The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Franklin's Tale Analysis

The Franklin’s Tale is an example of a “Breton lay,” a brief romance with supposedly Celtic origins that was popular in Brittany in the Middle Ages. Most Breton lays, like this one, deal with romance and love and contain some supernatural element, like magic.

The tale also seems to answer the question about “mastery” in marriage raised by the Wife of Bath’s Tale and the Merchant’s Tale; it opens with comments that “mastery” has no place in love. However, the tale itself doesn’t focus on this problem, but rather on the problem of what happens when one makes a rash promises and the importance of keeping one’s word.

The concept of “trouthe,” or giving one’s word as a binding agreement, is central to the agreement between Dorigen and Aurelius. When Aurelius accomplishes the impossible, Dorigen must keep her promise to him, no matter how ill-conceived it was. Arveragus’s response to this situation makes sense in the context of medieval contracts, which were typically oral (not written) and in which people were typically held to what they said regardless of how foolish or impossible it was – compare the pledging of the horse, cart, hay, and summoner himself to the Devil in the Friar’s Tale.

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