Chaucer's Canterbury Tales - Franklin's Tale as Social Romance

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The Franklin's Tale as Social Romance

The style in the opening description of Dorigen and Arveragus (729-60) contains a lot of abstract language. It is full of words such as 'worthyness' and 'obeysaunce' which result in a type of characterisation which is itself abstract and idealised. Many of the sentences are neatly balanced and produce a sense of formality. All these abstract and formal features are essential in creating the idealised world of court romance:

'But atte laste she, for his worthyness,

And namely for his meke obeysaunce,' (738-9)

If one looks at the actual marriage agreement between Dorigen and Averagus it is not only built round the term 'gentilesse' but also 'maistrie' and 'soveraynetee' (both meaning 'power' or 'control') as well as 'trouthe' (nobility and fidelity). Although 'gentilesse' and 'franchyse' play a substantial part in this tale and Chaucer seems to idealise these qualities, I am not sure how useful the term 'social romance' is nor the fact that courtly experiences centre on love which is the view held by John Stevens.

Of course, It depends how literally one takes the term 'love'. But as far as I can see these courtly experiences centre on power and control as far as the male characters are concerned. Dorigen, does, however, represent faithful love within marriage. But there is the irony that Aurelius intervenes and urges her to be unfaithful and offers 'love' outside marriage. We know nothing about the physical aspect of Dorigen except that she is 'oon fairest under sonne' and one has no idea what Averagus looks like.

Initially one sees Averagus as the classic 'courtly lover'. He observes a standard pattern of feeling. H...

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...ect I think one's perception does change a little. If one considers the melodramatic significance of Dorigen's complaint about women being abused in general, one is presented with many rhetorical questions.

Regarding the term 'social romance' the late fourteenth century saw a decline of chivalry, and a corresponding increase in non-noble landowners that were becoming more influential. Court romance, the main literary form of chivalry, was itself beginning to look a little old-fashioned. From the prologue one can see that the Franklin probably fits into the category of the non-noble merchants and senior administrators. He appears to be self conscious of his own non-noble status, and seems desperate to be considered a nobleman of 'gentil' status. Perhaps due to his insecurity of being non-noble he is trying to prove how 'gentil' he can be.

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