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The Canterbury Tales

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I trowe men wolde deme it necligence,
If I foryete to tellen the dispence
Of Theseus, that goth so bisily
To maken up the listes royally;
That swich a noble theatre as it was,
I dar wel seyn that in this world ther nas.
The circuit a myle was aboute,
Walled of stoon, and diched al with-oute.
Round was the shap, in maner of compas,
Ful of degrees, the heighte of sixty pas,
That, whan a man was set on o degree,
He letted nat his felawe for to see.
I guess I wouldn’t do a good job of telling this story if I didn’t tell you all about the magnificent stadium Theseus built to host the tournament between Arcite and Palamon and their teams of knights. The stadium was enormous. It was circular and made of stone and was a full mile in circumferance and sixty feet high. It also had stadium seating, which meant that if someone sat in front of you, you could still see the field clearly. There really was no finer stadium in the entire world.



Est-ward ther stood a gate of marbel whyt,
West-ward, right swich another in the opposit.
And shortly to concluden, swich a place
Was noon in erthe, as in so litel space;
For in the lond ther nas no crafty man,
That geometrie or ars-metrik can,
Ne purtreyour, ne kerver of images,
That Theseus ne yaf him mete and wages
The theatre for to maken and devyse.
And for to doon his ryte and sacrifyse,
He est-ward hath, upon the gate above,
In worship of Venus, goddesse of love,
Don make an auter and an oratorie;
And west-ward, in the minde and in memorie
Of Mars, he maked hath right swich another,
That coste largely of gold a fother.
And north-ward, in a touret on the wal,
Of alabastre whyt and reed coral
An oratorie riche for to see,
In worship of Dyane of chastitee,
Hath Theseus don wroght in noble wyse.
There was a white marble gate on both the eastern and western sides of the stadium. Theseus also had altars built on the eastern, western, and northern sides of the stadium where he could make sacrifices to the gods. The eastern altar was for making sacrifices to Venus, the goddess of love, while the expensive altar near the western gate was built to honor Mars, the god of war. On the northern side he built an oratory platform of white alabaster and red coral, from which people could address the audience. This he dedicated to Diana, the goddess of the moon and hunting. As I said, the stadium truly was one of a kind, in part because Theseus hired every single mathematician, construction worker, painter, or sculptor in the country.

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