Palamon and Arcite

"Palamon and Arcite" is part of Fables, Ancient and Modern written by John Dryden and published in 1700. "Palamon and Arcite" is a translation of "The Knight's Tale" from The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. Although the plot line is identical, Dryden expanded the original text with poetic embellishments. The source of Chaucer's tale was Boccaccio's "Teseida".


The four central characters remain the same as in Chaucer's story. Palamon, possible cousin of Arcite, is at least "brother-in-arms" according to Dryden. Arcite is a knight of royal blood, although this is not fully explained in the text. Emily (Emelye or Emilye) is the "princess" and stepdaughter or possibly niece of the king. And King Theseus is the (Duke of Athens).


The story is of two knights, Palamon and Arcite, imprisoned by Theseus after being found unconscious after a battle. They are held in a dungeon from which they can see into a courtyard or garden. One day Palamon, looking through the bars of his cell, sees Emily. Falling in love instantly, Palamon cries out, causing Arcite to ask his friend what is wrong. Palamon declares his newfound love for Emily, and as Arcite listens, he sees Emily. Turning to Palamon, Arcite claims that because he first recognized her as mortal and not a goddess, Arcite has the right to woo Emily.

Later, one of Arcite's friends begs Theseus to free his prisoner; Theseus agrees, but banishes Arcite. The love-struck knight returns, disguised as one of Theseus's servants. The story unfolds as each knight endures different challenges to prove his love for Emily.

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