March 23: The Franklin’s Tale

This story hingesĀ on Dorigen’s promise of her love to Aurelius on the condition that he remove all the black rocks on the coast. What are we to make of the rocks themselves, and the different roles (a threat to Arveragus, a symbol of the stability of her love, an obstacle to Aurelius’ happiness) they play in the story?

Does Chaucer see them as a part of Nature, or as part of the mythical/magical world, full of magicians and deities, that his characters inhabit? Is the natural setting of this story merely a backdrop to the plot and characters, or does it somehow interact with their stories as a force or personality of its own?

5 thoughts on “March 23: The Franklin’s Tale

  1. I feel as though the rocks were supposed to represent an impossible task, one like many Greco-Roman mythological characters are faced with in order to succeed in their stories (specifically calling to mind the story of Cupid and Psyche in which Psyche goes against his words and must complete the impossible task of separating grain on her own). There is the character of the sorcerer who helps Aurelius, not unlike many Greek myths, again. However, this story differs in that the removal of the rocks does not actually lead to Aurelius getting Dorigen because Aurelius sees Arveragus’s virtue. I am not sure that the rocks play a role other than being Aurelius’s grain in this story, but I do think that Chaucer sees nature here as a mysterious and important force in the world.

  2. The rocks seem to be a definite part of nature, but also as a collective they seem to represent a sense of foreboding and death that the characters must overcome. In this way they become almost another character because of the feeling they impose on Dorigen and Aurelius, and the physical action we are told they enacted upon all those dead sailors. However, I think that once the rocks are removed by Aurelius, they are indeed removed from the story itself. This could have something to do with their power being taken away from them when removed from their ‘natural’ setting.

  3. I would say the stones do not occupy any magical sort of realm, though they are operated upon by magic. Interestingly, the spell cast on the stones does not actually remove them, it simply creates the illusion that they are gone. This might mean that they represent a metaphorical barrier between Aurelius and Dorigen, as even when Aurelius has “fulfilled” his end of the bargain, Dorigen prefers death, she remains unavailable. Only by the love of her husband does she agree to hold up her end (and we can assume sleep with Aurelius), as her husband would rather see her unfaithful than dead.

    However, Aurelius is touched by Arveragus’s love for his wife, and realizes that he cannot break the barrier (remove the rocks) of their marriage, he could only act like the barrier is not there (make the rocks disappear), but once he is confronted with that barrier he realizes that the magician’s illusion will not be enough to win her favor in earnest.

  4. I agree with everyone else that the rocks aren’t part of a magical realm, but I do think they might represent a kind of middle ground or bridge between the magical realm and the natural world that they inhabit. It is through these rocks that we get the sorcerer that helps Aurelius, and later on, that we get resolution. After Aurelius appears to have completed the task, Dorigen still refuses to be with him, proving her loyalty, and her husband refuses to let her die, proving his love. Thus, I think that the magical realm is what allows the natural realm to resolve, or I guess reveal everyone’s true natures. The rocks are a central figure in this, though not a character with agency or a part of the magical realm in themselves. Instead, they are a key figure of the natural world that, by way of magic, actually reveal everyone’s true nature by the end.

  5. I believe the rocks are a barrier for Aurelius to overcome and are supposed to be impossible due to the love between Dorigen and Arveragus. The rocks seem to act as an impenetrable force surrounding the lovers. I think Chaucer believes in the lovers as magical because it takes magic to even attempt to tear them apart. The natural setting seems to serve the plot of the story because without the sea, Aurelius and Dorigen would not be separated and then without the rocks, there would be no attack on their relationships

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