I spend 3 days on The Knight's Tale and approximately three weeks on The Canterbury Tales, each year highlighting just a few of the stories, depending on the students in my class and which tales I believe will resonate best with the group I am teaching.
Day 1: Background Lecture and Discussion
Day 2: Exploration of Literary Technique and Story Telling
Day3: Finish the story and introduce public speaking about friendship and love
You can find a list of my questions in the resources of the specific section of each lesson.
My main objectives are to analyze the text with my students and to establish the major themes of the story because they will deliver an expository speech on the theme of friendship vs. love after we are done with the story. At this point I want them to have clear references to text that they can go back to and use in their speeches.
I understand that my students struggle with the poetic syntax even though we are using a modern translation, so I prefer to ground my analysis/explication with discussion.
Referring back to the discussion we had about "calling dibs" and the importance of protecting friendships when dating I introduce students to the project that they have for The Knight's Tale. I've asked them to give a 3-4 minute speech about the differences between friendship and love relationships.
Immediately the students bring up that love relationships are based in friendship and I don't disagree with them about that. But, I explain, it's more nuanced than that. Use Palamon and Arcite as examples. Were they true friends? Did love ruin their friendship? How do love triangles like this one happen? And, why, seven-hundred years later, are friends still fighting over someone else, calling dibs or not.
I hand out several different colored note cards to the students: 1 colored card for the introduction, 3 different colored cards for their supporting points, and 1 other colored card for the conclusion. I instruct them to come up with a story, an analogy or example they can use to get their audience's attention, then make a thesis statement. Finally they should enumerate two to three points that they will develop in the body of their speech.
Of course some students, especially those with FFA experience, chose not to use note cards and wrote their speeches out verbatim, which I let them do too.
Now that the student's have their project assignment for The Knight's Tale we spend the rest of class discussing the end of the story.
"Do you think Palamon and Emily will be happy?", I ask students.
For the most part the students are dubious of the ending:
For now has Palamon, in all things, wealth,
Living in bliss, in riches, and in health;
And Emily loved him so tenderly,
And he served her so well and faithfully,
That never word once marred their happiness,
No jealousy, nor other such distress.
Thus ends now Palamon and Emily;
And may God save all this fair company! Amen.
They don't believe that Palamon is going to be truly happy and they think his friendship with Arcite was more genuine than any kind of marriage he would have with Emily. Even taking fate into consideration and even taking Arcite's deathbed blessing into consideration, they still think that Palamon and Arcite had a strong friendship built on mutual trust and love, and that at best Palamon will be happy with Emily's wealth and family connections, but not Emily herself.