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Canterbury Tales, Franklin’s Tale Essay, Research Paper


Throughout the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, participants of the pilgrimage tell stories to entertain one another. These stories, while amusing, tend to have an underlying message, one being the Franklin s Tale. The Franklin s Tale is the most moral tale that has been read. It is not told to make the other pilgrims laugh, rather to explain an extremely important lesson. Throughout life, people say many things that are meant to be taken with a grain of salt and not literally, like Sure I ll buy you a car .WHEN PIGS FLY!!! Well, what would happen if one day pigs did fly? Would the promise be honored? Would it even have been considered a promise? The Franklin effectively illustrates the danger of making such statements in a tale about a man who takes a comment, made in jest, literally.

In order to understand the tale, it is necessary to grasp the nature of the Franklin. The Franklin, as described in the Prologue, is white as a daisy-petal his beard./ A sanguine man, high-coloured and benign. (p. 12). Before the tales of the pilgrims are actually told, Chaucer gives the reader a description of each pilgrim in order to understand the tales from the point of view of each pilgrim. Chaucer creates an affable and pious man with his portrait of the Franklin. The Franklin is a very pure man who is wealthy and kind to all. He has a delicate and plentiful taste for food and wine and is very hospitable. He made his household free to all the County. (p. 12) The Franklin is portrayed as an ideal and righteous noble, unlike most other nobles who are corrupt and take advantage of their wealth and power. Chaucer concludes with one line that effectively characterizes the Franklin; He was a model among landed gentry. (p. 12).

For every other participant of the pilgrimage, Chaucer has some satirical comment about them. Why should the Franklin be any different? There is nothing wrong with the ways of the Franklin except for the fact that he is incredibly pretentious. The Franklin takes his wealth for granted and shows it off to everyone. However, his pompousness should not detract from the story. Although he may by arrogant, he still appears to be incredibly wise and pure. Why does Chaucer speak so highly of the Franklin and spend so much time developing his purity and righteousness? Chaucer uses such eloquent and florid description of the Franklin because he wants to convey to the reader that the Franklin is an honest, wise, and decent man that can be trusted and learned from. In Chaucer s introduction of the Miller, the Miller is represented as a senile old man and then the Miller proceeds to tell a spiteful story. Therefore, concluding that the description of a character directly relates to his tale and its credibility, in his introduction to the Franklin, Chaucer foreshadows, by illustrating the his purity, that the Franklin will have a very powerful and meaningful tale to share with the pilgrims and to the reader.

Before the Franklin begins his story, he lets the whole travelling body know that he is not incredibly skilled in the art of rhetoric, and therefore his tale will not be as engaging as some of the others were. However, the Franklin, aware of the merit of his tale, concludes his introduction by saying Colors of rhetoric to me seem quaint,/ I have no feeling for such things. (P. 409). Colors of rhetoric are the superfluous detail and style of speech. The Franklin is indicating that while grave detail and listener involvement may make his speech more appealing to the group, his tale exists not to only entertain them, but to teach them a very important lesson too. The Franklin seems to be someone who does everything for a reason. As indicated in the Prologue, the Franklin has an expensive and exotic palate for food and he eats food not for the sake of eating but rather for enjoying and savoring that which he loves. He is not portrayed as an obese man and yet Chaucer goes into deep detail when describing food in the Franklin s narrative. Why does Chaucer go into such grave detail about the Franklin s eating habits? The Franklin is a wise man who does everything for a reason. He sees eating exorbitantly as an art. Logically, his tale must have a purpose too. The Franklin implies in the quote that fancy language would only detract from the purpose and from his motive for telling the story. While entertainment is a fundamental motive, it is only secondary to the lesson in which he seeks to convey: be careful what you say.

Before the Franklin even gets to the principal part of his tale, he sets up a rather interesting predicament. A knight of Brittany weds his queen. The marriage laws stated at that time that the male would be the master of the relationship. However, since his wife is also his queen, therefore she may be considered the dominant one in the marriage. Who should be the master? Since both the queen and the knight conclude that they are both equally dominant, then their marriage shall exist where they are both equal. God grant there never be betwixt us twain,/ Through an fault of mine, dispute or strife./ Sir, I will be your true and humble wife,/ Accept my truth of heart, or break, my breast! (P. 410). The queen is saying to her husband that regardless of what endeavors she may encounter, she will always be faithful to him. Before the tale ends, Chaucer will successfully prove the faith of the queen.

The Franklin is setting up a dilemma that will challenge the lady s promise of fidelity to her husband. Following the lady s oath to her husband, the Franklin interrupts his own story to give his perspective of what love is and what will happen in the tale. One of the key lines that the Franklin says is, Love will not be constrained by mastery. (P. 410). The Franklin is implying that if love needs to be fettered by dominance, then it is not love, rather subservience. In this situation between the queen and the knight, he shows that neither of them are the master, they are both equal and henceforth a relationship fastened by love, as love cannot exist in a subservient relationship. The fact that the Queen and knights relationship is based on love will affect a certain outcome in his tale whereas a relationship based on mastery would procure a drastically different one The Franklin proceeds to say that women and men should have their own liberty, suggesting that love should be a mutual relationship, not a dominant relationship. Another main point that the Franklin makes in his personal interlude is that the tolerant will prevail under love. Tolerance and determination will play a large role as a characteristic of the hopeful suitor of the queen in his tale. Finally, the Franklin emphasizes that everyone

Sometimes says or does a wrongful thing;

Rage, sickness, influence of some malign

Star-constellation, temper, woe or wine

Spur us to wrongful words or make us trip.

One should not seek revenge for every slip. (P. 410)

This excerpt is the premise for the entire plot and for the tale. The Franklin tells the moral to the story before he even really gets into it. He has set up a plan that he will follow when he tells his story. Someone who is madly in love with someone else will catch a mistake that their love has made and will exploit it. We can also assume from the passage the proceeded that interruption about the lady s devotion to her husband, that the exploitation of a mistake will test the strength of their marriage. The Franklin has done an incredible job thus far in proving that he does not need rhetoric to capture the group s attention. The actual lesson portion to the tale has yet to begin and already the Franklin has gathered everyone s attention whilst they learn the moral for which he seeks to convey; one should not seek revenge for every slip.

After The Franklin successfully proves Dorigen s, the wife, fidelity to her husband, Arveragus, the Franklin introduces the final main character in his story before setting up the dilemma, Aurelius. Aurelius is a young, rich suitor who has loved Dorigen ever since he set his eyes on her. Aurelius, while admiring Dorigen at a festival one day, encounters her and finally expresses his deep passion that he has bottled up for her for so long. Dorigen is caught off guard and is initially drawn back by the Aurelius remarks. The Lord that gave me soul and life/ I never meant to prove a faithless wife (P. 416). Dorigen, unsurprisingly, reinforces her fidelity and her promises that she had made to her husband prior to their marriage. Dorigen tells Aurelius outright that she is a true wife and has no intention of being unfaithful to Arveragus.

At this point in the story, the Franklin raises the question of whether or not faith to oneself is more important than faith to someone else. The Franklin introduces this thought provoking question immediately following Dorigen s long speech about keeping her fidelity, She added playfully,/ I might perhaps vouchsafe to be your love,/ on the day the coasts of Britanny/ Are stone by stone cleared of these hateful rocks/ By you. (P. 416). After Dorigen completely rejects Aurelius proposals, she feels incredibly bad. Although she was defending her faithfulness to her Arveragus, she completely crushes Aurelius and all of his hopes in one fell swoop. Dorigen offers Aurelius some compensation for her refusal of his love by asking of such an impossible act, creating some prospect for the young suitor. Dorigen does not at all expect the suitor to complete the task, but hopes that her demand will send Aurelius off in a good mood, rather than in a deep depression.

The tale immediately takes its turns problematic as there is a discrepancy in the conversation between Aurelius and Dorigen. Dorigen believes that the conversation was the final time that she would encounter Aurelius and his passion, for requiring an impossible task for him to complete was surely enough of an allusion to her disinterest in cheating on Arveragus. Aurelius, on the other hand, understanding that she has no interest in him or in cheating, takes her required task to heart, for if Dorigen is so faithful a woman, then she will dare not break her promise which she had made. In essence, Aurelius sees Dorigen s blunder as an opportunity for him to get what he has always longed for. Naturally, although Dorigen goes off in her direction of lamenting for Arveragus, believing herself to be free of Aurelius passionate oppression, Aurelius seeks a way to complete the impossible task inadvertently required for Dorigen s love.

While Dorigen forgets about the discourse that she had with Aurelius, Aurelius eventually finds a virtuous, young scholar who is able to help him remove the jagged rocks from the coasts of Brittaney. The young scholar is a master illusionist who claims that he is able to make it appear as though the rocks were removed, but for an immense sum of money. Aurelius accepts the costs and demands for the wizard s removal of the rocks immediately. Once the wizard completes his task, Aurelius rushes to Dorigen and reminds her of the promise that she made to him. You made a promise which you know must stand/ And gave your plighted troth into my hand/ To love me best, you said, as God above/ Knows, though I be unworthy of you love. (P. 425). This excerpt is very crucial in the plot of the story. What Aurelius is saying is that he knows that he ended up catching her in a mistake and although he is ashamed of it, he stills wants Dorigen because he has loved and longed for her for so long. Aurelius makes Dorigen choose what is more important to her: faith to her husband or to herself.

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