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451 Study Questions for Chaucer's "Franklin's Tale"

Vocabulary: breton lai, Franklin

Useful Middle English terms: tregetour (illlusionist), magyk natureel (science/white magic)

Review the Franklin's Portrait in the General Prologue:

  • The Franklin
  • The Franklin is described in particular detail. What is his beard like? What color are his cheeks? (What modern legendary figure does he resemble from our holiday season?)
  • What does it mean when the text reads the Franklin "was Epicurus' very son"? Who is Epicurus and what is his philosophy? Click here for a hint.
  • To what patron saint is the Franklin compared explicitly? Why is this an appropriate comparison?
  • What does it mean that "a bettre envyned man was nowher noon"?
  • What substances "snow" inside the Franklin's house?
  • What is always set up and ready to go in the Franklin's hall?

Identify the following characters:

The Host (Harry Bailey), The Franklin, The Squire, Arveragus, Dorigen, Aurelius, unnamed brother of Aurelius, the Clerk of Orleans


  • What is a Franklin?
  • From what Italian work did Chaucer take this tale?
  • What was the reputation of Orleans in the medieval world of the 1300s?

Reading Questions:

Before starting the Franklin's Tale, read the linking material from †he conclusion of the "The Squire's Tale" [V (F) 671-708].

  • Who interrupts the Squire's Tale? What is the tone of that interruption?
  • The Franklin compares his own son to the Squire. Note, however, the unusual expression the Franklin uses to describe his affection for his son in line 683. He says his soon is "levere" (dearer) than what? What does this suggest about how the Franklin assesses value? How does this contrast with his outburst, "Fy on possessioun" a few lines later?
  • What is the Host's reaction to the Franklin's "gentilesse"?
  • Note Harry Bailey's statement in lines 696-98. How does this contrast with the earlier rules of the storytelling game that called for each pilgrim to tell a total of four stories?

(From "The Franklin's Prologue" itself):

  • What is the setting for our story (i.e., what geographic region?
  • According to line 735, what is Dorigen's family like in terms of social rank?
  • What vow of "his free wyl" does Arveragus swear to Dorigen? What is the one exception or "but" (i.e. save) that Arveragus adds to this vow?
  • What (odd?) vow does Dorigen make in return? When will she no longer be a humble and trewe wife, according to her vow?
  • According to the Franklin, how compatible are "maistrie" and "the God of Love"? What happens to cupid when Mastery or Domination shows up?
  • In lines 768-70, whom does the Franklin appear to be addressing in the pilgrimage company, given the content of earlier tales?
  • In lines 771-75, when the Franklin talks of patience, whom does he appear to be addressing in the pilgrimage company, given the content of earlier tales?
  • In lines 778-86, when the Franklin talks about how all creatures sometimes "do amys," whom does he appear to be addressing in the pilgrimage company, given the content of earlier tales?
  • How long have Arveragus and Dorigen been married according to line 806?
  • Why does Dorigen weep and sigh?
  • What does Arveragus do to help alleviate his wife's loneliness?
  • What physical object in the sea causes Dorigen to have panic attacks?
  • What question does Dorigen ask of God in lines 871-72, and how does this connect to the Clerk's Tale?
  • How does Dorigen's discussionin line 885-886 connect with the Boethian theme of the Knight's Tale?
  • How do Dorigen's friends try to distract her from her panic attacks and her "derke fantasye"?
  • Aurelius first meets Dorigen at a dance. He is a servant of what goddess? (see lines 937 et passim)
  • How long had Aurelius been in love with Dorigen? What is his emotional condition after her marriage? What are some of the genres he has written in protesting his love for Dorigen?
  • How aware is Dorigen initially concerning Aurelius's passion for her?
  • How does Dorigen respond to Aurelius's romantic outburst (lines 967-78) when she finally gets a chance to respond in line 980 et passim?
  • When Dorigen finally creates the possibility of an affair, what condition does she set "in pley"? (What does she think the odds are that such a task could ever be done?)
  • Note the odd word choice Dorigen uses when she says, "Lat swiche folies out of youre herte slyde." What does the word "slide" imply about the nature of Dorigen's heart? Is it slippery? Slimey? Unstable? Unfixed?
  • Why does Aurelius pray to Apollo and Lucina (i.e., Selene or Diana, the moon-goddess) and Neptune?
  • What happens to Aurelius when he finishes his prayer? Who finds him in this condition?
  • How much longer does Aurelius suffer with unrequited love for Dorigen?
  • Aurelius' brother is a clerk, who happens to another clerk in what French city?
  • This French clerk has studied what forbidden knowledge?
  • What is a "tregetoure?
  • [Lecture] The descirption of magical illusions in lines 1140-51 come from what Welsh literary work?
  • How does the brother think this French clerk can help Aurelius?
  • What language does the clerk use to address the two visiting brothers and how does this illustrate his education?
  • What (freakishly) does the clerk or Orleans already know about the two brothers?
  • When Aurelius's brother asks about the other students they knew "in olde dawes," what response does the Orleans clerk give him? [Lecture: How does this connect with the Inquisition in southern France?]
  • What are some of the illusions the Orleans clerk uses to demonstrate his power? List any two.
  • How much does the Orleans clerk charge Aurelius for his services? [Lecture: How much is that equivalent to in modern money, approximately?]
  • How does Dorigen react in lines 1339 et passim when she sees the illusion of clear seas?
  • When Dorigen discusses her plight, she alludes to Nicerate's wife, Lucretia, Alceste, Laodomia, Porcia, and other antique women. What do these women have in common, and what does that suggest Dorigen is herself considering as a way to escape her problems?
  • What news does Dorigen share with Arveragus when he comes home?


A.“Yet I graunte yow to been youre love,
Syn I yow se so pitously complayne.
Looke what day that endelong Britayne
Ye remoeve alle the rokkes, stoon by stoon,
That they ne lette ship ne boot to goon--
I seye, whan ye han maad the coost so clene
Of rokkes that ther nys no stoon ysene,
Thanne wol I love yow best of any man."



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