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Literature Study GuidesThe Canterbury TalesThe Franklins Prologue And Tale Summary

The Canterbury Tales | Study Guide

Geoffrey Chaucer

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The Franklin's Prologue and Tale

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of The Franklin's Prologue and Tale from Geoffrey Chaucer's collection of stories The Canterbury Tales.

The Canterbury Tales | The Franklin's Prologue and Tale | Summary



The Franklin says he is going to tell a story of a noble Breton, and he apologizes in advance for his "untutored speech" and lack of education in rhetoric.

A knight of Brittany named Arvéragus marries Dorigen, a lovely lady. They agree to treat each other with courtesy and respect. When the knight decides to go off seeking adventure, Dorigen misses him terribly. Her friends try to cheer her up with dancing, games, and picnics.

A young squire named Aurelius is also in love with Dorigen. One day he tells her of his feelings, but she tells him she has no intention of being an unfaithful wife. However, she says jokingly that, if he clears all the stones from the coast, she will love him. Knowing this is an impossible task, Aurelius goes home.

Arvéragus finally gets home and is reunited with Dorigen. For two years they live in happiness while Aurelius stays in bed, suffering and sick. One day Aurelius's brother recalls reading that magic could do miraculous things, so the brothers travel to Orleans to find a magician. They hire a magician to remove the rocks from Brittany's shore, agreeing on a price of 1,000 pounds. The magician successfully clears the rocks away, and Aurelius goes to Dorigen to ask her to fulfill her part of the "bargain."

Dorigen, shocked, considers suicide, thinking of all the women who have killed themselves to avoid dishonor. She decides to tell Arvéragus everything, but he says she must keep her word. However, when she meets Aurelius and tells him what Arvéragus said, Aurelius decides to let her out of the bargain. The magician, learning that Aurelius has acted so nobly, does not charge him the 1,000-pound fee.


The genre of this story is a Breton lay, which is a short romance focusing on one short sequence of events, rather than an epic romance, like the Knight's tale, which covers a long period of time and has a complex plot. The story is similar to an epic romance, however, in that a chivalrous knight who performs brave deeds wins the hand of a beautiful, virtuous lady. Like the Knight's tale, there are two men who desire the same lady, continuing to develop the theme of rivalry seen in so many of the other tales.

Like the Physician's tale, this story gives readers a look into medieval ideas about women's sexuality. The Physician's story suggests that virginity is an unmarried woman's key virtue. In this tale it becomes clear that a wife's faithfulness to her husband is of similar importance, but so is keeping a promise.

One interesting feature of this story is the relationship between Arvéragus and Dorigen. The story begins as the relationship is in its courtship phase, with the knight performing noble and brave acts to serve his lady. Once she marries him, however, the power is reversed—she must take him "as her lord" and authority. So far this is a very typical scenario. However, what comes next is surprising: He agrees not to exercise his rightful authority over her "against her will." Furthermore, he promises to obey her. The story states, "Love will not be constrained by mastery." This idea of a loving marriage based on mutual obedience to each other is one many modern audiences can embrace. Even more than the Wife of Bath's tale, which claims women want to be in charge, the Franklin's tale offers a vision of equality in marriage. The love of Arvéragus and Dorigen is also the main cause of the story's conflict—Dorigen's worries about her husband's safety given the rocky shore of Brittany prompt the half-serious wish that they be removed.

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