Mar 8: Franklin’s Tale

There are recurring themes in the Franklin’s Tale involving pledges, promises, freedom and submission. Most of the characters are bound to each other in some capacity. Compare and contrast a relationship between characters who seem to engage with one or more of these themes. In what ways do they show this?

5 thoughts on “Mar 8: Franklin’s Tale

  1. The theme of promise, or keeping one’s word, drives the plot of the Franklin’s Tale. The first promise is enacted by Dorigen and Arviragus when they wed, pledging themselves to be together and therefore promising not to cuckold one another. The second promise is made at a time of “play” when Dorigen agrees to be with the flirtatious Aurelius if he can manage to get rid of all the rocks from the coast. Of course Dorigen only suggests this with confidence that he would not be able to, and at first does not abide once the task is complete. Only why her husband returns and tells her she must make good on her promise, does she go to Aurelius. Here we see Dorigen’s submission to the wishes of her husband, despite the fact that she does not want to do. Ultimately, Aurelius decides to give her the freedome to rejoin her husband, having a respect for him and his making good on her promises.

    • I think, if anything, this story seems to celebrate that sense of courtly respect – that your word is the one thing you are bound by. All parties realize the weight of the bond of the word, and this story shows the danger of frivolously throwing around one’s word. At the same time, it shows the sense of responsibility that is attached to giving one’s word. While Dorigen is bound by her word, and Aurelius could have very well just quit while he was ahead, he allows Dorigen out of her bond: simultaneously protecting her honor and honoring his love for her – by giving her what she truly desires – Arviragus.

  2. Aurelius and Dorigen seem to be the two bonded together frequently. Aurelius is deeply in love with the married Dorigen and withers away at knowing he can’t have her. She promises him that they can be together if he can remove all the rocks from Brittany. He finally finds a way to accomplish this and brings back her promise. The true struggle is Dorigen’s because she has a promise to her husband, Arviragus, and a promise to Aurelius. I think Chaucer is trying to show how noble Aurelius is and that he allows Dorigen out of their deal and therefore the magician allows Aurelius debt to be completely forgiven. It gives the idea that as long as a person is honorable in their actions debts can be forgiven. It also displays noble promises, like the marriage of Dorigen and Arviragus, and those that aren’t noble like Aurelius’ deal with the married Dorigen.

  3. While reading up on the story’s influences on Wikipedia, I discovered the “rash promise” trope that was common in literature of the Middle Ages. The first work that comes to my mind is Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, wherein Sir Gawain is tested against his word which he did not think would be relevant. Dorigen finds herself in a similar situation because of her rash promise, and is split between her duty as a wife and her own honor (even contemplating suicide to preserve both). What is different is that Dorigen was not tricked in any sense; Aurelius honestly sought to fulfill his end of the promise even though it was nearly impossible.

  4. Aurelius seemed to be extremely attached to Dorigen, an individual who can not have through the laws of the court. His desire for her burned so greatly that he was willing to resolve to trickery in order to unrightfully gain the right to love her. Aviragus seems to be the truest and most honorable character because he is the only one who never promised to be involved with the act of adultery. The importance of an individual’s word is emphasized in many ways, promising something that appears to be impossible can be risky. Dorigen’s promise created a motivation for Aurelius to pursue, and the only way he could have possibly completed the tasks was through an allusion. If the Aurelius would not have let Dorigen go on her own will, he would have been ultimately disrespecting Aviragus’s courtly decision to allow Dorigen to remain faithful to her word .

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