Summary and Analysis of The Franklin's Tale (The Canterbury Tales)
Prologue to the Franklin's Tale:
The Franklin praises the Squire for his eloquence, considering his youth. He tells the Squire that he has no peer among the company and that he wishes that his own son were as commendable as the Squire. The Host suggests that the Franklin tell the next tale. The Franklin begins by apologizing in advance for his rough speech and lack of education.
The Franklin's Tale:
The Franklin's Tale begins with the courtship of the Breton knight Arviragus and Dorigen, who come to be married happily. Their marriage is one of equality, in which neither of the two is master or servant. However, soon after they marry Arviragus is 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, she was distressed by the rocks that were near the shore. She feared that whatever ship brought her husband home would crash on these rocks and sink. These friends would also have garden parties in which they would invite singers and squires to dance. One of these squires, Aurelius, had been in love with her ever since she arrived in Brittany. Eventually he declared his love for her. She agrees that she would be his lover if he would find a way to clear the rocks that endangered incoming ships. Aurelius lamented this condition, thinking that such a task would be impossible. His brother suggested that Aurelius meet a student of law at Orleans who was versed in the sciences of illusion. Aurelius made a journey to Orleans to meet this student; he found in the student's house the most fantastic luxuries. The student asked for one thousand pounds to remove all of the rocks from the shore off of Brittany. The student consulted his tables and contrived to make the rocks disappear for a week. When Dorigen learned of this, she was overcome with grief, realizing that she must forfeit either her body or her fair name. She thinks about the numerous instances in which a faithful wife or a maiden destroyed herself rather than submitting herself to another. She cites the maidens of Lacedaemon who chose to be slain rather than defiled, and Hasdrubal's wife, who committed suicide during the siege of Carthage, and Lucrece, who did the same when Tarquin took her by force. Arviragus returned home and Dorigen told him the truth of what had happened. He tells her that he will bear the shame of her actions, and that adhering to her promise is the most important thing. He therefore sends her to submit to Aurelius. When Aurelius learns how well Arviragus accepted his wife's promise, Aurelius decides to let Dorigen's promise go unfulfilled. He claims that a squire can be as honorable as a knight. Aurelius then went to pay the law student, even...