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Discussion - Canterbury Tales > Week 9 - The Franklin's Tale

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments We enter our last week with a group of shorter, but no less interesting, tales.

We start with a sweet tale which addresses, in a quite different way from those of the Wife of Bath and the Clerk, the issue of sovereignty in marriage.

There is much to discuss about this tale, but I'll let others start raising these points, limiting myself here to encouraging people to address the question Chaucer ends with:

Lordings, this question will I ask now:
Which was the most free [generous], as thinketh you?
Now telleth me, ere that you further wend.
I can no more, my tale is at an end.


message 2: by Bill (last edited Mar 02, 2011 07:32PM) (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 250 comments


He freely gave his promise as a knight
That he would never darken her delight
By exercising his authority
Against her will or showing jealosy
But would obey in all with simple trust
As any lover of a lady must



There is one thing, my lords, its safe to say
Lovers must be each ready to obey
The other, if they would long keep company.
Love will not be constrained by mastery;
When mastery comes the god of love anon
Stretches his wings and farewell! he is gone.
Love is a thing as any spirit free;
Women by nature long for liberty


She took a servant when she took a lord
A lord in marriage in a love renewed
By service, lordship set in servitude;
In servitude? Why no, but far above,
His lady certainly, his wife no less,
To which the law of love will answer 'yes'.


The Franklin begins his story with these words and others similar to it.
It probably won't surprise you, Everyman, if I say that I quite disagree with your statement that this tale approaches the sovereignty of marriage in a different way then the Wife of Bath's.
These words seem to me, precisely and unambigiously, the moral of the Wife of Bath's tale.
And also, as I've said in the WOb thread, I feel her prologue, while more ambigious on the whole, can also be understood as a case study in not applying these principles as well as also ending with her explicit message reinforcing these principles.

Regarding who was the finest gentleman? I have to lay aside my belief that the Lady really wasn't obligated morally to fulfill her word to Aurelius because her intent was to use a metaphor that her loving him was impossible. I don't believe that people are morally obligated by literal interpretations of what was not intended literally.

However, thats not the real point of the story I suppose; the point is nobility and self sacrifice. I'd have to go with the Lady being the most noble--because other then Arelius, she had the most to lose. And Aurelius' nobility just barely cancels out his scheming and dishonesty.


message 3: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Bill wrote: "It probably won't surprise you, Everyman, if I say that I quite disagree with your statement that this tale approaches the sovereignty of marriage in a different way then the Wife of Bath's.."

Fair enough. But consider in each case which party is the driving force behind the definition of their relationship, and whether the Wife of Bath's husbands were subservient because "any lover of a lady must," or for some other reason.


message 4: by Bill (last edited Mar 02, 2011 07:55PM) (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 250 comments I think the idea is mutual subservience. Both in this story and in the WOB. I don't think the WOB's first 4 husbands were mutually subservient at all but felt that she had to be watched, managed, etc...as a typical wife is expected to be..submitting herself, etc. Then they complain when she isn't like a lover and a lady to them.

The last husband was the same but in the end, at the end of the prologue, he changes his attitude so that they are equal and then everything becomes happily ever after, and thats how she ends her prologue.


message 5: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4422 comments I think the dynamics of this tale set it in opposition to the WoB, though the final conclusion may be the same. (Though I am not so sure the quality of love shared by the WoB and No. 5 is the same as that between Arveragus and Dorigen.) The WoB obtains her goal through more forceful means -- physical violence plays a role in both her prologue and her tale -- while here the result is realized in a much more graceful way. So maybe the question could be couched this way: who would you rather have as a mate -- Alison or Dorigen?

And I think there may be a more generous reading of Aurelius. He seems to have been stricken by the malady of love, which was at the time considered to be a real sickness. (Maybe Madge can tell us more about humors in this regard.) In any case, I think his machinations are forgivable if seen in this light, as the acts of an incurable romantic.


message 6: by Bill (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 250 comments Thomas wrote: "And I think there may be a more generous reading of Aurelius. He seems to have been stricken by the malady of love, which was at the time considered to be a real sickness. (Maybe Madge can tell us more about humors in this regard.) In any case, I think his machinations are forgivable if seen in this light, as the acts of an incurable romantic. ..."

I think you're right. The 'piteous groaning' of the men in love throughout these stories really makes me laugh.


message 7: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK (Maybe Madge can tell us more about humors in this regard.)

Here is a table of the Four Humours and explanations thereto:-

http://www.kheper.net/topics/typology...

Chaucer may have been following the idea of a tale from Boethius about a case of the medieval doctor Galen, which is thought to be the first account of lovesickness. Iastrus's wife was suffering from insomnia and showing signs of considerable agitation. When Galen attended her she refused to answer any questions and brought their first consultation to an end by disappearing under the bedclothes! Undeterred Galen continued to make house calls, until a chance observation allowed him to make a diagnostic breakthrough. He noted that his patient's expression and complexion completely changed when somebody happened to mention the dancer Plyades. Galen swiftly applied his hand to her wrist, and noticed that the woman's pulse had become extremely irregular....'Thus I found out that the woman was in love with Plyades and by a very careful watch on succeeding days, my discovery was confirmed.' Galen proposed that a lovesick individual, under the influence of extreme passion, experiences a humoral (or chemical) imbalance, which in turn promotes the occurrence of physical symptoms.

Medieval Arab doctors also wrote a great deal about 'love madness' and thought that the intellectual and emotional disturbances it caused to the brain were incurable. Later it came to be described as melancholia (Greek for 'sadness') which was produced by an excess of 'black bile', one of the four bodily humours.

(Oh Bill! Don't tell me that you haven't done any 'piteous moaning' in your time?!)


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