The Franklin's Tale

By: Elizabeth Spain

The Franklin

In the Canterbury Tales, the Franklin is a significantly less corrupt character than the rest. He was known to house people and his reputation grew to be "the patron saint of hospitality/of his part of the country"(342-343). His characteristic of having a great love for food is what stands out to the other pilgrims on the journey. He is described to always have plenty of high quality food and as having the best furnished wine cellar (344). With these few downgrading characteristics regarding his food, the Franklin is shown to still be one of the 'good people' as he outshines these bad qualities with intentions of being the most worthy landholder (362).


The Franklin tells the story of a love triangle between a Knight, his wife, and a Squire. To begin, this tale speaks of how the Knight, Arveragus of Kerru, loves a very beautiful woman, Dorigen, and he has to win her love. She finally agrees to marry him and they swear to each other to have an equal relationship in which neither man nor woman is better than the other. Marriage itself is defined as the simultaneous acceptance of lordship and servitude to one's spouse. After their actual marriage, Arveragus leaves for two years to fight at war and to seek glory. Because of his absence, Dorigen becomes incredibly depressed. To help her cope, her friends often take her out to distract her from the depression. In one of these outings, she was along the coastal cliffs and asks God why he would create such things as the rocks on the cliffs because they serve no purpose to man other than to kill people as they come in from sea. On May 6th, Dorigen and her friends go to the gardens where the friends have fun but Dorigen continues to be depressed. Here, a Squire, Aurelius, dances with Dorigen. After they dance, he tells her that he loves her (as he has for two years) which she did not know. When he asks her to love him in return Dorigen tells him that she will love him when he makes all of the rocks on the coast of their town, Brittany, disappear and no longer be a danger.

Soon after, Arveragus returns home and Dorigen is released of her depression. This sends Aurelius into a depression because even with his prayers, he was not able to rid the coastline of the dangerous rocks and will never be able to have the love of Dorigen. For two years, Aurelius' brother cares for him as "To outward appearance his heart was whole/ but within his breast the sharp arrow remained"(383-384). The brother and Aurelius then travel to Orléans to find a magician who can make the rocks disappear to win Dorigen's love. When the magician comes to Brittany, he creates the illusion that the rocks have disappeared. Dorigen spirals back into depression as she knows she has to fulfill her promise of sleeping with Aurelius. To get out of this, she decides to kill herself. When her husband returns home for the second time, she tells him and he tells her that she should fulfill her promise because he cannot live without her. Dorigen then goes back to the gardens to sleep with Aurelius but as he sees that she is deeply saddened by this; he releases her from the promise. Arveragus goes to compensate Aurelius for the release of the promise but Aurelius refuses to accept the money as he explains how it was only an illusion and he did not fulfill the deal. After this, Arveragus and Dorigen live happily with the equal marriage that they agreed upon.

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Moral of the Tale

In this tale, the Franklin is attempting to prove the values of a good marriage lead to happiness. He does this by successfully setting up the characters to have equality and true love for each other. By providing the conflict of Aurelius, the Franklin is showing that even with the formation of a love triangle and the potential to be unfaithful in the marriage, the strength of the couple to work together and accept each other will make everything be ok in the end. With the end of the story showing the couple to live on happily and in love, the Franklin officially proves his idea that equality in marriage leads to a happy life.

Essential Questions

How does equality in marriage affect life outside of the marriage? Create more happiness? Create more struggles?

If an 'impossible task' is completed, should the promiser uphold their end of the bargain if the task was never meant to be completed?

The Franklin's Tale - animated

One Thing I Had to Research

To have a better understanding of the moral of the story I had to research what a typical marriage was like in the 14th Century, when this story was set. In my research I found that marriage was often something that was much more involved in economy and legality rather than love. This is why the Franklin provides so much emphasis on the idea of the true love between Dorigen and Arveragus and their pledge of equality to each other. The commitment that they made and the marriage for love was something revolutionary of the time and the emphasis on these two things in relation to what the reality of the time period was even further proves the purpose of the Franklin's moral to the story.

Five Vocabulary Words

Forbearance: an abstaining from the enforcement of a right

Roundelays: a song in which a phrase, line, or the like, is continually repeated

Beneficence: the doing of good; active goodness or kindness; charity

Languor: lack of energy or vitality; sluggishness

Jugglery: any trickery or deception