From the Knight’s Tale to The Two Noble Kinsmen: Rethinking race, class and whiteness in romance

  • Dennis Austin Britton


Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale replicates crusade romance’s construction of white skin as a marker of class and racial identity. Ypolita and Emelye are similar to the fair Saracen princesses of crusade romances; these racialized enemies are converted into wives who can reproduce a race of white aristocrats. Drawing from its Chaucerian source, Shakespeare and Fletcher’s The Two Noble Kinsmen uses the integration of the Amazon into Athens to suggest that white skin is proof of not-yet-realized racial sameness. At the same time, the play tests the limits of white skin as a marker of racial sameness and class affiliation. Although the play upholds the connection romances produce between race and class, it undermines the power of white skin to create this connection. The Two Noble Kinsmen instead uses images of Africanness to link race and class, suggesting that Africanness is better able than white skin to mark racial and class identity.


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dennis Austin Britton
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EnglishUniversity of New HampshireDurham

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