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From The Knight's Tale, lines 1-34:
About Duke Theseus, lord of Athens, and his achievements
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From The Canterbury Tales:
The Knight's Tale
lines 35-93: Women complain that they have lost their husbands in battle


35       This duc of whom I make mencioun,
Whan he was come almoost unto the toun,
In al his wele and in his mooste pride,
He was war, as he caste his eye aside,
Where that ther kneled in the hye weye
40A compaignye of ladyes, tweye and tweye,
Ech after oother, clad in clothes blake;
But swich a cry and swich a wo they make,
That in this world nys creature lyvynge
That herde swich another waymentynge;
45And of this cry they nolde nevere stenten,
Til they the reynes of his brydel henten.
35       This duke of whom I speak, of great renown,
When he had drawn almost unto the town,
In all well-being and in utmost pride,
He grew aware, casting his eyes aside,
That right upon the road, as suppliants do,
40A company of ladies, two by two,
Knelt, all in black, before his cavalcade;
But such a clamorous cry of woe they made
That in the whole world living man had heard
No such a lamentation, on my word;
45Nor would they cease lamenting till at last
They'd clutched his bridle reins and held them fast.
      "What folk been ye, that at myn hom-comynge
Perturben so my feste with criynge?"
Quod Theseus. "Have ye so greet envye
50Of myn honour, that thus compleyne and crye?
Or who hath yow mysboden or offended?
And telleth me if it may been amended,
And why that ye been clothed thus in blak?"
      "What folk are you that at my home-coming
Disturb my triumph with this dolorous thing?"
Cried Theseus. "Do you so much envy
50My honour that you thus complain and cry?
Or who has wronged you now, or who offended?
Come, tell me whether it may be amended;
And tell me, why are you clothed thus, in black?"
      The eldeste lady of hem alle spak-
55Whan she hadde swowned with a deedly cheere,
That it was routhe for to seen and heere-
And seyde, "Lord, to whom Fortune hath yiven
Victorie, and as a conqueror to lyven,
Nat greveth us youre glorie and youre honour,
60But we biseken mercy and socour.
Have mercy on oure wo and oure distresse,
Som drope of pitee thurgh thy gentillesse
Upon us wrecched wommen lat thou falle;
For certes, lord, ther is noon of us alle,
65That she ne hath been a duchesse or a queene.
Now be we caytyves, as it is wel seene,
Thanked be Fortune, and hir false wheel,
That noon estaat assureth to be weel.
And certes, lord, to abyden youre presence,
70Heere in the temple of the goddesse Clemence
We han ben waitynge al this fourtenyght;
Now help us, lord, sith it is in thy myght!
      The eldest lady of them answered back,
55After she'd swooned, with cheek so deathly drear
That it was pitiful to see and hear,
And said, "Lord, to whom Fortune has but given
Victory, and to conquer where you've striven,
Your glory and your honour grieve not us;
60But we beseech your aid and pity thus.
Have mercy on our woe and our distress.
Some drop of pity, of your gentleness,
Upon us wretched women, oh, let fall!
For see, lord, there is no one of us all
65That has not been a duchess or a queen;
Now we are captives, as may well be seen:
Thanks be to Fortune and her treacherous wheel,
There's none can rest assured of constant weal.
And truly, lord, expecting your return,
70In Pity's temple, where the fires yet burn,
We have been waiting through a long fortnight;
Now help us, lord, since it is in your might.
      I wrecche, which that wepe and waille thus,
Was whilom wyf to kyng Cappaneus,
75That starf at Thebes -cursed be that day!-
And alle we that been in this array
And maken al this lamentacioun,
We losten alle oure housbondes at that toun,
Whil that the seege theraboute lay.
80And yet now the olde Creon, weylaway!
That lord is now of Thebes the Citee,
Fulfild of ire and of iniquitee,
He, for despit and for his tirannye,
To do the dede bodyes vileynye,
85Of alle oure lordes, whiche that been slawe,
Hath alle the bodyes on an heep ydrawe,
And wol nat suffren hem, by noon assent,
Neither to been yburyed nor ybrent,
But maketh houndes ete hem in despit."
      I, wretched woman, who am weeping thus,
Was once the wife of King Capaneus,
75Who died at Thebes, oh, cursed be the day!
And all we that you see in this array,
And make this lamentation to be known,
All we have lost our husbands at that town
During the siege that round about it lay.
80And now the old Creon, ah welaway!
The lord and governor of Thebes city,
Full of his wrath and all iniquity,
He, in despite and out of tyranny,
To do the dead a shame and villainy,
85Of all our husbands, lying among the slain,
Has piled the bodies in a heap, amain,
And will not suffer them, nor give consent,
To buried be, or burned, nor will relent,
But sets his dogs to eat them, out of spite."
90       And with that word, withouten moore respit,
They fillen gruf, and criden pitously,
"Have on us wrecched wommen som mercy
And lat oure sorwe synken in thyn herte."
90       And on that word, at once, without respite,
They all fell prone and cried out piteously:
"Have on us wretched women some mercy,
And let our sorrows sink into your heart!"




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From The Knight's Tale, lines 94-116:
Theseus promises revenge
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