The Shifts in Power
Since the first war man has always sought for power over another. It is through the power struggles in business, countries, and communities that leaders emerge. Through the ever changing war fare, power can shift from one person to another without the other knowing it. This is the case in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, as the characters who initially possess the power unknowingly gives it to other characters.
In the “The Knight’s Tale” Duke Theseus’ power subtly shifts to the Queen and Emily. Theseus had power over many kingdoms and their people. Theseus captures the city of Thebes and takes Palamon and Arcite prisoner. He then sentences them to a life in prison. Later he allows Arcite to be set free with the stipulation of being banished from his Kingdom. Theseus later allows Palamon and Arcite to live and fight for the honor of marrying his daughter Emily. He had the power to change the rules of the battle so that their armies will not be able to kill each other. He didn’t want innocent blood being shed. This shows that Theseus has all the power over whether Palamon or Arcite lives, and who Emily will wed.
During the story of “The Knight’s Tale” Theseus unknowingly gives the Queen and Emily power. When the group stumbles upon Palamon and Arcite fighting for Emily’s hand, Theseus comes upon the pair and says, “I readily forgave the whole affair, both at the Queens request, that on her knees petitions my sister Emily” (52). This shows that even though Theseus has the power to use Emily as a prize. Her tears and begging caused Theseus to change his mind about punishing Palamon and Arctie. When Palomon and Arctie both fall in love with Emily, she then has power over them because they will do anything for her.
In the “The Miller’s Tale” the shift in power is also seen. Nicholas a clerk in the church had the town convinced that he was able to see the future. They believed that he spoke to God, and whatever he said was...