"A Knight's Tale" - New World of Will
The 2001 film; A Knight's Tale,
follow's the inspirited journey of a lowly peasant's
quest for acceptance, respect, and love, through medieval tournament competition.
The film is chock-full of meaning and symbolism. As a picture is worth a thousand words, so to does every film have a different meaning to different
people. Although I do not know the motives or intentions of the artist's work, I will give my personal interpretation of the film.
I hope you enjoy this analysis, and please share your thoughts also.
The film follows peasant; William Thatcher (played by; Heath Ledger). With the aid of his motley crew, William uses forged papers of nobility to
compete in the jousting circuit under the assumed pseudonym of Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein of Gelderland. William's tournament winnings bring him
wealth and fame, the quality of his character earns the respect of Prince Edward and the love of Jocelyn, while his success gains the envy of
antagonist; Count Adhemar.
William's forged nobility, a criminal offense, is uncovered and exposed by Adhemar. William then falls from grace, as he is humiliated, arrested, and
banned from tournament competition. William's admirable character qualities lead to Prince Edward (played by; James Purefoy) granting William a full
pardon, a royal decree of nobility, and a public knighting. William goes on to win the final tournament by defeating his arch-nemesis; Adhemar, and
winning the lady of his heart; Jocelyn.
In addition to the Hero's Journey
monomyth, "A Knight's Tale"
also follows the 7
plot-types presented by Christopher Booker's; The Seven Basic Plots
• Overcoming the Monster
The "monster" may be Adhemar and/or the social caste/class system.
• Rags to Riches
William gains wealth and prestige through tournament competition.
• The Quest
William and his companions embark on a quest for wealth, love, and challenging the status-quo.
• Voyage and Return
As a child, William is sent away by his father to serve as a squire to a knight. After many years, William returns home with the experiences and
attainments of his quest.
The film includes many humorous moments and comedic relief.
William's tragedy and hinderance is his misfortune of being born a poor peasant.
The totality of the quest leads to William's rebirth from an inexperienced boy to a man of good character, and from peasant to noble.
William, Adhemar, and Jocelyn form a dynamic trinity. Not only do they illustrate the battle of good and evil for the prize, but they also symbolize
the Jungian 3-fold model of the psyche.
• William Thatcher
Ego. Protagonist. Hero. Good.
William's heroic quality is reinforced when Jocelyn refers to him as a "Hunter", which is then connected to the ending scene of the film where the
camera pans away to the Orion constellation.
• Count Adhemar (played by; Rufus Sewell)
Id. Antagonist. Villain. Evil.
• Jocelyn (played by; Shannyn Sossamon)
Super-Ego. Maiden. Treasure. Purity.
William's band of companions represent key Jungian archetypes, as well as aspects of William's own psyche.
• Roland (played by; Mark Addy)
Fatherly figure. Wisdom. Adviser. Strength.
• Kate (played by; Laura Fraser)
Motherly figure. Emotion. Creative force. Hope.
It is interesting to note that Kate was drawn into the adventure by William questioning her creative talents, which stirred her emotions into taking
• Wat (played by; Alan Tudyk)
Brotherly figure (son). Understanding. Sidekick. Rashness.
He serves as a mirror (Wat / What?), and also serves as William's anima.
• Geoffrey Chaucer (played by; Paul Bettany)
Trickster. Intellect. Herald. Passion.
The Power of Will
The main and overarching theme of the film is: Will Power
The film begins with a youthful William and his father, a roof-thatcher, in audience of a parade. William beholds the awe-inspiring knights of noble
birth, and dreams of becoming a knight himself. In spite of his low social class, William's father assures him that he can, "change his
This glimmer of hope becomes the motivating factor for William's quest to overcome the hand that fate has dealt him.
William's name is a deliberate wink to this theme.
is a compound name, combining the two words:
"will" + "helm"
"will" + "protection"
Meaning; "His will is protected"
After receiving Jocelyn's declaration of love and Prince Edward's bestowal of nobility, newly knighted; Sir William, proceeds to the championship
joust against Adhemar. In his last trial to obtain honor and respect, William defeats Adhemar in the final round of their joust.
In a proclamation of both his birth name and his triumph over fate, Sir William roars, "William!",
as he delivers the final
vanquishing blow to Adhemar.
This declaration may be interpreted as;
"Will I am"
"I am will"
"My will is protected"
"William's will has been done"
In another nod to "will", as Adhemar lay on the ground defeated, William and his companions hover atop the Count. As William joins the group, an
inverted pentagram is formed by their heads. William then says;
"Welcome to the New World. God save you, if it is right that He should do so."
This "New World" is one in which;
"Where there's a will, there's a way."
The inverted pentagram is often symbolic for matter over spirit and the cultivation of wants and desires, which is the practice of will.
In another interpretation, we may take Adhemar as representing the Old World Order of rule by entitled royal and noble birthright, and William as
representing the common people of the world. William's victory over Adhemar signifies the defeat of the caste system, with the heralding of the "New
World" referring to the rise of democratic republics; all an allusion to the Age of