Canterbury Tales: the Franklin's Tale

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A franklin, in Chaucer's time, was a freehold landowner whose status would have been that of the minor gentry. Chaucer's pilgrim is described as having been a member of Parliament, a magistrate, a sheriff and a district auditor, and would thus have been a very important person in his local community. He is by no means a poor man, as if evident from the description given in the General Prologue. His tale is told immediately after that of the Squire, who would have come from the social level just above that of the Franklin. The Squire's Tale is incomplete, so the words of the Franklin at the end cannot be seen as an interruption but as congratulations at the end of a tale well told. He clearly admires the Squire, and wishes that his own son had turned out to be as sophisticated. He proposes to tell a tale that is a "Breton lay"; rhymed tales of love and chivalry, often involving supernatural and fairy-world Celtic motifs. However, the Franklin begs the pardon of the company because he is an unlearned man and simple in his speech. He has, he says, never learned rhetoric, and he speaks simply and plainly. The Franklin’s Tale however also appears to deal with the theme of marriage. The Franklin seems to provide a compromise between the Clerk’s advice of patience and submissiveness on the part of the wife, the Wife of Bath’s demand of sovereignty over the husband, and the Squire’s courtly or romantic idea of love. The Tale starts with an echo of the "marriage debate" that pervaded the tales of the Wife of Bath, the Clerk and the Merchant, as to who should have "mastery" in marriage.

Here we have a knight, named Arveragus, who offers marriage to a lady, Dorigen, with the promise that he will not dominate her but allow her a certain degree of freedom; the desire of the Wife of Bath and the women in her tale. Arveragus has to go to fight in Britain, and is away for two years. This causes Dorigen great distress and she relies on her friends to keep her sane. Her friends...
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