|AUTHOR:||Harwood, Britton J.|
|TITLE:||Chaucer and the Gift (If There Is Any)|
|SOURCE:||Studies in Philology 103 no1 26-46 Wint 2006|
IF Chaucer meant the two narratives in the fifth fragment of the Canterbury Tales to play against each other, one perhaps interesting way they do, so is to make a problem of the gift.(FN1) The Squire's Tale-Franklins Tale sequence not only ends, of course, with a question that seems to be about generosity ("Which was the mooste fre, as thynketh yow?"); it begins with magnificent gifts--the feast given by Genghis Khan ("Cambyuskan") on his birthday and the four magic objects sent him by another king.(FN2) Over the course of the fragment, the reader must not so much, I think, "sort out Chaucer's sense of what it is to be 'fre'"(FN3) as follow Chaucer's sorting it out. Jacques Derrida has come close to putting the gift under erasure ("the gift, if there is any [s1 y en a]"). In his own time and way, Chaucer, I am proposing, will eventually try to erase unproductive expenditure--what Georges Bataille called dépense---by safely framing and containing it by economy and exchange.(FN4)
Gift-giving or its possibility arises against the contrasting background that a tale-telling contest has set for it, economy and exchange, outlays for agreed-upon returns. At a certain point in commerce, buyer and seller agree upon a pretium for something that becomes a commodity at that point. The Franklin, for example, in essence readies the commodification of his son by offering to exchange him and "twenty pound worth lond" with anyone who can find him a young man of greater "discrecioun" (V.682-86). After the Host asks the pilgrims each to agree to tell four tales, the pilgrims enter into exchange by hearing a tale and thus incurring a determinate obligation. The Host asks them to promise (1.88-9), and this "tretee" secures a return for an outlay, like the agreement between Aurelius and the Orleans "maister" (V.1219) or the one in the Shipman's Tale, where the monk will enjoy the wife all night for a hundred franks.(FN5)
Erotic outlays can be economized even when money is not involved. So the falcon in the Squire's Tale takes the tercel's "herte in chaunge of [hers] for ay," having "yeven hym my trewe herte as free / As he swoor he yaf his herte to me" (V.535, 541-42). Consequently, when the male says he must leave for a while, their sorrows, seeming to mirror each other, form a similarly closed circle (V.584-87). The female asks that their conduct also reflect this mutuality: "Beth swich as I to yow have been and shal" (V.598). Promises of reciprocal conduct, in this case obedience, are swapped in the Franklin's Tale--the agreement being a "wys accord," like what makes commerce commerce, with the calculation of "prosperitee" on either side (V.791, 799).(FN6)
When the Squire's turn comes to pay the tale that he owes, he begins with what nevertheless threatens to rupture the circle of exchange--Genghis Khan in his utter self-sufficiency: "Hym lakked noght that longeth to a kyng" (V.16). Even with the Franklin's reserve of plump partridges in their cages and breams and pikes in their ponds, he is a mere shadow of this prince, who is closer to Apollo, the "god and governour" giving to every thing "his tyme and his seson" (V.1031, 1034)(FN7) The husband is similarly unconditioned in Boccaccio's Filocolo, the main source of the Franklin's Tale. The vow his wife has made to Tarolfo, her would-be lover, is judged by Fiammetta the queen to be invalid; thus, the husband's sacrifice of his honor by sending his wife unchastely to Tarolfo appears utterly gratuitous.(FN8)
Genghis's "diademe" (V.43, 60) flows out into a centrifugal flood of munificence and renown, exhaustive, independent, a circle breaking the circle of giving and taking--the crown of an unmoved mover ("of his corage as any centre stable" [V.22]). "Is not the gift," Derrida asks, "also that which interrupts economy? That which, in suspending economic calculation, no longer gives rise to exchange? That which opens the circle so as to defy reciprocity or symmetry ...?" "If there is gift," he continues, "the given of the gift ... must not circulate, it must not be exchanged."(FN9) Genghis's bottomless abundance produces a feast so enormous that simply to describe it would occupy the Squire a summer's day (V.64). His court and guests dine on meats known and unknown in England; after that, later in the day, they will take wine and spices; and then they will still "soupen al the day" (V.297). Anthropologists have long called attention to such "plentee" (V.300). Genghis, like a Kwakiutl chief on his own scale, "can keep his authority... and maintain his position ... only if he can prove that he is favorably regarded by the spirits, that he possesses fortune and that he is possessed by it." Being "fortunat" (V.25), Genghis can demonstrate his fortune only by "expending it to the humiliation of others."(FN10) Such plenty would remove any difference between the "meeste" and "leeste" who are feasted (V.300), precluding the possibility of need and thus the condition for exchange.(FN11)
"Plentee," although this time not Genghis's, can consist also in knowledge, which, like other capital, can be hoarded or not. A strange knight will interrupt Genghis's dinner by bearing into the hall four magical gifts from the king of Mamluk Egypt, gifts which are the cause of some sixty lines of speculation by guessing "heddes" (V.203).(FN12) The knight has traveled to Tsarev on a flying brazen horse; yet no one in the court can get the horse moving "[f]or noon engyn of wyndas or polyve; / And cause why? For they kan nat the craft" (V.184-85). But the messenger knows. He will make a gift to Genghis out of the abundance of his knowledge, so that the horse will be as obedient to the prince as the relevant knowledge has been subject to the messenger's own control (V.187-88). Such capitalized knowledge appears also, of course, in the "sciences" of the Orleans clerk (V.139).
With the knight's interruption we discern that feasts like Genghis's, meant to give themselves as incomparable, as an outflow of the self-subsistent, the one immune to challenge, nonetheless already provoke their own supplementation and displacement--in this case, the birthday gifts from the "kyng of Arabe and of Inde":
And so bifel... . . . In at the halle dore al sodeynly Ther cam a knyght....
For Derrida, the "most interesting idea" of Marcel Mauss's Essai sur le don is "the requirement of restitution 'at term'.... The requirement of the circulatory difference is inscribed in the thing itself that is given or exchanged."(FN14)
On the one hand, the gifts--mirror, ring, sword, and horse--would seem to strengthen Genghis's immunity (if that were possible). The horse will utterly comply with his wishes (V.118-25). The sword will give him the power of death and life: no armor is proof against it, but he can stroke and cure with the flat side of the sword any injury that the sword makes (V.156-65). On the other hand, for a moment all the gifts seem to be part of an armed sortie (against Genghis), as much a weapon as the sword is, which hangs by the messenger's side, apparently the only sword he bears. He carries the mirror as if it were a shield, and he rides not an armored horse, but a horse that is all armor, being brass. The ring has defensive uses like the flat side of the sword, since it grants knowledge of the grasses serviceable in healing even the gravest wound (V.153-55). When the messenger is led to his chamber and "unarmed," we hear immediately thereafter that the "presentes," that is, the sword and mirror, are "yfet" and "born anon into the heighe tour" (V.173-77). He is disarmed-of his presents, that is, which are taken off as if to a wardrobe or armory.
The warfare that, as Marshall Sahlins has shown, is the "hidden substructure" of gift exchange--the warfare that appears literally in Genghis's having "werreyed Russye" (V.10)--reveals itself in the ambiguous nature of the horse and the rest. Genghis is intruded upon by gifts he has provoked, one of them, the mirror, miraculous in part because it can itself disclose such contingency and invasiveness: in it, people may see, the messenger tells Genghis, "Whan ther shal fallen any adversitee / Unto youre regne" (V.34-35).(FN15) The gifts have this character because they return a second aggression for the initial aggression of the feast; they match the perishable courses of the meal with imperishable metals and with powers so rare that the sums going into roasted swans and herons look paltry by comparison. By provoking and thus anticipating this return, Genghis's feast economizes itself; it shows the presence of the circle of reciprocity from the start.
The mirror and ring are meant especially for Canacee, who will dance with the "strange knyght" (V.89). For these gifts, she may herself become a return, a bride sent by the Golden Horde to bind the Mamluks in a common defense against Mongol Persia.(FN16) Thus, Genghis's immense expenditures almost immediately appear not as the effluents of self-subsistence, but rather as calculating and productive, differing only in scale from, say, the outlays of the merchant in the Shipman's Tale on his wife's clothing (VII.4-14).
The Squire's Tale has seemed to many readers a slow performance. For Robert Haller, for example, the Squire uses the occupatio about Genghis's feast to put off the task of starting his story.(FN17) As late as the beginning of part 2, when Canacee expresses a desire to walk about (V.380-80), "The story is not getting anywhere," Gardiner Stillwell complains, "and Chaucer realizes the fact. On with the plot!"(FN18) Because we are accustomed to magical agents coming into their own when heroes use them to search for something or to arrive at its whereabouts, we may feel the plot picks up when Canacee goes out in the early morning wearing the golden ring.(FN19) But actually events occur throughout. A gift in itself is already an event, perhaps two events, locked together in struggle.
Until Genghis declares his birthday feast, the narrative units are what Roland Barthes calls "indices," referring not to "a consequential act" but rather "to a more or less diffuse concept which is nonetheless necessary to the story"--in this case, the identity and personal traits of Genghis and his family.(FN20) Declaring the feast is the first narrative "function," in Vladimir Propp's sense, which Barthes adopts. The subsequent eighteen-line occupatio on the feast comprises more indices, then, and we must wait for the second function until the knight on his steed ambles into the hall. From that point on follow some fifty-eight lines of new indices, information now not about persons but about the four objects (V.110-67), The reader is shortly helped to a good deal more of the indicial: the character of the simple in Tsarev who speculate on the objects (V.189-262), more indices on the feast (with twenty lines devoted to the dancing [V.268-88] and another ten or so devoted to the supper [V.291-301]), and then finally, in twenty-one lines, the emissary's instructions on operating the brass horse (V.314-34).
This view of the narrative, however, may overstate the indicial and understate the functional. If, as I am suggesting, in the whole sequence that is the Squire's Tale-Franklin's Tale a struggle will go on between the always-threatened eruption of dipense, unproductive expenditure, and the myriad forms of exchange that would contain it, then this struggle has "functions" of its own. These may consist exactly in what are also indices hobbling the plot that the Squire cannot seem to get going. To stay with Propp's vocabulary, an index in one "move" may be a function in another, and thus no single piece of text is decidably one or the other.(FN21) For example, descriptors that showed a "gift" as already soliciting a return would inscribe already a "counteraction" (the function marked C by Propp), the countering of an intrusion, which the pure gift, the unproductive gift, always is, rupturing the circle of economy as the villainy eo ipso, the principle of all that Propp marked A.(FN22) The gift may literally invade, function, walk in like the brass horse. Or it may simply be indexed as capable of doing that. In either case, so far as the gift also solicits a return, the intrusion already counters or contains itself, economizes itself. In other words, one struggle is already under way so far as Genghis is both self-subsistent and provocative. His limitless gifts implicitly solicit a return. And he will get one. The Squire's Tale-Franklin's Tale sequence will blur the difference between function and index.
The solicitation of a return comes right to the surface of the Franklin's Tale. With patience, one makes a gift of one's anger by turning it back upon oneself as self-control, destroying it as anger. The consequence is an "avantage" beyond the reach of coercion (V.771-75).(FN23) The offering proposed by a sacrifice, then, takes "the form of a destruction against which it exchanges, hopes for, or counts on a benefit."(FN24) Before the tale ends, we have a similar and crucial solicitation, "a gentil dede" solicited by "a gentil dede" (V.1543). As if Arveragus were Dorigen's brother, he ships her to Aurelius (V.1512), knowing Aurelius can construe her as a gift: It wasn't Arveragus who had "behighten" (V.1327) him anything, after all. Certainly the Franklin construes her as a gift: "Which was the mooste fre... ?" Because gifts solicit a return, Arveragus can suggest to Dorigen that she shouldn't give up hope ("It may be wel, paraventure, yet to day" [V.14731).(FN25) The Franklin must be thinking that, too, when he seeks to reassure his audience that Arveragus may not be as ignorant as he seems (V.1492-97). Moreover, Aurelius tells Dorigen that he sees Arveragus's "grete gentillesse / To yow" (V.1527-28). The knight has made the sort of donation that is incumbent on the noble, the gentil. The squire thus interprets the knight's pain in sending Dorigen along as a gift that was made to her (V.1529-30, 1595-97). But Dorigen, no longer an agent in the narrative, cannot make a return, and the squire makes it for her and to her in the form of a projection of his own unhappiness (V.1531). She is both the exchanged gift and subjected to a gift.
Lovers make such expenditures all the time, expenditures that ask a return, are calculated, rational, intended to be productive; gifts that are always already non-gifts. The treacherous tercel has given the falcon "his obeisaunce," made a gift to her of his will, and she gives him her love (V.562-63). Arveragus "dide his payne / To serve" his lady, performed many labors, laid out his woe, pain, and distress, and recuperates them all when Dorigen takes pity on him. On their marriage, he makes a gift of his will and recovers it when she makes him the gift of her own obedience (V.758). This outlay of hers pays off in turn when the two of them live "in quiete and in reste" (V.760). Aurelius's "servyce" of lovesickness for two years and more is unproductive not because it differs in kind from Arveragus's and not because it does not solicit a return, but rather because it is less rational, calculated less well. For example, he certainly has not envisioned the "gift" Arveragus will make and thus has not calculated his own response to it. "Pure chance will never form a gift," as Derrida says, and yet to intend to give runs the risk of intending something else as well--some "self-keeping" that threatens the gift "with being kept in its very expenditure."(FN26) Remembering the gift is one way to make generosity pay. Once one has self-identified with an ethical imperative, sacrificing even one's life for that imperative again turns giving into taking. To say the reasons of the gift "signs the end of the gift."
If desire means to desire to be the object of the other's desire, then, if one is that object, one would give nothing and get everything. Unlike the very material horse returned for Genghis's natal feast, this object, being the object of the other's desire, is immaterial. In this, however, it is like the immaterial rewards often solicited by the making of gifts, up to and including the gift of a life. Prudence describes these to Melibee: "In getynge of youre richesses and in usynge hem [with "pitee and debonairetee"] ye shul alwey have thre thynges in youre hert / (that is to seyn, oure Lord God, conscience, and good name)" (VII.1623-24). The immaterial reward may be earthly, as when Genghis spreads his feast and is repaid with unsurpassed "renoun" (V.13). In completing the exchange of a woman, a res mancipi, the squire matches the knight "gentil dede" for "gentil dede," gift for gift, with no damage to his prestige.(FN27) The Orleans clerk can play that game too, he thinks, declining the thousand pounds, going round for round with the "squier" and "knyght" (V.M1609), and thus burnishing his reputation, an immaterial salary now, but still not "foreign to calculation."(FN28)
There is also, however, Canacee's compassion for the falcon (V.462-71, 635-50), a brother's compassion for Aurelius (V.1116), and the squire's own "compassioun" and "greet routhe" (V.1515, 1520) when he meets the woebegone Dorigen on her way to the garden to keep her "trouthe" with him.(FN29) Moreover, he pities Arveragus for the knight's sacrifice lest Dorigen "breke hir trouthe" (V.1519). For such compassion there is also an immaterial salary, but now not the public renown of a Genghis or Arveragus. Rather, writes Derrida, a "noble salary" permeates "the discourse on God the Father who sees in secret and who will reward you." Beati misericordes quoniam ipsi misericordiam consequentur (Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy [Matt. 5:7]). Even this, however, closes the circle of economy. In compassion like Canacee's and Aurelius's, "one ... would exceed an economy of retribution and exchange ... only to capitalize on it by gaining a profit or surplus value that was infinite, heavenly, incalculable, interior and secret. This would be a sort of secret calculation that would continue to wager on the gaze of God who sees the invisible and sees in my heart what I decline to have seen by my fellow humans."(FN30)
While "pure chance will never form a gift," to wish to give is nonetheless to wish the aleatory. "An expected, moderate, measured, or measurable gift, a gift proportionate to the benefit or to the effect one expects from it, a reasonable gift ... would no longer be a gift," Derrida notes. "If it remains pure and without possible reappropriation," the gift is "that instant of madness that tears time apart and interrupts every calculation."(FN31) Botching every calculation begins to look like such an interruption. Aurelius economizes his excessive outlays so badly in spite of himself that one begins to suspect it is not wholly in spite of himself. He may mistake Dorigen for Iseult or Guinevere, he grieves excessively, he rashly agrees to a ruinous extravagance, and he chooses to construe her journey to the garden as a gift from Arveragus rather than his contractual due from her. These together bear the trace of the unproductive gift, a gift that is everything and, since it is desire and suffering, nothing.
"The madness that insinuates itself even into Mauss's text," writes Derrida, "is a certain excess of the gift."(FN32) Writing of the Northwest Indians, Mauss had reported that "[c]onsumption and destruction are virtually unlimited. In some potlatch systems one is constrained to expend everything one possesses and to keep nothing. The rich man who shows his wealth by spending recklessly is the man who wins prestige.... Whole cases of candlefish or whale oil, houses, and blankets by the thousand are burnt; the most valuable coppers are broken and thrown into the sea to level and crush a rival."(FN33) So the twelfth-century troubadour Bertrand de Born "had no use for the man who lived within his means. The true nobleman," Sidney Painter goes on to say, "would mortgage his estates to gain funds for extending lavish hospitality and giving magnificent presents.... Chivalric generosity tended to become more and more closely identified with reckless extravagance."(FN34) Chaucer's Parson knows about madness like this and disapproves of it. The one who is "fool-large," he thinks, is not a giver but a waster of his property (X.812).(FN35) Yet even here, because prestige is at stake, madness is recovered for reason.
Chaucer, like Mauss, opens the possibility of dépense. The Franklin would like his son to "lerne gentillesse" (V.694). Let us think of what the Franklin wants for him, by contrast with dépense, as "pleasure ... reduced to a diversion whose role is subsidiary," secondary to what this sheriff and knight of the shire, this well-stocked vavasor thinks of as "productive social activity." The son, meanwhile, the subject of dépense, "does not even have the right to speak about what really gives him a fever." According to Bataille, "He is incapable of a utilitarian justification for his actions." We can imagine that the Franklin's son, like the prodigal son Bataille imagines, cannot excuse before his father his bad habit, which is "to pleye at dees, and to despende / And lese al that he hath." (V.690-91). In effect, his father is like the Solomon of an early fifteenth-century painting, who hardly understands the eagle in the air, the ship on the sea, and the serpent on the ground, and knows nothing at all of a man in his youth.(FN36) "It does not occur to him that a human society can have, just as he does," Bataille notes, "an interest in considerable losses, in catastrophes that, while conforming to well-defined needs, provoke tumultuous depressions, crises of dread, and, in the final analysis, a certain orgiastic state." Thus, it is really "conscious humanity," Bataille thinks, that has remained a youth, because in principle it excludes "nonproductive expenditure" from consciousness ("luxury, mourning, war, cults, the construction of sumptuary monuments, games, spectacles, arts, perverse sexual activity").(FN37)
Unproductive expenditure is modeled by God in fragment 5. The means to it are the black rocks that sink ships. Dorigen imagines God as a kind of Kwakiutl chief, sending not engraved coppers to the bottom of the sea but "[a]n hundred thousand bodyes of mankynde" (V.877), an expenditure at God's own cost, since humankind has been made by God. Since people bear God's "owene merk" (V.880), there is something even self-destructive in their wholesale obliteration. Dorigen's "derke fantasye" (V.844), in one respect a mere index leading to (the function of) Aurelius's villainy, is also the site of a struggle of the gift to be born. Is the gift to be always already reappropriated, as in the clerical recovery of it for the view that God, "the gode governour," has done "alle thinges ... aryght"?(FN38) Or, if the Franklin's son is capable of dipense, can God be also? Ironically, the "spryng flood" that would discharge the task that Dorigen has set for Aurelius might be another divine gift, to Aurelius with his limited aim, of course, but also, so far as it would erase boundaries between land and sea and also "nyght and day" (V.1070), very likely ruinously so for interests other than Aurelius's. "The gift, if there is any, will always be without border. A gift that does not run over its borders ... would not be a gift."(FN39)
There is no gift without a subject donor conscious of giving. But the donee as another subject can mirror, in her or his gratitude or in making a return of some other kind, the subject donor, thus turning the gift into a non-gift. Such narcissism may be escaped only in something like self-intoxication, a megalomania in which the world extends the self, and the self-destruction of giving cannot be separated from violence upon the world. The Orleans clerk creates for Aurelius an "apparence" of
hertes with hir hornes hye,
The gretteste that evere were seyn with ye.
He saugh of hem an hondred slayn with houndes,
And somme with arwes blede of bittre woundes.
He saugh, whan voyded were thise wilde deer,
Thise fauconers upon a fair ryver,
That with hir haukes han the heron slayn.
No doubt we can extend this "apparence" in our imagination by economizing the slaughter with banquets. But the lavishness of it is modeled on God's own hecatomb, outrunning any practical recovery. It may bear the excessiveness of the pure gift. As "apparence," it goes up in smoke, in "fumositee" (V.358), like the meaningless dreams of Genghis's retainers who have dined and drunk deeply. Illusions and the arts producing them are alike unproductive--"in oure dayes ... nat worth a flye" (V.1132). Arguably, the "apparence" produced by the clerk on the Brittainy coast only appears to be an appearance, if a high tide was coming in any case.(FN40)
Where is the autointoxication that lavishes twenty lines on the "tables Tolletanes," the "proporcioneles convenientz," and all the other "wrecchednesse" (V.1273-93)? Is it the clerk's, autointoxicated in an orgy of science and unaware he is producing nothing at all? Is it Chaucer's slightly unbalanced pleasure, this excess of jargon-laden couplets, trashed in advance as "supersticious cursednesse" (V.1272)? If it is his, it is not his only one in the fragment. He loses himself, perhaps, in the messenger's directions for moving the horse ("if yow liste bidde hym thennes goon, / Trille this pyn" [V.327-28]). Derrida observes that a digression marks "the rhythm of every incalculable scene of the gift."(FN41)
The Franklin's Tale, with its ending known in advance from Boccaccio, is a bounded work, a work with a border. Chaucer abrades the border of the Squire's Tale, not this time with another self-intent index, but the metafiction of his intoxicated, exuberant plan for continuation. Fragment 5 will put a wall around expenditure, but there will remain at its center the black hole of this impossible plan, denying the two tales any rational or calculated junction since the first will never finish. Before the Squire's Tale breaks, Chaucer tells us that, for the time being, he will turn from Canacee and ignore the ring until the time comes for him to write how the falcon regained the tercel, now repentant, through the help of one of Canacee's brothers. Until he returns to these four, he plans to "speken of aventures and of batailles" more marvelous than any we have heard so far, the first adventure being Genghis's,
That in his tyme many a citee wan; And after wol I speke of Algarsif, How that he wan Theodora to his wif, For whom ful ofte in greet peril he was, Ne hadde he ben holpen by the steede of bras; And after wol I speke of Cambalo, That faught in lystes with the bretheren two For Canacee er that he myghte hire wynne.
And only then will Chaucer get back to the falcon and tercel. David Lawton, for one, believes that when Chaucer wrote these lines he meant to give us such a poem.(FN42) The scribes of two of the earliest manuscripts, Ellesmere and Cambridge University Library MS Dd.4.24, evidently thought so also, since they leave part of a leaf blank where the Squires Tale breaks off, as if they suspected that their exemplars happened not to include Chaucer's continuation.
Chaucer's intention to give (a longer poem) leaves the Squires Tale open; Chaucer's intention to give perhaps any poem at all involves him in the inscription of desire, which even at the well-defined close of the Franklin's Tale will not be satisfied for Aurelius. Every gift, if there is any (and any villainy, for that matter), comes out of the infinity of desire, is "chrematistic," as Derrida calls it, "given from a place that remains, without Being, beyond presence."(FN43) Desire may be the purest gift, of expenditures the least productive and most paradoxical. In all its other forms, the unproductive gift solicits no return. Desire, of course, is all solicitation: "Desir noon other fownes bredde" (Troilus, 1.465). Aurelius's lengthy speech (V.131-1-38) that snakes its way towards telling Dorigen that the rocks are gone ("Nat that I chalange any thyng of right / Of yow," etc.) is, as Priscilla Martin rightly observes, "a thoroughly slimy performance, coercion and blackmail posing as courtliness and concern."(FN44) Desire has its eye on nothing else, such as a scruple. While desire is free of calculation, or calculates so badly it would be better off without it at all, it goes beyond calculation by giving the heart--nothingthat can be carried to a tower and guarded by officers. So far as, in desire, the other is object only, not a potentially giving subject, the other does not rewardingly reflect back the donor's generosity. Desire breaks the circle of economy by making a gift that drives up the other's price. It participates in the chrematistic, not necessarily by causing surprise in the other, but by coming as surprise and a loss of control.
Desire erupts at the center of fragment 5 with the falcon's trying to dig her heart out, as if to give it literally, a bathetic performance that nonetheless transcends and positions the pelican's recuperable generosity:(FN45)
Ybeten hadde she hirself so pitously With bothe hir wynges til the rede blood Ran endelong the tree ther as she stood. And evere in oon she cryde alwey and shrighte, And with hir beek hirselven so she prighte That ther nys tygre, ne noon so crueel beest That dwelleth outher in wode or in forest, That nolde han wept, if that he wepe koude, For sorwe of hire, she shrighte alwey so loude.
Dorigen, totally preoccupied by her desire for Arveragus, will mourn, wake, wail, fast, and complain, all of it doing her no good: her friends believe that "causelees she sleeth hirself, allas!" (V.825). In his "torment furyus" (V.1101), Aurelius proceeds to destroy himself: "Fy on a thousand pound!" (V.1227).(FN46) None of the three, however, is permitted to come to Dido's end. Chaucer's plan for the Squire's Tale will bring a repentant tercel back to the falcon. Already, the falcon's awareness that her personal catastrophe may "maken othere [to] be war by me" (V.490) may capitalize on the catastrophe by obtaining a value interior to herself.(FN47) Dorigen will have Arveragus again in her arms. As for Aurelius, Chaucer will stage-manage the substitution of certain other kinds of gift-giving for desire's dépense.
Fragment 5, in which desire, grief, and other gifts without reserve flare up, controls them at the end with non-gifts. These do not fall short of the gift in the same way, and one consequence is that different and disjoined attitudes may be assigned to the same character. For example, so far as Arveragus acts to make Dorigen's chastity a sacrifice to an ethic he adheres to, he weeps at what this is costing him (V.1480). His return in this exchange is the identity that he finds for himself in "trouthe." So far as the gift that is made of Dorigen opens a second economy of exchange, modeled on Genghis's birthday feast and soliciting gift for gift, Arveragus is optimistic (V.1473). Aurelius's ultimate pity for Dorigen quietly solicits a heavenly reward. Blessed are the merciful. This inner affliction differs from the determination to sacrifice himself as necessary to the ethic he happens to share with Arveragus, namely, "franchise and alle gentillesse" (V.1523). He is repaid for such determination with the receipt of an identity. And this in turn would not give him the same feeling as the satisfaction he presumably gets from matching "gentil" deed with "gentil" deed. The closure that seems to claim a neatness inspiring the question, "Which was the mooste fre?" actually comprises three incommensurable and nongenerous acts and leaves the reader unsatisfied.(FN48) This unsatisfactoriness is the fragment's own suggested response to its having evoked unproductive expenditure only to tame and displace it. Finally, I would like to suggest that this unsatisfactoriness appears not only in the way that sacrifice of one's self to a universal--becoming the tragic knight, in Soren Kierkegaard's sense--falls short of the unproductive expenditure; it appears in Arveragus's and Dorigen's failures at exactly tragic self-sacrifice. Dorigen and Arveragus both have a sense of duty. They both try to be ethical, with an intention to sacrifice to duty on Dorigen's part and an ersatz sacrifice to duty on Arveragus's. They would be tragic knights, for "the tragic hero renounces himself in order to express the universal."(FN49) "The tragic hero," Kierkegaard went on to write, "assures himself that the ethical obligation is totally present in him by the fact that h¸e transforms it into a wish. Thus Agamemnon can say, 'The proof that I do not offend against my parental duty is that my duty is my only wish.' So here we have wish and duty face to face with one another.... The tragic hero gives up his wish in order to accomplish his duty." Agamemnon apprehends "a higher expression of duty" than his parental one.(FN50)
Dorigen does not need her husband to teach her that "Trouthe is the hyeste thyng that man may kepe" (V.1479). It can easily be argued that she never meant her promise to Aurelius and that he fulfilled his end of it "agayns the proces of nature" (V.1345). "Yet Chaucer recognizes these arguments only insofar as their availability makes Dorigen's truth the more notable and praiseworthy. He simply assumes that it is right and noble of her not to entertain such thoughts."(FN51) If she had doubted for a moment that her highest ethical obligation, once she hears there is no rock to be "ysene," is to "love [Aurelius] best of any man" (V.996, 997), she would not have seen death as the only way to resolve the conflict between this duty and the lower one of keeping herself chaste for Arveragus: "yet have I levere to lese / My lif than of my body to have a shame" (V.1360-60).(FN52) But she finally cannot bring herself to drown herself or leap into a fire (for the sake of renown with the Order of the Garter, or whatever the relevant group for returning gifts to "trouthe"), instead rehearsing for a day or two the exemplary sacrifices of better women until she can put the matter into Arveragus's hands upon his return (V.1457-65).(FN53) As A. C. Spearing observes, the longer the list of exempla goes on, "the more remote the exemplary cases become from her own, and the clearer it becomes that the rhetorical structure is a form of evasion of reality."(FN54) Chaucer sets Dorigen up as a would-be tragic knight and has her fail at it.
What is more surprising, since Chaucer, after all, created other fearful women, is that Arveragus fails at it also. He is ready to make the painful sacrifice of his wife's chastity (but not his reputation for having a chaste wife) as a cost of her keeping her word and thus as one of the two gifts that will be there for Aurelius to return."(FN55) But when it comes to dying for this shared and highest duty as he says he is ready to do--
I hadde wel levere ystiked for to be For verray love which that I to yow have, But if ye sholde youre trouthe kepe and save
--in fact, he is not ready. It is not Dorigen's death exclusively that could resolve the conflict between higher and lower obligations. With Arveragus dead, Dorigen would be free to love Aurelius best of any man without damage to her chastity.
Arveragus is a tragic knight manqué, however, not simply because of his own imperfect resignation as an expression of the universal. He fails because he leaves us uncertain whether "trouthe" is indeed "the hyeste thing that man may kepe." Is this chivalric ethic higher than the noble one of returning a gift?(FN56) It is the latter he relies on, after all, in opening for his wife the possibility that matters may yet turn out "wel." If he suspects the noble duty to return a gift may exert decisive pressure upon the infatuated squire, might that not be because it would have done the same with him? The homosocial bonding of Arveragus and Aurelius in fredom ("generosity") makes it possible for the woman to be safely passed from one to the other and back again.(FN57) What had been the "trouthe" of Arveragus's marriage other than the reciprocal gifts of sovereignty that he and Dorigen had made? No matter the content of vows, the very exchange of them, as if making up loialté around the circle of knights, returning one given word for another, falls under the sign of the gift. So the portmanteau term "gentillesse" preserves the undecidability of the line between trouthe and fredom.(FN58) Of course Aurelius has no right within Christian morality to claim Dorigen's body or Arveragus to make a gift of it. But for them, chastity is not "the hyeste thyng." It cannot compete with trouthe and fredom.
In Arveragus's ambiguity here, Chaucer keeps the perfection of the knight's gift uncertain. In the competition among non-gifts that fills the end of the fragment, Aurelius's "pitee" (V.1603) for Dorigen is allowed to stand as his last feeling towards her, as if, like Absolon in the Miller's Tale, "[h]is hoote love was coold and al yqueynt" (1.3754). As the fragment is firmly closed ("My tale is at an ende"), the gift (if there is any), the unproductive expenditure of yearning love and grief, has been replaced by sacrificial gifts, productive of renown, here on earth at least; not gifts at all, since reasons for them can be given: Arveragus sacrifices Dorigen so that "trouthe" can be upheld; Aurelius sends her back, since she is a gift to him as well as to "trouthe," investing it with pity, by pity countering Arveragus's gift to her of his grief. The inadequacy of all this, if the question is a matter of treating the fever of the prodigal son, is unrepressed in the inadequacy of the sacrifices themselves.
Britton J. Harwood
1 Fragment 5 is "manifestly a unity": Brian Lee, "The Question of Closure in Fragment V of The Canterbury Tales," Yearbook of English Studies 22 (1992): 190. Cf. Jerome Man-del, Geoffrey Chaucer: Building the Fragments of the "Canterbury Tales" (Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1992), 100-1. That the Squire's Tale and Franklin's Tale might in fact have been intended to react upon each other becomes more likely if Chaucer linked the two, as they are in the early (1410) manuscript Harley 7334 and in the fourteen copies and derivatives forming what M. C. Seymour calls the Ellesmere edition (A Catalogue of Chaucer Manuscripts, 2 vols. [Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1995-97], 2:27). "The evidence points very strongly ... to the correctness of the sequence found in Ellesmere for the four tales from the Clerk to the Franklin, with their links" (Helen Cooper, "The Order of the Tales in the Ellesmere Manuscript," in The Ellesmere Chaucer: Essays in Interpretation, ed. Martin Stevens and Daniel Woodward [San Marino: Huntington Library, 1997], 252). Such scribal errors as the movement of the Squires Tale forward to follow the Man of Law's Tale or the movement of the Franklin's Tale forward to follow a spurious adaptation of the Merchant-Squire link have been convincingly explained, for example by Larry Benson, "The Order of The Canterbury Tales," Studies in the Age of Chaucer 3 (1981): 77-120.
2 Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, in The Riverside Chaucer, 3rd ed., gen. ed. Larry D. Benson (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1987), V.1622. Further quotations from Chaucer will be given parenthetically in the text.
3 W. A. Davenport, Chaucer: Complaint and Narrative (Woodbridge, Suffolk: D. S. Brewer, 1988), 197. Davenport is referring just to the Franklin's Tale.
4 Derrida, Donner le temps (Paris: Galilée, 1991), 18, and Given Time; L Counterfeit Money, trans. Peggy Kamuf (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 7; Bataille, "The Notion of Expenditure" (1933), in Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939, ed. and trans. Allan Stoekl (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 116-29.
5 The Squire, in "condescend[ing]" to the knot of his "tale" of Canacee's walking out, is forced to it by the nature of exchange: people have been listening for a while now and need their reward (V.401-3).
6 Compare to Robert R. Edwards, who notes that the arrangement between Arveragus and Dorigen "begins in aristocratic motives but ends in mercantile aims" ("Source, Context, and Cultural Translation in the Franklin's, Tale," Modern Philology 94 : 156).
7 "Cambyuskan, like the Franklin, is fond of food and wine and eager to share it" (Helen Cooper, The Structure of the "Canterbury Tales" [London: Duckworth, 1983], 150). Paul Strohm has claimed that "[t]he quality of franchise [see V.15241 or natural liberality is deeply associated with the rank of franklin, in the sort of etymological tie that seemed so meaningful to commentators and that may even have had something to do with Chaucer's choice of a rank for his teller" (Social Chaucer [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 19891, 107). The Franklin as worthiest of "vavasour[s]" (1.360) inevitably calls up for readers the hospitable "vavassor[s]" of romance, like the one who entertains Calogrenant and Yvain in Chrétien's Yvain (ed. T. B. W. Reid [Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1942], line 211). On the history of liber ("free") and francalani, see esp. Rodney H. Hilton, "Freedom and Villeinage in England" (1965), in Peasants, Knights, and Heretics: Studies in Medieval English Social History, ed. R. H. Hilton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), 174-91. On the Franklin as Chaucer's creation of a certain quality of mind, see particularly A. T. Gaylord, "From Dorigen to the Vavasour: Reading Backwards," in The Olde Daunce: Love, Friendship, Sex, and Marriage in the Medieval World, ed. R. H. Edwards and Stephen Spector (Albany: SUNY Press, 1991), 177-200,284-87; and Dorothy Colmer, "The Franklin's Tale: A Palimpsest Reading," Essays in Criticism 20 (1970): 375-80.
8 Giovanni Boccaccio, II Filocolo, trans. Donald Cheney with the collaboration of T. G. Bergin (New York: Garland, 1985), 264-65.
9 Derrida, Given Time, 7.
10 Marcel Mauss, The Gift (1925), trans. Ian Cunnison (New York: Norton, 1967), 37.
11 Because the obligation to spend defines a noble class, fragment 5 does nothing to obscure the division of society into gentle and servile. In the Squire's Tale, after the knight has ridden the brass horse back out of the hall and leaves it standing in the courtyard, Tartar society divides itself: the nobility remains in the hall, feasting with Genghis; it is the non-noble who swarm around the horse in the court, "lewed peple" (V.221) out of their depth in trying to decide whether the brass horse is more like Pegasus, more like the Trojan horse, or simply an apparition, like one a juggler might produce at a banquet (V.189-224). For a recent evaluation of this passage, see esp. C. A. Berry, "Flying Sources: Classical Authority in Chaucer's Squire's Tale," ELH 68 (2001): 287-313.
12 On "Arabe and . .. Inde" as Mamluk Egypt, see V. J. DiMarco, "The Historical Basis of Chaucer's Squire's Tale," Edebiyat 1.2 (1989): 5. The knight and his gifts are repeatedly the cause of wonder, for instance when "oother folk ... wondred on the sword" (V.236). This Mamluk king is himself a donor, a subject in his own right. Derrida concurs: "The greatest pleasure is to cause in the other the greatest pleasure after one's own. The cause of pleasure in the other is surprise, the passion of wonder" (Given Time, 146).
13 "Even though all the anthropologies ..., quite rightly and justifiably, treated together, as a system, ... the gift and the countergift, we are here departing ... from this tradition.... There is gift, if there is any, only in what interrupts the system," Derrida explains, noting that "Mauss does not worry enough about this incompatibility between gift and exchange" (Given Time, 13, 37; cf. 27-31). In other words, the interruption by the foreign knight reveals that Genghis's immense feast already participates in the system of gift/countergift.
14 Derrida, Given Time, 40.
15 Sahlins, Stone Age Economics (Chicago: Aldine, 1972), 169-74. Cf. Linda Charnes's observation that the reader waits throughout the Franklin's Tale "for a violent explosion" ("'This werk unresonable': Narrative Frustration and Generic Redistribution in Chaucer's Franklin's Tale," Chaucer Review 23 : 313). The initial aggression of the feast means that, contrary to K. H. Gö1ler's suggestion, the foreign knight does not lack a reason for riding into the hall heavily armed ("schwer bewaffnet") ("Chaucers Squire's Tale: 'The knotte of the tale,'" in Chaucer und Seine Zeit: Symposion filr Walter F Schirmer, ed. Arno Esch [Tilbingen: Max Niemeyer, 1968], 174).
16 See DiMarco, "Historical Basis," 11. In Cléomadès, a romance that Chaucer may have known through Froissart, three kings come wooing another king's three daughters, each bringing a magic gift, one of those being an ebony horse that flies. See H. S. V. Jones, "The Squire's Tale," Sources and Analogues of Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales," ed. William Frank Bryan and Germaine Dempster (New York: Humanities Press, 1941), 366-67.
17 See Haller, "Chaucer's Squire's Tale and the Uses of Rhetoric," Modern Philology 62 (1965): 288.
18 Stillwell, "Chaucer in Tartary," Review of English Studies 24 (1948): 181. Compare Still-well's complaint to Lee's that "The Squire's Tale is hardly a narrative at all, because hardly anything happens in it"; and to Shirley Sharon-Zisser's that the Squire's Tale "contains almost no plot to speak of in which the meta-linguistic drama may be grounded" ("Question of Closure," 190; "The Squire's Tale and the Limits of Non-Mimetic Fiction," Chaucer Review 26 : 391). For other critiques of the Squire's Tale as narrative, see Kathryn L. Lynch, "East Meets West in Chaucer's Squire's and Franklin's Tales," Speculum 70 (1995): 539-41; R. P. Miller, "Chaucer's Rhetorical Rendition of Mind: The Squire's Tale," in Chaucer and the Craft of Fiction, ed. Leigh A. Arrathoon (Rochester, MI: Solaris, 1986), 223; R. M. Jordan, "The Question of Genre: Five Chaucerian Romances," in Chaucer at Albany, ed. Russell Hope Robbins (New York: Burt Franklin, 1975), 83-86; and Russell A. Peck, "Sovereignty and the Two Worlds of the Franklin's Tale," Chaucer Review 1 (1967): 253-71. In "Canacee and the Chaucer Canon: Incest and Other Unnarratables," Elizabeth Scala has written interestingly of the way in which the Squire's Tale, having been founded on an act of exclusion, is condemned to endless deferral (Chaucer Review 30 : 28-36).
19 See Vladimir Propp, Morphology of the Folktale, trans. Laurence Scott, 2nd ed. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968), 43-51, 54.
20 Barthes, "Introduction à l'analyse structurale des récits," Communications 8 (1966): 8-9.
21 This coincidence of function and index seems to me to be what Sharon-Zisser is calling a "thematic metafiction" ("Limits of Non-Mimetic Fiction," 383).
22 Propp, Morphology of the Folktale, 38, 30-35.
23 The best discussion of "pacience" here seems to me to be Jill Mann's "Chaucerian Themes and Style in the Franklin's Tale," in Medieval Literature: Chaucer and the Alliterative Tradition, ed. Boris Ford, vol. 1, pt. 1, New Pelican Guide to English Literature (Harmonds-worth: Penguin, 1982), 146-50.
24 Derrida, Given Time, 137.
25 In his otherwise wholly admirable discussion of the Franklin's Tale, Derek Pearsall passes over this hopeful line of Arveragus's and thus does not consider possible bases for it. Consequently, Pearsall perhaps concludes too quickly that "[t]here are many things that a decent and sensible man in [Arveragus's] situation could have done, and this is not one of them" (The Canterbury Tales [London, Bostón, and Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 19851, 152).
26 Derrida, Given Time, 123. Derrida notes that "[t]he gift must not even appear or signify, consciously or unconsciously, as gift for the donors" (23).
27 On the res manicipi, the thing taken into the hands, analogous to the gift that must be repaid, see Mauss, The Gift, chapter 3. Note that, in sending Dorigen back, Aurelius says, "I yow relesse ... into youre hond" all the oaths and bonds she has previously made (V.1533). The idea of emancipation may help to explain Derrida's idea of the chrematistic (Given Time, 16o n. 2).
28 Derrida, Given Time, 142. Or so the Orleans clerk thinks he can play. Like anything fungible, money is a res nec mancipi. He isn't yet in their league. Stephen Knight indicates the class implications of generosity: "To ask if squire or professional can be as 'generous' as a lord is to doubt in part; but to make the category generosity is to arrange the problematic so that only one answer can prevail" ("Ideology in the Franklin's Tale," Parergon 28 : 12). The gentillesse "of the philosopher consists in waiving an exorbitant fee in respect of a fraudulent performance" (Nicolas Jacobs, review of Geoffrey Chaucer: The Franklin's Tale, ed. Gerald Morgan, Medium AEvum 52 : 130).
29 Compare this to the falcon's making a gift of her sad story so that others might be cautioned by her experience (V.490).
30 Derrida, The Gift of Death (1992), trans. David Wills (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 105, 109. I am aware of Kathryn Hume's point that Chaucer invoked "the conventional associations of the [Breton] lai in order to minimize the religious implications of certain elements in the story" ("Why Chaucer Calls the Franklin's Tale a Breton Lai," Philological Quarterly 51 : 365).
31 Derrida, Given Time, 148, 147.
32 Ibid., 45, cf. esp. 103.
33 Mauss, The Gift, 35.
34 Painter, French Chivalry (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1940), 32.
35 Twice in The Tale of Melibee, Dame Prudence cautions her husband to be neither too sparing nor "fool-large" (VII.1598; cf. VII.1619-20). For a different view of Chaucer's understanding of largesse, see J. L. Kellogg, "'Large and Fre': The Influence of Middle English Romance on Chaucer's Chivalric Vocabulary," Allegorica 9 (1987): 221-30.
36 The youth's element being fire, of course (North Germany, about 1420, Musée National du Moyen Age, Paris).
37 Bataille, "The Notion of Expenditure," 117, 118. The Franklin's Tale, then, in Gaylord's view, would represent the complete defeat of this by "vavasorial optimism and the ethics of prosperity" ("From Dorigen to Vavasour," 192).
38 Chaucer, Boece 4, prosa 5. This struggle is played out critically between those like Morton Bloomfield who point to the importance of Dorigen's questions about the rocks and those like Carole Koepke Brown who believe they "are superficial" when "read very closely." See Bloomfield, "The Franklins Tale: A Story of Unanswered Questions," in Acts of Interpretation: The Text in Its Contexts, 700-1600: Essays on Medieval and Renaissance Literature in Honor of E. Talbot Donaldson, ed. M. J. Carruthers and E. D. Kirk (Norman, OK: Pilgrim Books, 1982), 194; and Brown, "'It is true art to conceal art': The Episodic Structure of Chaucer's Franklin's Tale," Chaucer Review 27 (1992): 168.
39 Derrida, Given Time, 91.
40 See A. E. Luengo, "Magic and Illusion in The Franklins Tale," Journal of English and Germanic Philology 77 (1978): 12. For a provocative materialist analysis of the place of magic in the tale, however, see Knight's "Ideology in 'The Franklin's Tale,'" esp. 23.
41 Derrida, Given Time, 14.
42 See Chaucer's Narrators (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1985), 106-29. For opposing views, however, see William Kamowski, "Trading the 'Knotte' for Loose Ends: The Squire's Tale and the Poetics of Chaucerian Fragments," Style 31 (1997): 406; Cooper, Structure of the Canterbury Tales, 146; R. E. Kaske, "Chaucer's Marriage Group," in Chaucer the Love Poet, ed. Jerome Mitchell and William Provost (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1973), 57; J. E. Peterson, "The Finished Fragment: A Reassessment of the Squire's Tale," Chaucer Review 5 (1970): 62-74; Haller, "Chaucer's Squire's Tale," 293; and Pearsall, "The Squire As Story-Teller," University of Toronto Quarterly 34 (1964): 90-91.
43 Derrida, Given Time, 161.
44 Martin, Chaucer's Women: Nuns, Wives, and Amazons (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1990), 126-27.
45 Contrast, however, Susan Crane's understanding of this self-violence: that the falcon attacks herself because it is not open to her to hurt the tercel and that she attacks the beauty that is all, in courtship, she amounts to (Gender and Romance in Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), 76.
46 Aurelius's "extravagant torments over Dorigen are not unlike those of Dorigen herself over Arveragus" (A. M. Kearney, "Truth and Illusion in The Franklin's Tale," Essays in Criticism 19 [19691: 248).
47 In one of the echoes between the Squire's Tale and the Franklin's, Dorigen, the Franklin thinks, can serve a similarly cautionary purpose (V.1541-42).
48 On the non-generosity of the acts, see D. W. Robertson Jr., who notes that "[n]o one in the [Franklin's] tale gives up anything he has any real right to hold" (A Preface to Chaucer: Studies in Medieval Perspectives [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968], 276). Cf. Alfred David, The Strumpet Muse: Art and Morals in Chaucer's Poetry (Blooming-ton: Indiana University Press, 1976), 189; Kellogg, "Large and fre," 238; and S. J. McEntire, "Illusion and Interpretation in the Franklin's Tale," Chaucer Review 31 (1996): 156. If the tale were to be considered dramatically, the Franklin's implying the commensurability of the three acts would, like the headlink to his tale, station him (by reason of a certain obtuse-ness) as, at best, peripheral to the aristocracy. "Franklin," like "vavassour" (1.36o), raises the question of the social status that Chaucer imagined for this pilgrim. In this debate, see esp. Strohm, Social Chaucer, 107; P. R. Coss, "Literature and Social Terminology: The Vavasour in England," in Social Relations and Ideas: Essays in Honor of R. H. Hilton, ed. T. H. Aston et al. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), esp. 127, 144-48; Henrik Specht, Chaucer's Franklin in the "Canterbury Tales": The Social and Literary Background of a Chaucerian Character (Copenhagen: Akademisk Forlag, 1981), esp. 117, 128, 134; and G. H. Gerould, "The Social Status of Chaucer's Franklin," PMLA 41 (1926): 262-79.
49 Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling  and The Sickness Unto Death [18491, trans. Walter Lowrie (1941; repr., New York: Doubleday Anchor, 1954), 86. Gertrude White was not far from calling Arveragus the tragic knight when she likened him to "a figure in a morality play ...: it is his function simply to represent the authority of an ideal" ("The Franklin's Tale: Chaucer or the Critics," PMLA 89 [19741: 461).
50 Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, 88.
51 J. A. Burrow, A Reading of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965), 25.
52 Her fidelity to a promise gives her "identity and value as a separate person." Arveragus approaches the problem of her conflicting promises, P. M. Kean goes on to write, "as it affects her as an individual, not as a wife whose identity is not separate from his own" (Chaucer and the Making of English Poetry, 2 vols. [London and Boston: Routledge Kegan Paul, 1972], 2:146). There has been a full critical discussion, of course, of whether Dorigen's promise to Aurelius is binding. Timothy Flake points out that "the principals in the drama read the implications of Dorigen's promise in exactly the same way" ("Love, Trouthe, and the Happy Ending of the Franklin's Tale," English Studies 77 : 218). Cf. Phyllis Hodgson, ed., Chaucer: The Franklin's Tale (London: Athlone Press, 1960), 25; and Mann, "Chaucerian Themes," 21. Leslie Arnovick, in a speech-act analysis, finds that "the essential condition required of promises ... holds even when sincerity fails" ("Dorigen's Promise and Scholars' Premise: The Orality of the Speech Act in the Franklin's Tale," in Oral Poetics in Middle English Poetry, ed. Mark Amodio [New York: Garland, 1994], 139). See also Gerald Morgan, "Boccaccio's Filocolo and the Moral Argument of the Franklin's Tale," Chaucer Review 20 (1986): 293. The strongest attack on the validity of the promise has been Alan Gaylord's, in "The Promises in The Franklin's Tale," ELH 31 (1964): 331-65. See also Strohm, Social Chaucer, 105-6, 108; E. J. Mathewson, "The Illusion of Morality in the Franklin's Tale," Medium /Evum 52 (1983): 29; and David, The Strumpet Muse, 189-90.
53 Cf. James Sledd, "Dorigen's Complaint," Modern Philology 45 (1947): 39-40; D. M. Seaman," "'As thynketh yow': Conflicting Evidence and the Interpretation of The Franklin's Tale," Medixvalia et Humanistica, n.s., 17 (1991): 51; and W. E. H. Rudat, "Gentillesse and the Marriage Debate in the Franklin's Tale: Chaucer's Squires and the Question of Nobility," Neophilologus 68 (1984): 460. Other critics, however, see Arveragus asserting the mastery over Dorigen that he had forsworn at the opening of the poem. See Crane, Gender and Romance, esp. 108-13; Martin, Chaucer's Women, 127; Kearney, "Truth and illusion," 249; and P. E. Gray, "Synthesis and the Double Standard in the Franklin's Tale," Texas Studies in Language and Literature 7 (1965): 214-15.
54 Spearing, Medieval to Renaissance in English Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 185. On Dorigen's complaint, see especially Germaine Dempster, "Chaucer at Work on the Complaint in the Franklin's Tale," Modern Language Notes 52 (1937): 16-23; Sledd, "Dorigen's Complaint," 43; and D. C. Baker, "A Crux in Chaucer's Franklin s Tale: Dorigen's Complaint," Journal of English and Germanic Philology 6o (1961): 61-63.
55 See V.1480-86. Since he says he will kill her if she tells anyone what has happened, this would be not a sacrifice to save his reputation, but revenge for the loss of it. Arveragus has an interest in Dorigen's keeping her trouthe, of course. If she is capable of breaking trouthe with Aurelius, she is capable of breaking it with him. See M. R. Golding, "The Importance of Keeping 'Trouthe' in The Franklin's Tale," Medium AEvum 39 (1970): 311-12.
56 On the force of "chivalric" and "noble" here, see my "Gawain and the Gift," PMLA 106 (1991): 484-85.
57 See here J. D. Parry, "Dorigen, Narration, and Coming Home in the Franklins Tale," Chaucer Review 30 (1996): 283. On such homosociality, see of course Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985). Obviously, "frely" in V.1604-5 ("And right as frely as he sente hire me, / As frely sente I hire to hym ageyn") cannot mean "without constraint."
58 Cf. R. B. Burlin, "The Art of Chaucer's Franklin," Neophilologus 51 (1967): 263.