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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All citations of Fletcher and Shakespeare’s The Two Noble Kinsmen are from the 1997 Porter edition, cited parenthetically by act, scene and line numbers.
All citations of Chaucer’s poetry are from the Benson et al. edition ( 2008), cited by line numbers.
Most printed versions of the ballad spell Aloe with an ‘e.’ I will preserve this spelling when referring to printed versions of the ballad. When referring to Shakespeare and Fletcher’s version, I follow its authors in spelling Alow with a ‘w.’
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Britton, D. From the Knight’s Tale to The Two Noble Kinsmen: Rethinking race, class and whiteness in romance. Postmedieval 6, 64–78 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1057/pmed.2015.3