Friendship can be seen on two scales throughout the Tales: the brotherly connection between two men, and the ties that exist among members of a company. Friendships between knights were an extremely important part of chivalry, or the code of conduct that knights were supposed to follow. In The Knight’s Tale, Palamon and Arcite must choose between their chivalric bond to each other or their rival love for Emelye. For a knight, choosing a beloved over a brother jeopardizes the chivalric code.
Friendship between two individuals that turns into rivalry plays a key role in many of the tales. The Miller, responding directly to the Knight’s Tale, also gives a story involving a love triangle of two friends competing for the same woman. The Pardoner tells the tale of three friends who find buried treasure, but whose greed corrupts their friendship: they all plot against each other to gain more wealth for themselves.
The concept of the company is also a form of friendship that has its own social and economic rules. Several of the pilgrims that the Host introduces in the General Prologue are guildsmen. Medieval guilds were organizations of members of a specific trade (for example, carpenters) and formed the backbone of the economy. If there was fighting among members of a guild, or between rival guilds, the whole town would suffer. Even though each of the pilgrims comes from a different group, they all come together as one joint company on the pilgrimage. Many of the pilgrims end their tales by addressing the company at large, and the host often addresses all of them as a single group.
Friendship and Company ThemeTracker
Friendship and Company Quotes in The Canterbury Tales
Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendered is the flour;
Thanne longen folk to goon pilgrimages
And specially from every shires ende
OF Engelond to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blissful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they they were seeke.
Ful weel she soong the service dyvyne
Entuned in hir nose ful seemly,
And Frenssh she spak ful faire and fetisly,
After the scole of Stratford atte Bowe,
For Frenssh of Parys was to hir unknowe.
He yaf nat of that text a pulled hen,
That seith that hunters ben nat hooly men,
Ne that a monk, whan he is recchelees,
Is likned to a fissh that is waterlees––
This is to seyn, a monk out of his cloystre.
But thilke text heeld he nat worth an oyster.
Nowher so bisy a man as he there nas,
And yet he semed bisier than he was.
For May wole have no slagardie anyght.
The sesoun priketh every gentil herte,
And maketh it out of his slep to sterte.
Whilom, as olde stories tellen us,
Ther was a duc that highte Theseus;
Of Atthenes he was lord and governour,
And in his tyme swich a conquerour
That gretter was there noon under the sonne.
Ful many a rich contree hadde he wonne;
What with his wysdom and his chilvalrie.
And there, at the kynges court, my brother,
Ech man for himself, ther is noon oother.
The Firste Moevere of the cause above,
Whan he first made the fair cheyne of love,
Greet was th’effect, and heigh was his entente.
Wel wiste he why, and what thereof he mente,
For with that faire cheyne of love he bond
The fyr, the eyr, the water, and the lond
In certeyn boundes, that they may nat flee.
I kan a noble tale for the nones,
With which I wol now quite the Knyghes tale.
And therefore, whoso list it nat yheere,
Turne over the leef and chese another tale;
For he shal fynde ynow, gret and smale,
Of storial thing that toucheth gentilesse,
And eek moralitee and hoolynesse.
Blameth nat me if that ye chese amys.
The Miller is a cherl, ye know wel this.
Thus is the proude miller wel ybete,
And hath ylost the gryndynge of the whete,
And payed for the soper everideel
Of Aleyn and of John, that bette hym weel.
His wyf is swyved, and his doghter als.
Low, swich it is a millere to be fals!
And therefore this proverbe is seyd ful sooth,
“Hym thar nat wene wel that yvil dooth.”
Experience, though noon auctoritee
Were in this world, is right ynough for me.
Men may devyne and glosen, up and doun,
But wel I woot, expres, without lye,
God bad us for to wexe and multiplye,
That gentil text kan I wel understonde.
By God! if women hadde written stories,
As clerkes han withinne hire oratories,
They wolde han writen of men moore wikkednesse
Than all the mark of Adam may redresse.
But shortly myn entente I wol devyse:
I preche of no thing but for coveityse.
Therfore my theme is yet, and evere was,
Radix malorum est Cupiditas.
Certes, he Jakke Straw and his meynee
Ne made never shoutes half so shrille
Whan that they wolden any Flemyng kille,
As thilke day was maad upon the fox.
For seint Paul seith that al that writen is,
To our doctrine it is ywrite, ywis;
Taketh the fruyt, and lat the chaf be stile.