Prologue to the Franklin's Tale
The old Bretons, in their time, made songs, and the Franklin’s Tale, the narrator says, is to be one of those songs. However, the Franklin begs the indulgence of the company because he is a “burel man” (an unlearned man) and simple in his speech. He has, he says, never learned rhetoric, and he speaks simply and plainly – the colors he knows are not colors of rhetoric, but colors of the meadow.
The Franklin's Tale
The Franklin's Tale begins with the courtship of the Breton knight Arviragusand Dorigen, who came to be married happily. Their marriage was one of equality, in which neither of the two was master or servant; and the narrator comments specifically that when “maistrie” (the desire of the Wife of Bath and the women in her tale) enters into a marriage, love flaps its wings and flies away.
However, soon after their marriage, Arviragus was sent away to Britain to work for two years. Dorigen wept for his absence, despite the letters that he sent home to her. Her friends would often take her on walks where they would pass the cliffs overlooking the ocean and watch ships enter the port, hoping that one of them would bring home her husband. However, although her friends’ comforting eventually started to work, Dorigen remained distressed by the grisly, black rocks visible from the cliff-side, near to the shore. She asked God why he would create “this werk unresonable” (this unreasonable work), whose only purpose was to kill people. Her friends, seeing how terribly Dorigen feared that whatever ship brought her husband home would crash on these rocks and sink, provided further distractions.
One day, her friends had organized a party and a dance in a beautiful garden. It was at this dance that Aurelius, a squire, danced in front of Dorigen, who was as fresh and well-dressed as the month of May. His singing and dancing were better than any man’s, and he was one of the most handsome men alive. Unbeknownst to