 (1998): 330, accessed March 6, 2011, DOI: 10.1353/
cr.2001.0014.
3
Ibid., 330.
4
Jenny Adams, “Pawn Takes Knight's Queen: Playing with Chess in the Book of the Duchess,”
The Chaucer Review 34.2 (1999): 129, accessed March 6, 2011, http://www.jstor.org/stable/
25096082.
5
Geoffrey Chaucer, The Boke of the Duchesse, The Online Medieval & Classical Library: line
666, accessed January 24, 2011, http://omacl.org/Duchess.
6
Mark N. Taylor, “Chaucer’s Knowledge of Chess,” The Chaucer Review 38.4 (2004): 303,
accessed March 28, 2010, DOI: 10.1353/cr.2004.
7
H. J. R. Murray, A History of Chess (Oxford: Clarendon, 1913), 739-742.
8
Chaucer, The Boke of the Duchesse, lines 618-619.
9
Adams, “Pawn Takes Knight's Queen,” 133.
10
Chaucer, The Boke of the Duchesse, lines 668-672.
11
Ibid., 654-661.
12
Taylor, “Chaucer’s Knowledge of Chess,” 308.
13
Chaucer, The Boke of the Duchesse, line 682.
14
Howard R. Patch, “Chaucer and Lady Fortune,” The Modern Language Review 22.4 (1927):
378, accessed March 6, 2011, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3714845.
15
Ibid., 378.
16
Ibid., 379.
17
Giovanni Boccaccio, The Book of Theseus: Teseida delle Nozze d’Emilia, trans. Bernadette
Marie McCoy (New York: Medieval Text Association, 1974), Book III, line 76.
18
Ibid., Book IV, line 80.
19
Ibid., Book IV, line 86.
Gerry Wolfson-Grande 16
20
Ibid., Book VI, line 1.
21
It should be noted that the word “fortune” itself appears twelve times over the course of the
tale; its equivalent, “aventure,” twelve times as well, and other references such as “wheel” and
“destynee” or “destinee” appear at least another seven times.
22
Geoffrey Chaucer, Knight’s Tale, The Canterbury Tales Complete, ed. Larry D. Benson
(Boston: Houghton, 2000), fragment 1, line 1086.
23
Ibid., lines 1186, 1238.
24
Merle Fifield, “The Knight's Tale: Incident, Idea, Incorporation,” The Chaucer Review 3.2
(1968): 98, accessed March 8, 2011, http://www.jstor.org/stable/25093079.
25
C. David Benson, “The ‘Knight's Tale’ as History,” The Chaucer Review 3.2 (Fall, 1968): 110,
accessed March 10, 2011, http://www.jstor.org/stable/25093080.
26
Alexandra Cook, “‘O swete harm so queynt’: Loving Pagan Antiquity in Troilus and Criseyde
and in the Knight’s Tale,” English Studies 91.1 (2010): 36, accessed March 5, 2011, DOI:
10.1080/00138380903355064.
27
Murray, A History of Chess, 474-475.
28
Fifield, “The Knight's Tale: Incident, Idea, Incorporation,” 97.
29
Ibid., 99.
30
Chaucer, Knight’s Tale, line 1348.
31
Ibid., lines 1465-1466.
32
Ibid., line 1516.
33
Fifield, “The Knight's Tale: Incident, Idea, Incorporation,” 100-101.
34
Chaucer, Knight’s Tale, lines 1842-1844.
35
Charles Muscatine, Chaucer and the French Tradition: A Study in Style and Meaning
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), 177.
36
Chaucer, Knight’s Tale, lines 2265-2266.
37
Ibid., lines 2422-2432.
38
Ibid., lines 2351-2353.
39
Ibid., lines 1963-1965.
Gerry Wolfson-Grande 17
40
Ibid., lines 2043-2045.
41
Ibid., line 2078.
42
Ibid., lines 2062-2072.
43
Susan Crane, Gender and Romance in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1994), 182.
44
Kathleen Blake, “Order and the Noble Life in Chaucer's Knight's Tale?” Modern Language
Quarterly 34.1 (1973): 17, accessed March 6, 2011, DOI:10.1215/00267929-34-1-3.
45
Boccaccio, Teseida delle Nozze d’Emilia, Book IX, line 4.
46
Chaucer, Knight’s Tale, lines 1085-1090.
47
Peter Brown and Andrew Butcher, The Age of Saturn: literature and history in the Canterbury
Tales (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), 31.
48
Chaucer, Knight’s Tale, lines 2454-2455.
49
Ibid., lines 2461-2462.
50
Brown and Butcher, The Age of Saturn.
51
CyberWorld Khaldea, Ephemeris 1300-1399, accessed April 10, 2011, http://www.khaldea.
com/ephemcenter.shtml.
52
Stephanie Johnson, “The Essentials of Essential Dignities,” Astrological Journal 39.6 (1997):
2, accessed April 10, 2011, http://www.seeingwithstars.net/images/EssDig.pdf. For purposes of
this specific paper, further exploration of this particular line of inquiry is not practical, but it is
interesting.
53
Chaucer, Knight’s Tale, lines 2443, 2454.
54
Ibid., line 2455.
55
Alan T. Gaylord, “The Role of Saturn in the Knight’s Tale,” The Chaucer Review 8 (1974):
174, accessed March 10, 2011, http://www.jstor.org/stable/25093266.
56
Dorothy Bethurum Loomis, “Saturn in Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale,” in Chaucer und seine Zeit:
Symposium für Walter F. Schirmer, ed. Esch, Arno. Buchreihe der Anglia: Zeitschrift für
englische Philologie (Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 1968), 159.
57
Chaucer, Knight’s Tale, lines 1085-1090.
58
Gaylord, “The Role of Saturn in the Knight’s Tale,” 184.
Gerry Wolfson-Grande 18
59
Chaucer, The Boke of the Duchesse, line 661.
60
Fifield, “The Knight's Tale: Incident, Idea, Incorporation,” 103.
61
Brown and Butcher, The Age of Saturn, 228; referencing Chaucer, The Knight’s Tale, lines
2839-2841.
62
Thomas A. Van, “Second Meanings in Chaucer's Knight's Tale,” The Chaucer Review 3.2
(Fall, 1968): 72, accessed March 10, 2011, http://www.jstor.org/stable/25093076.
63
Chaucer, Knight’s Tale, line 2454.
64
Van, “Second Meanings in Chaucer's Knight's Tale,” 73.
65
Blake, “Order and the Noble Life in Chaucer's Knight's Tale,” 11.
66
Brown and Butcher’s The Age of Saturn contains an illustration captioned “Dicing, gaming
and sudden death: the children of Saturn,” which displays De sphaera by Johannes de
Sacrobosco. The painting shows Saturn standing in a sphere accompanied by two smaller ones
containing his astrological signs, above a village scene. Gamblers are dicing on the left side of
the street; sudden death (presumably of the gamblers) is happening on the right. In the middle is
a walkway set out in a checkerboard pattern, and a chess game is in progress in the front center
(Plate 1).
67
Chaucer, The Boke of the Duchesse, lines 365-386.
68
James Winny, Chaucer’s Dream-Poems (New York: Harper, 1973), 41.
69
Robert J. Blanch and Julian N. Wasserman, “White and Red in the Knight’s Tale: Chaucer’s
Manipulation of a Convention,” in Chaucer in the Eighties, ed. Julian N. Wasserman and Robert
J. Blanch (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1986), 176.
70
Fifield, “The Knight's Tale: Incident, Idea, Incorporation,” 97.
71
Muscatine, Chaucer and the French Tradition, 179.
72
Ibid., 178.
73
Ibid., 184.
74
Ibid., 190.
75
Joseph Westlund, “The Knight’s Tale as an Impetus for Pilgrimage,” Philological Quarterly
43 (1964): 526-529.
76
Ibid., 532.
Gerry Wolfson-Grande 19
77
Blake, “Order and the Noble Life in Chaucer's Knight's Tale,” 15.
78
E.D. Blodgett, “Chaucerian Pryvetee and the Opposition to Time.” Speculum 51.3 (1976): 487,
accessed March 6, 2011, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2851709.
79
Muscatine, Chaucer and the French Tradition, 189.
80
Ibid., 190.
81
Robert Emmett Finnegan, “The Curious Condition of Being: The City and the Grove in the
Knight’s Tale,” Studies in Philology 106.3 (2009): 286, accessed March 5, 2011, DOI:
10.1353/sip.0.0026.
82
Blake, “Order and the Noble Life in Chaucer's Knight's Tale,” 17.
83
Ibid., 17.
84
Chaucer, Knight’s Tale, line 2474.
85
Chaucer, Knight’s Tale, lines 1806-1808.
86
Chaucer, Knight’s Tale, note to line 1806.
87
Middle English Dictionary. University of Michigan, 2001, accessed March 14, 2011,
http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/m/mec/med-idx?size=First+100&type=headword&q1=game&
rgxp=constrained
Gerry Wolfson-Grande 1
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