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Barron's Booknotes-The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer-Free Book Notes
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THE FRANKLIN'S TALE

The Franklin compliments the Squire's qualities and wishes his son were more like him. His tale, though, won't be as colorful or as well-spoken as the Squire's, since he is a plain speaker.

He tells of the faithful Dorigen who is grief-stricken when her husband, Arveragus, goes away to battle. While he's gone, she paces the rockstrewn Brittany cliffs. She doesn't know that Aurelius, a squire living nearby, is madly in love with her, which he finally tells her. She rejects him, but he's so upset that she kiddingly says she'll love him when he makes all the rocks on the coast disappear. Knowing that's impossible, Aurelius falls ill from unrequited love and stays in bed for two years, while Arveragus returns to his happy wife. But Aurelius' brother, worried, knows a magician to whom Aurelius promises 1000 pounds if he can make the rocks disappear. The magician creates the illusion that they're gone, and Dorigen is horrified when she learns she must keep her promise. She tells her husband what has happened. Faithful to his knightly sense of honor, Arveragus insists she keep her promise. But when Dorigen sadly goes to Aurelius, he is so impressed with Arveragus' nobility that he sends her home. Meanwhile, Aurelius can't afford to pay the rest of the money he owes the magician. The magician, in turn, is moved by the story and tells Aurelius to forget the money. The Franklin ends by asking, Which of these is the most noble gentleman?


The tale is rich in symbols and wordplay. Dorigen's marriage is based on "trouthe" (truth, loyalty), the first virtue of the Knight whom Chaucer idealizes in the Prologue. Marriage here is a sensible middle ground between the Wife of Bath's idea of domination and the Clerk's notion of total submission. The loosely-adapted breton lai (Brittany tale) is based on Boccaccio and brings up questions of promises and inner nobility.

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Barron's Booknotes-The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer-Free Book Notes
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