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By A J Gilbert

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Such language would be quite unsuitable for the refined idealism of the middle style. In this brief sequence of three passages from The Knight's Tale we can observe a narrative function in the low style, a descriptive function in the middle style, and the pathos and tragic splendour of the high style. The tone of the poem as a whole is built up from such variety of style, and character is seen in the light of the varying local context. There is no one, simple view of Arcite, Palamon, Emily and Duke Theseus.

Mars is far too malicious to miss the chance of this cruel trickery. And his temple should have told Arcite what to expect. The audience would Chaucer and Skelton 39 at least have read the signs aright. The tragic romance narrative is a structural artefact, shaped and designed for them. Arcite, unlike the audience, is blind to the full pattern of Fate. The temples of Mars and Venus show two sides of the feudal world, as Chaucer understood it. There is always the threat of disorder, conflict and fierce self-assertion, which can be seen in the most ordinary circumstances of life as well as in open war.

These are not ideas or states of mind as much as events- for even malice can only show in actions. The artist rightly chooses the low style for such topics; they are part of the real world, not a social ideal such as courtly love. The discordant imagery in these lines is far more familiar and realistic than the middle style; the disorder and random effect is quite alien to the high style. Here is no integrated assertion of the will towards an heroic end: Ther saugh I first the derke imaginyng Of Felonye, and al the compassyng; The crueel Ire, reed as any gleede; The pykepurs, and eek the pale Drede; The smylere with the knyf under the cloke; The shepne brennynge with the blake smoke; The tresoun of the mordrynge in the bedde; The open werre, with woundes al bibledde; Contek, with blody knyf and sharp manace.

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