|AUTHOR:||ROY J. PEARCY|
|TITLE:||Épreuves d'amour and Chaucer's Franklin's Tale|
|SOURCE:||The Chaucer Review 44 no2 159-85 2009|
The emergence of the literary motif of the épreuve d'amour (a test and demonstration of love) coincides with the appearance in western European literature of fin' amor as defined in the De Arte honesti amandi of Andreas Capellanus.(FN1) Its overriding concern is with the irresistible power of heterosexual love.(FN2) The motif conventionally depicts a man in love with his superior's wife, a promise on her part that performance of some task she imposes will be rewarded with the granting of her sexual favors, and a successful outcome resulting in the circumvention of any opposition to their union stemming from the lady's husband. Clearly both Menedon's story from Il Filocolo of Boccaccio, and Chaucer's Franklin's Tale fit this pattern to some degree, but Boccaccio modifies his exemplar to comply with a different artistic intent, and Chaucer follows the Boccaccian model as the primary source of his own version of the story.(FN3)
Épreuves d'amour first appear towards the end of the twelfth century in two different contexts, the clerical Latin comedies and the Arthurian romances of Chrétien de Troyes. The comédies latines that include the motif are humorous, frequently bawdy, and feature a triangle situation involving a married woman, her lover, and the woman's husband. The latter is typically a blocking character whose intervention in the successful achievement of an adulterous affair has to be circumvented by the lovers acting in collusion. In the courtly romances of Chrétien de Troyes, by contrast, the husband is excluded from any participation in the central dramatic action. From its initial appearance, therefore, the motif assumes two quite distinct forms.(FN4)
Typical of the épreuve d'amour as it appears in the comedie latine is the episode in Lidia wherein Lidia, the inamorata of Pirrus, demonstrates -- by killing his falcon, plucking five hairs from his beard, and conspiring to his voluntary loss of a good tooth -- her dominance over a husband sufficiently profound to prohibit his opposition to her extramarital activities.(FN5) The épreuve d'amour in the earliest of Chretien's Arthurian romances, Erec et Enide, is very different. The situation resembles that in Les trois Chevaliers et la Chaisne where the testing of the lovers is reciprocal, although it is the testing of Enide that best fits the standard pattern.
These early instances of the motif establish some of its essential characteristics. Primarily they demarcate the polarities within which occurrences of épreuves d'amour operate, ranging from the comic and bawdy to the serious and courtly. In one respect the two seminal examples cited are atypical. In both instances, the main test is assigned by the male character and passed by the female protagonist. Furthermore, it may appear egregious that Enide successfully passes the test assigned her by disobeying instructions, but this is a characteristic feature of some later narratives. The squire in Guillaume au Faucon wins the love of his master's wife by persistently refusing to obey her reiterated injunctions to abandon the fast he has undertaken to demonstrate his intractable determination to be granted her sexual favors, and the knight in Le Chevalier qui recovra l'Amor de sa Dame achieves the same happy outcome by ignoring the command of his mistress that he should not attempt to approach her after committing what she regards as an unforgivable offence.
Having wed Enide, Erec abandons all interest in chivalric activities, and behaves like a besotted courtly lover:
Mes tant l'ama Erec d'amors,
que d'armes mes ne li chaloit,
ne a tornoiemant n'aloit.
N'avoit mes soing de tornoier.
But Erec loved her with such a tender love that he cared no more for arms, nor did he go to tournaments, nor have any desire to joust.(FN6) When the murmuring caused by his abstinence reaches Enide's ears, Erec surprises her weeping, and learning that she grieves over the decline of his reputation in chivalry resolves to depart immediately as a knight-errant. Enide's revelation prompts Erec into a commitment similar to that required by a courtly mistress of her suitor: he must demonstrate his willingness to place himself in jeopardy in her service. Alerted to a series of dangers by his wife, Eric subsequently triumphs in each of these martial encounters.
Of greater interest is the test imposed on Enide. Initially, even as he resolves to abandon his life of uxorious indolence, Erec insists that his wife accompany him. Enide is distressed to discover that concern for her husband's reputation has placed both their lives at hazard, but worse is to follow when Erec also imposes on her a vow of silence. In the course of their adventuring, Enide becomes aware of numerous threats to Erec's safety of which he is ignorant, and she cannot resist the temptation to warn him of the imminent danger. Alerted by his wife to the threat posed by three robber knights, five robber knights, and a lecherous duke who with a large retinue plans to abduct Enide, Erec is able to protect them both, but, the danger once past, he is bitterly critical of his wife's disobedience, vociferous in his condemnation of her intervention, and outspoken in his insistence that she violates his orders at her peril Finally, however, when she cannot resist warning him of the approaching combat with Guivrez li Petiz, Erec inveighs against her as usual, but at the same time recognizes that she is following the dictates of her heart rather than his artificial restrictions, and that her actions are motivated by a concern for his well-being so strong that she is prepared to provoke his wrath rather than betray her better instincts. He reaches a more profound understanding of the nature of her love for him, and both have successfully passed épreuves d'amour:
Ele li dit; il la menace;
mes n'a talent que mal li face,
qu'il aparçoit et conuist bien
qu'ele l'ainme sor tote rien,
et il li tant que plus ne puet.
She spoke to him. He threatens her, but has no desire to do her harm, for he realises and knows full well that she loves him above all else, and he loves her, too, to the utmost.(FN7)
In the subsequent history of the motif, the female character invariably sets the test. Le Chevalier de la Charette demonstrates throughout Lancelot's devotion to Queen Guinevere, but the form for all future instances of the motif may be traced to the tournament at Noauz, when Guinevere instructs Lancelot to fight badly.(FN8) The episode comes replete with all the baggage associated with the motif's mixed ancestry. Although finally permitted to redeem his reputation, Lancelot's conduct during the second day of the tournament exposes him to ridicule, and critics have difficulty deciding whether Chrétien devised the scene as an exquisite illustration of the power of courtly love, or as a tongue-in-cheek exposé of the folly inherent in frauendienst carried to a ridiculous extreme.
The general tenor of Le Chevalier de la Charette establishes the pattern in insular romances for the closest approach to a literary tradition incorporating épreuves d'amour. In these hybrid romances that begin with such Anglo-Norman texts as Gui de Warewic and Ipomedon in the thirteenth century, continue through the Middle English adaptations of these works, and reach into the fifteenth century with original compositions in English such as Eglamour and The Squyr of Low Degree, the lady is single and marriageable, and offers to her successful suitor possession of a feudal estate as well as enjoyment of her love in marriage. She has rejected numerous suitors, and is notoriously proud, as reflected in the name La Fiere, the heroine of Ipomedon, or Felice, who appears similarly haughty in Gui de Warewic and is frequently pictured addressing the hero on his knees before her. The young man called upon to prove his worth as a lover is not a knight-errant like Lancelot, but a "chevalier tournoieur" (tourneying knight) who makes his living from prizes won on the tournament circuit,(FN9) or from service as a mercenary in the entourage of some powerful magnate. Gui wishes to be informed about tournaments and departs to attend one such occasion: "Desore va Gui turneier" (Afterwards Gui is going to take part in a tournament).(FN10) In the insular romances, as in the Breton lais that incorporate épreuves d'amour, the task imposed on the suitor is heroic and serves to eliminate any barriers to the ultimate union of hero and princess created by a discrepancy in rank Gui de Warewic refers to himself initially as le fiz d'un povre vavasur (the son of an impoverished minor vassal),(FN11) and the rank of the hero in The Squyr of Low Degree is evident from his title. Finally one feature carried over from the Lancelot and Guinevere episode is the outrageously difficult or demeaning nature of the task assigned by the heroine as an épreuve d'amour. Generally in the insular romances the task requires unequivocal prowess and serves to enhance the hero's reputation, but like that set by the lady in Les trois Chevaliers et la Chatsne, it is sufficiently daunting to be life-threatening. News of the performance required of any successful suitor is greeted with laughter by the courtiers in Ipomedon, and when Felice announces the conditions she sets for the épreuve d'amour, Gui refers to her demands as a joke.
In insular romances the épreuve d'amour functions as an episode illustrating the general significance of the romance as a whole, that is, that success in this world depends more on personal qualities of loyalty and heroism than on nobility of birth. It is a pre-Renaissance insight articulated by the old crone in her address to the wayward knight in the Wife of Bath's Tale. In this essay, however, concentration will be on those narratives that use the épreuve d'amour as a structuring device, and where the relationship between structure and ultimate significance, particularly in the matter of female psychology, is more intimate and more subtle than in the romances discussed above. While Boccaccio utilizes his essentially épreuve d'amour narrative for the alien purpose of posing one in a series of auestioni d'amore, his portrayal of the lady who sets the task capable, on succesful completion, of winning her love is faithful to the tradition governing such portraits throughout the group of tales as a whole,
Boccaccio's source for the story in Il Filocolo is unknown, but two specific features of his treatment of events can be duplicated in other épreuve d'amour narratives. First, the lady in Menedons story sets achievement of an apparendy impossible task in order to discourage the attentions of an unwelcome suitor. This device appears also in the Breton lai entitled Doon. Secondly, to conclude a narrative with a demande to the audience is also featured in Jacques de Bai-sieux's Les trois Chevaliers et la Chaisne, although in this instance it is formulated entirely within the parameters appropriate to épreuve d'amour narratives:
Liqueis d'iaz fist plus grant emprise:
U chil ki sa vie avoit mise
En aventure amant sa dame,
U celé ki honte ne blame
Ne cremi tant ke lui irer;
Por s'amur s'ala atirer.
Del chainse, si cai dit deseure;
Jugiés droit, k'Amurs vos honeure.
Which of them undertook most: he who risked his life for love of his lady, or she who less feared shame or dishonor than disappointing her lover, and who wore the shirt as I told you above? Judge wisely, and be much esteemed by Love.(FN12)
Chaucer follows Boccaccio in these two instances, as he does, uncomfortably,(FN13) in the greatest deviation the Italian author makes to the standard épreuve d'amour pattern: that prior to the event itself, the wife admits to her husband her inadvertent commitment to an adulterous liaison. This and other changes that Boccaccio effects are clearly attributable to the new circumstances under which the tale is told. Menedon is narrating the fourth in a series of questioni d'amore in which three male characters vie for the status of being the most generous. No extraneous circumstances are allowed to disturb the balance necessary to make the final judgment significant in respect of this declared intention. Menedon wishes to pose a question of love, but in doing so strains the boundaries of his chosen form. He creates a love question sufficiently complex that it may be debated among the company assembled to exercise their skills, but the circumstances requisite for the question that concludes the narrative are noticeably artificial:
Dubitasi ora quale di costoro fosse maggiore liberalità, o quella del cavaliere che concedette alla donna l'andare a Tarolfo, o quella di Tarolfo, il quale quella donna cui egli avea sempre disiata, e per cui egli avea tanto fatto per venire a quel punto che venuto era, quando la donna venne a lui, se gli fosse piaciuto, rimandò la sopradetta donna intatta al suo marito; o quella di Tebano, il quale, abbandonate le sue contrade, oramai vecchio, e venuto quivi per guadagnare i promessi doni, e affannatosi per recare a fine ciò che promesso avea, avendoli guadagnati ogni cosa rimise, rimanendosi povero come prima.
Which of these was the highest form of generosity -- that of the knight who allowed his wife to go to Tarolfo; or that of Tarolfo who, when the lady, whom he had always desired and striven for up until then, came as he had wished, sent her back unharmed to her husband; or that of Tebano who already in his old age had forsaken his own country, come to that place to obtain the promised gifts and striven to accomplish what he had promised -- and having obtained these gave back everything and continued to live in poverty as before?(FN14)
In Boccaccio's narrative the three characters in contention to be considered the most generous usurp center-stage, and a literary motif conventionally employed to illustrate the power of heterosexual love is displaced by the rivalry between three male protagonists. To create this triple contention requires that the husband, rather than an unprotesting observer of his wife's behavior, must be made aware before the assignation has taken place that his wife is committed to being unfaithful to him, and must insist that she honor her word A conflict must be created between husband and lover requiring both to act in psychologically improbable ways.
Chaucer completelychanges or modifies two otherfeatures that Boccaccio adapts to the balanced claims necessary for a successful questione d'amore. Boccaccio designates both the husband and the lover as knights, and thereby makes them social equals. Evidently the element of equality is important, and both could be members of the upper bourgoisie without affecting the significance of the tale.(FN15) Furthermore, the posing of a question involving a choice between three claimants requires, in addition to a dramatic modification of the husband's role, that the magician be raised to an unparalleled position of prominence. Magic is not completely missing from other exemplars, but it is restricted to two Breton lais, Doon and Tyolet, and even there it is so familiarly associated with medieval romance conventions that it is dealt with cursorily. In Doon the hero shares with other heroes of romance possession of an almost magically swift horse. In Tyolet the hero receives from fays the magical gift that when he whistles no wild animal hearing it can resist being drawn to the whistler. This gift is so conventional a romance motif that it is parodied in the fabliau entitled Le Chevalier qui fist parler les Cons. All other examples of the group are rigorously naturalistic, and even in those lais where magic plays a minimal part, interest focuses on the achievement of the hero rather than on the magic that assists him to realize his aims. It is the horsemanship rather than the horse, and escape from the threat of the lit perilleux (perilous bed), that is important in Doon, and in Tyolet the hero's ability to attract the white hart by whistling plays a minor part by comparison with the challenges the quest presents of risking his life to cross a raging torrent, or to combat seven lions.
In Menedon's story the task set by the lady, to produce a garden as verdant in January as it would normally be in summer, requires a magician and the exercise of magical powers without precedent in medieval romance literature, in lai or fabliau. Furthermore, to accomplish the task assigned him, the suitor has only to find the magician capable of executing the performance. His character is not enhanced heroically as is that of Doon, Tyolet, or the hero of Les trois Chevaliers et la Chaisne. He is not even called upon to demonstrate the resourcefulness and courage that distinguish the heroes of Guillaume au Faucon and Le Chevalier qui recovra l'Amor de sa Dame. He can be credited only with a plodding persistence that is eventually rewarded by a chance encounter with the one person able to assist him.
Preparations for the magical transformation of the barren garden are sufficiently complex to usurp much of the total narrative, and the activities of the magician Tebano, although appropriate to a bourgeois artisan and in no way heroic, become the center of attention in this part of Menedon's narrative. The magic does not have its roots in medieval lore but in classical antiquity, particularly in the practices of Medea described in Ovid's Metamorphoses. The introduction of the magician and the description of his craft are digressions that appeal to an eclectic taste for the antique supernatural. They are symptomatic of the more fundamental problems generated by Boccaccio's egregious employment of the épreuve d'amour motif. The charge to Tebano cannot be accomplished without the full panoply of cabalistic practice, the gathering of exotic herbs, the invocation of dark powers, and the performance, under a full moon, of various rituals. Other than to deter the lover by its inherent difficulty, the task serves no purpose except to flatter the lady by providing her with the means to astonish her friends, and to illustrate what her beauty could commandeer. The competition thus orchestrated permits in-depth discussion of the varied claims of honor, physical gratification, and wealth, and enables Fiammetta to offer a judgment, Menedon to propose an alternative interpretation, and Fiammetta to find a concluding rebuttal. It poses insuperable problems, however, for an author who wishes to employ the narrative independently of a demande d'amour.(FN16)
While dependent on Menedon's story as his primary source, Chaucer does not hesitate to modify features of his exemplar when it suits his purpose to do so. For example, Boccaccio's version gives exaggerated emphasis to the exercise of magic, but while Chaucer's radically altered task necessitates a similar appeal to a professional magician, the emphasis given to the performance is dramatically curtailed. In Boccaccio, the charge to Tebano is impossible without supernatural aid. Chaucer's tale assumes an understanding of the moon's influence on tidal activity, and knowledge that the coast of Brittany is subject to extreme variation in the level of high tide at different times in the year. It is questionable, consequently, that magic, other than the sort of magic needed to predict a solar eclipse for example, is involved in the magicians practice at all (V 1261-96). References in this passage to the magician's art as "illusioun[s]" (V 1264, 1292), "jogelrye" (V 1265), and "japes" (V 1271), and the suggestion that the disappearance of the rocks is merely a matter of belief in appearances (V 1296), help to confirm this impression.(FN17) Furthermore, Dorigen's stipulation to Aurelius to remove the rocks from around the Brittany coast is not a self-flattering request, but the reflection of a sincere concern that the presence of these rocks might threaten the safe return by sea of the husband whose absence is a constant source of sorrow and apprehension.(FN18)
Chaucer is not slavish in following his exemplar, but he brings it closer to the pattern for épreuve d'amour narratives as illustrated from the anonymous Guillaume au Faucon and Le Chevalier qui recovra l'Amor de sa Dame, and Jacques de Baisieux's Les trois Chevaliers et la Chaisne. All three feature a triangular love relationship of a married woman, her husband, and her lover, but in two fundamental respects Chaucer discards patterns present in Boccaccio's narrative and substitutes others in conformity with those featured in the three tales cited.
While Boccaccio was content to designate both husband and lover as knights, the three narratives cited all differentiate between a husband of superior feudal rank and a lover of lower status. If, as in the latter two works, the husband is a feudal lord, then the lover is a chevalier tournoier. If, as uniquely in Guillaume au Faucon, the husband is himself a chevalier tournoier -- his role as castle warden evidently places him in an inferior position to some feudal overlord -- then the lover, Guillaume, is a squire. This is precisely the situation depicted in The Franklin's Tale, and indeed it is while the husband is pursuing fame and fortune overseas in the lists that the squire in both Chaucer's narrative and its Old French counterpart is emboldened to declare his love for the absent husband's wife.
The female character, while evidently significant as the focus of rivalry between husband and lover, is comparatively insignificant to the thematic outcome of the narrative, and striking inconsistancies in her character are left unresolved Initially a happily married woman, she sets Tarolfo an apparently impossible task to rid herself of his unwelcome attentions.(FN19) However, on completion of the task assigned him, and following her evident enjoyment of the delights presented, she declares herself ready to fulfil her promise, requesting only that satisfaction of their agreement should be pended:
"Sanza fallo, cavaliere, guadagnato avete l'amore mio, e io sono presta d'attenervi ciò che io vi promisi; veramente voglio una grazia, che vi piaccia tanto indugiarvi a richiedermi del vostro disio, che'l signore mio vada a caccia o in altra parte fuori delia città, acciò che più salvamente e sanza dubitanza alcuna possiate prendere vostro diletto."
"Unquestionably, knight, you have earned my love, and I am ready to fulfil the promise I have made you. But I would truly ask you as a favor to put off claiming what you desire of me until my lord goes hunting or somewhere else away from the city, so that you can take your pleasure more safely and without worry"(FN20)
Her unqualified acceptance of the consequences of her prior commitment, and the preparations she makes to present herself in the most attractive way possible indicate her readiness to embrace infidelity without scruple, a change of heart consistent with that experienced by other wives, and in conformity with the conventions of other narratives featuring the motif.(FN21) But between her moment of apparent surrender and the actual fulfilment of her promise, the lady's despondency alerts her husband to what has suddenly and inexplicably become a painful dilemma. Repeated enquiries as to the cause of her dejection, a scene reminiscent of Enide's weeping, force an eventual revelation of the events leading to her present predicament. At this juncture the lady's behavior seems arbitrarily without basis in any consistent attitudes or character traits, and Boccaccio's story parts company with other épreuve d'amour narratives.
In the three traditional narratives examined, the ladies are faced with the same choice as the wife in Menedon's story, but they invariably choose the lover over the husband. In Guillaume au Faucon and Le Chevalier qui recovra l'Amor de sa Dame, the wife's arrangements to surrender herself to her lover are made with the husband present but ignorant of what exactly is being negotiated. In Les trois Chevaliers et la Chaisne the wife's decision to wear her lover's blood-stained shirt alerts her husband to the fact that adultery has already taken place, but while obviously unhappy with the situation, his commitment to observing the rules of courtly love prohibits him from registering his disapproval by either word or gesture. The delicacy of the decision confronting the wife, who is not unhappy with her marital situation, is well conveyed in a passage from Le Chevalier qui recovra l'Amor de sa Dame when she contemplates the result of the joust that she has been instrumental in promoting:
Et qant la dame a ce veü
Q'a son seignor est mescheü,
D'une partie en fu dolante,
De l'autre molt li atalante
Que ses amis l'a si bien fait.
And when the lady witnessed what transpired,
That mischief had befallen her good sire,
In one respect it grieved her to the core,
But on the other hand it pleased her more
That her admirer had performed so well.(FN22)
Feminine psychology is a major issue in the three épreuve d'amour narratives cited, but clearly of no concern to Boccaccio. Dorigen makes the same choice as the wife in Menedon's narrative, but with a consistency that is completely foreign to the character created by the Italian author.(FN23)
In numerous ways Chaucer makes improvements to Menedon's narrative, frequently by restoring features conventional to the motif that Boccaccio changed or neglected. As part of a much longer prose work, Boccaccio's version is in prose, a format that helps create the impression that the attitudes embraced by the characters reflect outdated and bizarre sentiments. Chaucer reinstates verse, but since the story is incorporated in the Canterbury Tales, which is predominantly although not exclusively in verse, this change may be incidental. Nevertheless, the verse form imparts an ageless and potentially antique quality to the narrative that is occluded in Boccaccio's prose version.
Of greater significance is Chaucer's identification of the literary genre of the Franklin's Tale as a Breton lai:
Thise olde gentil Britouns in hir dayes
Of diverse aventures maden layes,
Rymeyed in hir firste Briton tonge,
Whiche layes with hir instrumentz they songe
Or elles redden hem for hir plesaunce;
And oon of hem have I in remembraunce,
Which I shal seyn with good wyl as I kan.
Association of the tale with Breton lais is not confined to the prologue, but extends also to the setting, "In Armorik, that called is Britayne" (V 729), where the sea coast of Brittany plays a key role in the development of the plot. Like the hero of Doon, Arveragus also leaves Brittany for Great Britain, "To seke in armes worshipe and honour" (V 811).
Why Chaucer chose to rework Boccaccio's prose conte as a Breton lai is a major problem, since there is no hint of an association with this literary form in Boccaccio's text. Chaucer may have perceived the lai as a particularly appropriate vehicle for dealing with the story that he derived from an Italian vernacular prose version. Such an assumption presupposes another, that he was familiar with one or more examples of the épreuve d'amour motif that found expression in the form of a lai. This theory gains some credibility from the extent to which Chaucer's version of Boccaccio's story introduces conventional elements of the épreuve d'amour motif not found, or appearing only in distorted form, in Menedon's tale.(FN25)
That the motif incorporated in the Franklin's Tale is that of "the maiden's rash promise" may be a persistent misapprehension.(FN26) The version of the story included in Il Filocolo and the example of the motif that appears in Doon clearly demonstrate that Dorigen's promise to bestow her love on Aurelius should he accomplish the apparently impossible task that she assigns him is by no means entirely rash. As in the other examples cited, Dorigen's action is a carefully calculated ploy to rid herself of the unwelcome attentions of an importunate suitor. Furthermore, the nature of the task assigned, which dramatically changes the one featured in the story by Boccaccio, certainly suggests that the idea of a rash promise distorts what is going on in Dorigen's mind at the time. While other women, the heiress in Doon or the wife in Menedon's story, assign apparently impossible tasks as a means of discouraging unwelcome suitors, they accept the épreuve d'amour convention that accomplishment of the task indicates the depth of the lover's commitment, and earns the reward of a granting of favors previously denied. The task assigned by Dorigen is similarly intended to discourage Aurelius in his courtship, but its nature is such as to inhibit the dramatic reversal of attitude evident in the responses of the ladies whose favors are sought by Doon and Tarolfo. It is personal in a way that the others are not, and is dictated by concerns for her husband's safety that transcend its significance as an épreuve d'amour. Rash promises appear in a variety of contexts in medieval literature, but Dorigen's promise in the Franklin's Tale is of a kind unique to the épreuve d'amour motif.(FN27)
The changes that Chaucer makes in contrast to the treatment of the motif in Boccaccio are best illustrated in comparison with Guillaume au Faucon. The plot that Chaucer adopts from Il Filocolo has little in common with the French text other than sharing this motif, but on numerous occasions Chaucer restores a conventional feature neglected by Boccaccio that is precisely paralleled in Guillaume au Faucon.(FN28)
In Chaucer's treatment the issue of the social standing of the protagonists is even more complex than in Boccaccio or the other examples of the motif. As in Guillaume au Faucon the lover Aurelius is a squire, and the husband Arveragus a chevalier tournoier. However, in distinction from the French text, Chaucer adds information about the courtship of Arveragus and Dorigen (V 729-43) which indicates that Dorigen, rather than assuming a rank conferred on her by marriage, is by birth superior not only to the squire Aurelius but also to her husband Arveragus.
In Guillaume au Faucon the squire avails himself of the opportunity presented by the absence of his overlord to approach the wife with his plea to be accepted as her lover:
Un jor estait alez li sire,
Li chastelains, por tornoier,
Son pris et son los essaucier.
En un loigtieng pais ala:
Molt longuement i demora,
Quar molt ert riches et poissanz.(FN29)
One day her husband thought it was his duty,
The castle warden, to attend a tourney,
And to a distant land to make a journey
To win renown and add to his repute;
He would be gone a long time in pursuit
Of fame, for he was rich and influential.
Arveragus, who also seeks to enhance his chivalric honor by participating over an extended period in tournaments in a far distant land, provides Aurelius with a similar opportunity, as he
Shoop hym to goon and dwelle a yeer or tweyne
In Engelond, that cleped was eek Briteyne,
To seke in armes worshipe and honour-
For al his lust he sette in swich labour-
And dwelled there two yeer; the book seith thus.
Guillaume has been in love with his lord's wife for seven years without daring to admit his desire to the lady: "I[l] l'avra bien set anz amee:/Itant avra s'amor celee" (Suppose that he had loved her seven long years/Secretly, so that no word reached her ears).(FN31) In similar fashion, Aurelius has suffered for two years without ever working up the courage to confide his affection to the lady of his desires:
This lusty squier, servant to Venus,
Which that ycleped was Aurelius,
Hadde loved hire best of any creature
Two yeer and moore, as was his aventure,
But nevere dorste he teilen hire his grevaunce.
Guillaume gives vent initially to a complaint lamenting his misfortune at finding himself in love with a lady to whom he dare not reveal his passion, and Aurelius responds to his predicament in precisely similar ways (V 942-45).(FN32) Like Guillaume, Aurelius attempts by an indirect approach (V 955-59) to convey something of his passion to Dorigen, before (again like Guillaume) finally making an open declaration of his feelings (V 964-78).(FN33) The reaction of the wife of Guillaume's lord to this revelation is a mixture of disbelief and annoyance:
"Onques mais gabee ne fui,
Par mon chief, com vos m'avez ore!
Se vos me pallioiz encore
De ce que vos m'avez ci dit,
Ne remendroit, se Dieus m'a"ist,
Que ge ne vos fe"isse honte!
Ge ne sai riens que amors monte,
Ne de ce que vos demandez!"(FN34)
"I've never been made fun of by another
The way I have by you, and that's a fact.
If you should prove to have so little tact
As to allow this subject further voice,
So help me God, I won't have any choice
But to expose your foolishness to shame.
I don't know anything about this game
Of love, or what you're asking me to do."
It closely resembles that of Dorigen to the similar admission by Aurelius:
She gan to looke upon Aurelius:
"Is this youre wyl," quod she, "and sey ye thus?
Nevere erst," quod she, "ne wiste I what ye mente.
But now, Aurelie, I knowe youre entente,
By thilke God that yaf me soule and lyf,
Ne shal I nevere been untrewe wyf
In word ne werk, as fer as I have wit;
I wol been his to whom that I am knyt.
Taak this for fynal answere as of me."
Despite the appearance of numerous "rencontres textuelles," there is certainly no question of direct imitation here.(FN35) Nevertheless, the evident parallel in narrative contours indicates that both authors are following generic conventions with which both are thoroughly familiar.
At this point, the two narratives, which previously had run very much in tandem, diverge. The wife of Guillaume's lord threatens to reveal Guillaume's passion to her husband, and he tells her of his resolve to fast until such time as she takes pity on his suffering or he succumbs to hunger and thirst. Because of the difference in their ranks, the threat from Guillaume's lord is potentially fatal, and it is Guillaume's obstinate refusal to abandon his fast in the face of reiterated threats that eventually convinces the lady of the depth and sincerity of his passion. Dorigen adopts a different procedure, and attempts to frustrate the unwelcome attentions of a despised suitor by posing him an épreuve d'amour that she supposes is impossible to accomplish. Chaucer puts the difference in rank between husband, wife, and lover to alternative uses.
Change of emphasis is also evident in the way the respective authors deal with the final demande d'amour. In Boccaccio the relative claims of surrendering honor, the gratification of desire, and the promise of riches are debated at length, and constitute a sizeable proportion of Menedon's performance. In the Franklin's Tale Chaucer dismisses these issues in a brief, two-line summary: "Lordynges, this question, thanne, wol I aske now,/Which was the mooste fre, as thynketh yow?" (V 1621-22). It would appear from the cursory nature of the question that Chaucer's interests lie elsewhere than in the relative generosity of the three male characters, and are to be discovered in the much expanded treatment of other elements in the story. By comparison with the probing discussion in Boccaccio, Chaucer's two-line summary at the conclusion of the Franklin's Tale is perfunctory, and the significance of the debate has been undermined by the portrait of the magician, and by the acknowledgement that the behavior of Arveragus could be thought bizarre. From the changes that Chaucer makes to Menedon's story -- either in restoring conventional features of the épreuve d'amour motif; suppressing extraneous elements connected to the questione d'amore; or amplifying the narrative with materials of his own devising intended to preference his concerns -- it emerges that what interested the English author was the relationship between Arveragus and Dorigen as that relationship defined itself in the context of late medieval culture.
The first significant change that Chaucer makes to his sources, assuming these to be Menedon's story from Il Filocolo, and a general knowledge of one or more épreuve d'amour narratives, is to introduce a description of the courtship that brought together the married partners in the tale:
In Armorik, that called is Britayne,
Ther was a knyght that loved and dide his payne
To serve a lady in his beste wise;
And many a labour, many a greet emprise
He for his lady wroghte er she were wonne.
This passage expresses the acceptable face of the literary doctrine of courtly love as it was understood in late fourteenth-century Great Britain. A knight is in love with a lady of superior social rank; he is thereby inhibited from declaring his passion to her; but finally by virtue of his worthy conduct he narrows the social gap that separates them and is accepted by the lady as her lover. Apart from the fact that no suggestion is made that the many labors and great undertakings resulted from some specific instruction from the lady to the knight, the situation described would precisely conform to an épreuve d'amour of the type represented in Tyolet or late insular romance. The end result of the relationship is a marriage between a beautiful maiden of high birth and a knight whose worthiness earns him the right to win her hand. The only destabilizing element appears in the fact that the knight wins the lady's affections by his "meke obeysaunce" (V 739), but is obliged after marriage to assume "swich lordshipe as men han over hir wyves" (V 743).
The nature of this relationship is further specified in the following passage (V 744-52), where the sentiments expressed are attributed directly to Arveragus and would appear to be entirely consistent within a context that radically dichotomizes the private life appropriate to a lover, and the public life appropriate to a husband. In the former role, he is actively sworn to accept, without such objection as might arise from jealousy or other cause, whatever course his wife should choose to pursue. In the latter role, he is passively dependent on his wife not to expose him to scandal and to protect his reputation. In response, Dorigen declares that, in recognition of his willingness to grant her complete liberty of action, she will exercise that freedom so prudently that her husband's private and public personae are never brought into conflict (V 753-60).
In the next thirty-eight lines of occasionally superb poetry, the Franklin elaborates philosophically on these arrangements. Marital bliss comes about when neither party is obliged to exercise authority over the other, a happy circumstance promoted by the husband's declared willingness to be tolerant of any defection on the part of his wife and her resolution never to require tolerance for any deviation on her part from the path of virtue. In his authorial comments, however, the Franklin goes somewhat further than in the ideas attributed to the fictional characters of his narrative, since he dispenses with the distinction drawn by Arveragus between his private and public selves, and requires that he be "Servant in love, and lord in mariage" (V 793) in both contexts. Such a requirement contains an element of paradox and the potential for an irresolvable conflict of interests, a potential brought into focus by subsequent events in the tale.
The courtship of Arveragus and Dorigen establishes a context that activates most of the courtly love code. The one factor that keeps the situation benign is the fact, particularly prominent in insular treatments of the theme of courtly love, that the relationship is not adulterous. Dorigen is unmarried and marriageable, and the courtship of Arveragus eventuates in their union within the bonds of Christian marriage. According to Andreas Capellanus, all concern with courtly love doctrine should end there. Arveragus and Dorigen are, however, evidently unwilling to surrender the aura of romance that characterized their relationship before marriage to patriarchal dominance by the husband and the unromantic demands of the marriage debt. The notion that the knight might be husband and lover, and that the lady might be wife and mistress, is sustainable as long as the benign aspects of courtly love function unchallenged within the domestic circle. But events conspire to mount a challenge to the facile assumption that courtly love doctrine is unequivocally benign in its operations, and that there is no price to pay in preserving the notion of romantic freedom in the unfriendly environment of Christian marriage.
The malign aspects of adulterous love intrude themselves on the romantic idyll of the marriage of Dorigen and Arveragus through the épreuve d'amour, which follows immediately on the Franklin's description of marital bliss. Within a year of their wedding, Arveragus absents himself from his home in Brittany for two years to pursue fame and fortune in the lists in England. Such a decision seems to accord with Chrétien's attitude to courtly love doctrine, but his views are either ambivalent or subject to change in the course of his literary career. He appears to abhor the uxorious abandonment of chivalric pursuits in Erec et Enide, but in Yvain condemns the hero's neglect of his domestic responsibilities in wishing to enhance his chivalic reputation. In Guillaume au Faucon, as in the Franklin's Tale, the husband's absence creates the opportunity for an adulterous courtly love relationship to be initiated. Aurelius enters on the scene as the conventional courtly lover, and he fulfils this role in an exemplary manner, taking advantage of his lord's absence to reveal his love for Dorigen after suffering in silence for two years, approaching her with respectful deference, accepting despairingly but with good grace the apparently impossible terms of the épreuve d'amour that she sets him, and then pursuing its accomplishment diligently when the opportunity unexpectedly manifests itself.
Dorigen's behavior at first also conforms to that expected of a courtly lady dealing with the solicitations of an admirable young man whose romantic attachment has not been suspected and whose attentions are unwelcome.(FN36) She begins by expressing shocked surprise when Aurelius reveals the true nature of his feelings, followed by outrage at the assumption that she is the kind of woman who might be expected to respond favorably to such a revelation (V 979-87). Both Dorigen and the wife in Guillaume au Faucon declare their devotion to their husbands and their resolve to remain faithful to them. The latter threatens to reveal William's folly to her husband, supposing, mistakenly, that this dangerous threat will dissuade him from his purpose. Dorigen adopts a procedure closer to that in Doon or in Menedon's story to rid herself of the unwelcome attentions of her suitor. "In pley" (V 988) she sets him what she supposes is an impossible task. However, the tasks set by the ladies in Doon and Menedon's story have no other purpose than to be difficult if not impossible of execution. The task set by Dorigen is explicitly inspired by concern for her husband's safety.
There is a further factor that distances Dorigen from her counterparts in other épreuve d'amour narratives. When Aurelius complains that to assign him an impossible task is a particularly heartless gesture on Dorigen's part, she reiterates her abhorrence of marital infidelity, and reinforces the idea that the test is unequivocally intended to prohibit, rather than to facilitate, the furtherance of any relationship between them:
"What deyntee sholde a man han in his lyf
For to go love another mannes wyf,
That hath hir body whan so that hym liketh?"
The tasks set by the ladies whose favors are sought by Doon and Tarolfo acknowledge the reality of the desires that motivate them and the validity of the erotic system to which they respond. Dorigen appears indifferent to one and ignorant of the other. Precisely the fact that a husband may avail himself of his wife's body any time that he chooses makes it anathema for the theorist of courtly love doctrine that a woman should love her husband, or for love as he understands it to exist within marriage:
Dorigen, however, embraces naively and enthusiastically the idea of love between partners in a Christian marriage. Her astonishment that anyone could derive joy from adultery implies either that she has never heard of Tristan and Isolde, or Lancelot and Guinevere, or that she completely lacks sympathy with these sublime examples of passionate love. She is content that her own marriage manages to integrate the domesticity of love between husband and wife with the romance of love between courtly lover and his mistress, but, once put to the test by the intervention of Aurelius, the shallowness of her assumptions is exposed.(FN37)
In all traditional épreuve d'amour narratives that proceed far enough for the assigned task to be accomplished, there is an overriding consistency. This is most evident in the courtly lais Tyolet and Les trois Chevaliers et la Chaisne, where the lady's commitment is unwavering from the start. In other narratives commitment to the principle of courtly love reasserts itself when the lady relinquishes her opposition to the lover and accepts him into her good graces. In Menedon's story, however, the object of desire becomes so morose that her husband is led to question her psychological state, and he discovers her guilty secret when she reveals the source of her discontents. There is no obvious way of integrating this behavior to any consistent personality, and the lady seems to waver in her attitudes. Chaucer restores consistency to Dorigen, but he does so by creating a character different from those in either the traditional épreuve d'amour narratives or in Boccaccio's story. Her consistency stems from the paradoxical fact that, despite being the highest born aristocrat among the characters who populate the Franklin's Tale, she espouses a bourgeois view of courtly love and is adamantly opposed to the concept of fin' amour because that concept embraces the idea of adultery. Other women accept the épreuve d'amour convention that accomplishment of a task, even when initially assigned to discourage unwelcome attentions, earns the reward of the granting of favors previously denied. Dorigen's reaction when Aurelius reveals that the task has been successfully accomplished is predictably different from that of the women in Doon and Menedon's story. She is completely overwhelmed by the consequences of her prior action; cannot reconcile herself to its implications; is driven, however superficially, to contemplate suicide;(FN38) and finally in a panic attempts to escape all responsibility for her conduct by confiding her problem to her husband and leaving him to resolve the issue. Dorigen, in contrast with the lady in Boccaccio's narrative, deliberately confides her dilemma to her husband in a state of complete social and moral paralysis.
Her action places Arveragus at the center of dramatic conflict and poses a question as to how well his response to Dorigen's revelation can be reconciled with the attitudes that he espouses earlier in the tale. He is on record (V 744-52) as declaring that he will never oppose his wife's will nor manifest signs of jealousy at her behavior. His reaction to what she confides to him indicates a willingness to respect those commitments. His initial reaction, "Is ther oght elles, Dorigen, but this?" (V 1469), is extremely mild, and his resolve, "As I may best I wol my wo endure-/Ne make no contenance of hevynesse" (V 1484-85), is exactly in conformity with that of the husband in the unequivocally courtly Les trois Chevaliers et la Chaisne. What Dorigen tells him provokes a brief disquisition on the virtues of respecting "truth":
"Ye shul youre trouthe holden, by my fay!
For God so wisly have mercy upon me,
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.
Trouthe is the hyeste thyng that man may kepe."
The last line of this speech, which sounds like a universal moral imperative, also refers more immediately to an actual occasion in the narrative context. Arveragus is arguing specifically that having assigned Aurelius a task, and having stipulated a reward for its successful completion, Dorigen is morally obliged to hold to her promise. His position is a defence of the value of the épreuve d'amour as a courtly ritual and, ultimately, of the conventions of the code of courtly love itself. He behaves in a manner consistent with that undertaken at the time of his marriage.
Nevertheless, Dorigen's actions have promoted a clash between his private, courtly self and his public image as a married man, a clash provoking the outburst for which he has been the most severely criticized.(FN39)
But with that word he brast anon to wepe,
And seyde, "I yow forbede, up peyne of deeth,
That nevere, whil thee lasteth lyf ne breeth,
To no wight telle thou of this aventure."
His attitude here seems extreme, and it reflects a high degree of frustration, less perhaps at Dorigen's engagement in an act of adultery as at her evident inability to follow through on the engagement once made, and her decision -- in total contravention of the code -- to involve her husband in a crisis that precipitates an irresolvable conflict between his private and public personae. Despite the plea made by Arveragus, Dorigen does reveal "this aventure" to the first person that she meets, Aurelius. Most critics assume that "this aventure" relates to Dorigen's promise to the squire. More plausibly it relates to the decision of Arveragus to send his wife to Aurelius.
In all épreuve d'amour narratives that conclude with the actual or promised sexual union of the lady and her suitor, the union takes place with the willing collaboration of the female protagonist. No lover in an épreuve d'amour narrative is a rapist, and while rejection of Dorigen by Aurelius, a courtly lover par excellence (V 925-34), is couched in terms of respect for Arveragus and his gentillesse,(FN40) his decision is equally if not fundamentally based on the behavior of Dorigen herself. By comparison with Menedon's story, the influence of the competition in generosity as a unifying and significatory principle is superficial.
Events in the Franklin's Tale illustrate the narrator's contention that marital bliss is most likely to be achieved when neither party to the marriage assumes dominance. To that degree the tale constitutes a satisfactory response to the tales of the Wife of Bath and the Clerk of Oxenford. But it falls far short of satisfying G. L. Kittredge's contention that the marriage of Dorigen and Arveragus depicts an ideal relationship, resolves the issues raised in the so-called "marriage debate," and brings that debate to a triumphant conclusion.(FN41) Instead, it exposes poignantly the paradox inherent in the suggestion that Arveragus could be both servant and lord to Dorigen, or that she could be both courtly mistress and wife to him. That these roles are incompatible emerges dearly from the circumstances of the tale. Dorigen's intractably bourgeois attitudes conspire to make her an ideal wife but prohibit her from functioning as a courtly mistress in any context other than the artificially circumscribed domestic arena. Her venture into the courtly milieu of the épreuve d'amour nearly has catastrophic consequences, which she escapes only by a panic retreat into domesticity. Arveragus tries to play the part of "servant in love" and to respect the conventions appropriate to a devoted follower of Cupid and Venus, but his resolve places him in the unenviable position of having to conspire to his own cuckolding. Given that Dorigen is evidently distressed at the prospect of honoring her commitment to Aurelius and reveals the situation to her husband Arveragus with the hope that he can engineer an escape from the obligation for her, his fidelity to the exigencies of the courtly love code requires a complete betrayal of the role appropriate to a caring and supportive husband. What the Franklin's Tale ultimately reveals is that the reconciliation of romantic love and Christian marriage is a fragile fantasy that is realizable only within the artificial boundaries of a relationship that exists in isolation from the external world. Once those boundaries have been breached, the stark truth becomes apparent, that, rather than a synthesis, real life requires a choice between irreconcilable alternatives, and that adherence to one set of principles mandates rejection of the other.
ROY J. PEARCY
University College, London University London, England
1. See Andreas Capellanus, The Art of Courtly Love, trans. John Jay Parry (London, 1941).
2. The general conventions of courtly love are examined by Roger Boase, The Origin and Meaning of Courtly Love: A Critical Study of European Scholarship (Manchester, U.K., 1977). C. Hugh Holman looks at "Courtly Love in the Merchant's and the Franklin's Tales," English Literary History 18 (1951): 241-52, More recently, the influence on events of an anti-adultery convention is explored by Mark N. Taylor, "Servant and Lord/Lady and Wife: The Franklins Tale and Traditions of Courtly and Conjugal Love," Chaucer Review 32 (1997): 64-81. For the incompatibility of courtly love and Christian marriage, see Angela M. Lucas and Peter J. Lucas, "The Presentation of Marriage and Love in Chaucer's Franklins Tale" English Studies 72 (1981): 501-12, a view disputed by Timothy H. Flake, "Love, Trouthe, and the Happy Ending of the Franklin's Tale" English Studies 77 (1996): 209-26.
3. Although a version of the story appears in the Decameron, the closest analogue to Chaucer's work is the tale told by Menedon in Il Filocolo, a late and egregious version of the épreuve d'amour motif. It is related as the fourth in a sequence of thirteen "questions of love" to be debated before the mistress of ceremonies Fiammetta. Chaucer's indebtedness to Il Filocolo was first recognized and explored by Pio Rajna, "Le Originl della novella narrata dal Frankeleyn nei Canterbury Tales del Chaucer," Romania 32 (1903): 204-67.
4. This mixed ancestry is reflected in the generic diversity of the narratives that include épreuve d'amour motifs. Primary focus will be on three versions concerned with the psychology of wives, since these best reveal the practices of Boccaccio and Chaucer. Le Chevalier qui recevra l'Amor de sa Dame and Guillaume au Faucon are conventionally classed as fabliaux, although as pointed out by Per Nykrog, Les Fabliaux, and edn. (Geneva, 1973), 176-7;, both feature love relationships which are "presque purement courtois" (almost purely courteous). The former is unimpeachably courtly, and the latter, which borrows heavily from Chrétien's Yvain, has only one fabliau feature, the obscene pun on faucon and faux con. Texts are in Willem Noomen and Nico van den Boogaard, eds., Nouveau Recueil Complet des Fabliaux, 10 vols. (Assen, 1983-98) (hereafter NRCF, cited by volume and page number), 7:239-53, 392-93, and 8:215-45, 376-79, respectively. Les trois Chevaliers et la Chaisne was accepted as a fabliau in Anatole de Montaiglon and Gaston Raynaud, eds., Recueil Général et Complet des Fabliaux des XHIIe et XIVe Siècles, 6 vols. (Paris, 1872-90) (hereafter MR), from which the text of this narrative is taken (3:122-36). The author Jacques de Baisieux also wrote the well-known fabliau Le Vescie a Prestre (NRCF, 10:285-303, 380-82). Nykrog describes Les trois Chevaliers et la Chaisne as a "nouvelle courtoise" (15), equivalent to classifying it as a lai. There is an excellent brief account of this narrative in Joseph Bédier, Les Fabliaux, 6th edn. (1893; repr. Paris, 1969), 291-98. Of the remaining five narratives, two, Doon and Tyolet, are Breton lais. They combine the épreuve d'amour motif with one other romantic episode in what remains a brief narrative. For their texts, see Gaston Paris, "Lais Inédits," Romania 8 (1879): 28-72; and for their properties, see Mary Prudence O'Hara Tobin, Les Lais anonymes des XIIe et XIIIe siècles (Geneva, 1976). The three other narratives are fabliaux that feature a disreputable and sexual épreuve d'amour performed by the lover in expectation that it will be private and clandestine, but which by prearrangement with the mistress turns out to be public and humiliating. These three narratives are Aristote et Alixandre, in T. B. W. Reid, ed., Twelve Fabliaux (Manchester, U.K., 1958), 70-82, 115-19 (also classified as a lai, and dropped from the fabliau inventory of NRCF); a close analogue, L'Evesque qui berte"ite Con (NRCF, 6:193-205, 344), which also combines two loosely connected episodes; and La Gageure (NRCF, 10:1-10, 339). For a cranplete listing and classification of Breton lays, see Mortimer J. Donovan, The Breton Lay: A Guide to Varieties (Notre Dame, 1969).
5. Edmond Lackenbacher, ed. and trans., Lidia, in Gustave Cohen, ed., La 'Comédie' latine en France au XIIe siècle, 2 vols. (Paris, 1931), 1:211-46, at 1:235-43 (lines 252-460).
6. Chrétien de Troyes, Erec et Enide, ed. Mario Roques (Paris, 1970), 74 (lines 2430-33). English text in Chrétien de Troyes, Arthurian Romances, trans. W. W. Comfort (London, 1914): 1-90, at 31.
7. Chrétien de Troyes, Erec et Enide, ed. Roques, 114-15 (lines 3751-55); trans. Comfort, Arthurian Romances, 49.
8. Chrétien de Ttoyes, Le Chevalier de la Charrete, ed Mario Roques (Paris, 1958); trans. Comfort, Arthurian Romances, 344.
9. This phenomenon is examined by Marie-Luce Chênerie, "Ces Curieux Chevaliers toumoyeurs... des fabliaux aux romans," Romania 97 (1976): 327-68.
10. Alfred Ewert, ed., Gui de Warewic, roman du XIIe siècle, 2 vols. (Paris, 1933), 31 (line 993).
11. Ewert, éd., Gui de Warewic, 136 (line 4471).
12. MR, 3:113-36, at 135-36. All translations from Old French are the author's unless otherwise noted. For the complete works of Jacques de Baisieux, see L'Oeuvre de Jacques de Baisieux, ed. Patrick A. Thomas (The Hague, 1973).
13. Fiammetta recognizes the questionable nature of the husband's decision, acknowledging that he "performed the greatest act of generosity, although he behaved less than prudently". Quotations in Italian from il Pilocolo are from Robert R. Edwards, "The Franklin's Tale," in Robert M. Correale and Mary Hamel, eds., Sources and Analogues of the Canterbury Tales, 1 vols. (Woodbridge, 1002, 2005), 1:211-65, at 220-39. Despite some minor discrepancies stemming from the use of different editions of Boccaccio's text, I have preferred the English translation in N. R. Havely, Chaucer's Boccaccio: Sources of Troilus and the Knight's and Franklin's Tales (Woodbridge, 1980), 154-61, at 159. Chaucer's treatment of this element is even more skeptical. He notes, by way of his fictional narrator, that the plot may provoke some unease in the mind of his audience: "Paraventure an heep of yow, ywis./Wol holden hym a lewed man in this,/That he wol putte his wyf in jupartie./Herkneth the tale er ye upon hire crie./She may have bettre fortune than yow semeth:/And whan that ye han herd the tale, demeth" (V 1493-98). He implies that the action of Arveragus is tolerable because benign in its consequences, but since they are necessarily unknown when he makes his decision, the authorial intrusion does nothing to mitigate the unease provoked by the dubious morality of the stance adopted. The morality of Arveragus's decision was first explored by Alan T. Gaylord, "The Promises in The Franklin's Taie" English Language History 31 (1964): 331-65.
14. Edwards, "The Franklin's Tale," 231-33 (lines 260-68); Havely, Chaucer's Boccaccio, 159.
15. That Tarolfo is a knight preserves the conventional feature of working to win approval by participating in tournaments. That he also solicits favors by plying the wife with expensive gifts is alien to traditional épreuve d'amour narratives, probably because it courts the danger of exposing a clandestine relationship. Despite the lack of any encouragement, Tarolfo allegedly follows Ovid's teaching that "I'uomo non lasciare per durezza della donna di non perserverare, però che per continuanza la molle acqua fora la dura pietra" (Edwards, "The Franklin's Tale," 221 [lines 10-22]) (a man should not fail to persevere on account of his lady's obduracy, since through sheer persistence soft water will pierce hard rock [Havely, Chaucer's Boccaccio, 154, 211ns]). Without the final metaphor, these sentiments conclude Guillaume au Faucon (NRCF, 8:244-45), where they also presumably derive from Ovid's Ars Amatoria, although this work is not acknowledged as a source.
16. History of the scholarship tracing the relationship between FranT and Boccaccio's Il Filocolo is long and complex. Key texts are Douglas A. Burger, "The Cosa impossibile of Il Filocolo and the Impossible of The Franklin's Tale," in Leigh A Arrathoon, ed., Chaucer and the Craft of Fiction (Rochester, Mich., 1988): 165-78; Robert R. Edwards, "Source, Context, and Cultural Translation in the Franklin's Tale," Modern Philology 94 (1996): 141-62; and Dominique Battles, "Chaucer's Franklin's Tale and Boccaccio's Filocolo Reconsidered," Chaucer Review 34 (1999): 38-59. See also Andrea Rossi-Reder, "Male Movement and Female Fixity in the Franklin's Tale and Il Filocolo," in Peter G. Beidler, ed., Masculinities in Chaucer: Approaches to Maleness in the Canterbury Tales and Troilus and Criseyde (Woodbridge, 2000), 105-16. Edwards's argument that the "Love Questions and not the entire romance of Florio and Biancifiore are his [Chaucer's] immediate literary context" (142) would obviate all concern with the influence of the wider context of Il Filocolo on Chaucer's work.
17. All quotations of Chaucer's text are from The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson, 3rd edn. (Boston, 1987).
18. Detailed discussion of the magic practices employed by the magician are provided in J. S. P. Tatlock, "Astrology and Magic in Chaucer's Franklin's Tale," in Anniversary Papers by Colleagues and Pupils of George Lyman Kittredge (Boston, 1913): 339-50; and in Chauncey Wood, "Of Time and Tide in the Franklin's Tale," Philological Quarterly 45 (1966): 688-711. See also Anthony Luengo, "Magic and Illusion in The Franklin's Tale," Journal of English and Germanic Philology 77 (1978): 1-16; and W. Bryant Bachman Jr., "'To Maken Illusioun': The Philosophy of Magic and the Magic of Philosophy in the Franklin's Tale," Chaucer Review 12 (1977): 55-67. Magical illusion and poetic composition are compared by Sherron Knopp, "Poetry as Conjuring Act: The Franklin's Tale and The Tempest," Chaucer Review 38 (2004): 337-54.
19. "Questa è cosa impossibile: io mi leverò costui da dosso per questa maniera" (Edwards, "The Franklin's Tale," 223 [lines 35-36]) (It is an impossible thing to do, and that is how I shall get free of him [Havely, Chaucer's Boccaccio, 155]).
20. Edwards, "The Fran1dinds Tale," 229 (lines 201-5); trans. Havely, Chaucer's Boccaccio, 157-58.
21. Boccaccio's narrative is discordant in recording the lady's overly practical stipulations about a rendezvous and her preparations for meeting with her suitor: "ornatasi e fattasi bella... la donna rispose, 'Per essere a tutti i tuoi voleri sono venuta; fa di me quello che ti piace'" (Edwards, "The Franklin's Tale," 231 [lines 229, 233-34]) (She adorned and beautified herself, and... [answered Tarolfo's enquiry by saying]: "I have come to place myself wholly at your command; do what you please with me" [Havely, Chaucer's Boccaccio, 158]).
22. NRCF, 7:249 (lines 79-83). The issue seems to have obsessed Chrétien, since after Erec et Enide it recurs in Yvain when Laudine is persuaded of the propriety of falling in love with the man who killed her husband in fair and open conflict.
23. Michael Calabrese, "Chaucer's Dorigen and Boccaccio's Female Voices," Studies in the Age of Chaucer 29 (2007): 259-92, compares Dorigen's rhetoric with that of Boccaccian heroines (including the wife in Menedon's story) who are caught in similar circumstances. He concludes that Dorigen's apparent efforts to avoid sexual entanglement are misdirected.
24. Laura Hibbard Loomis, "Chaucer and the Breton Lays of the Auchinleck MS," Studies in Philology 38 (1941): 14-33, discusses Chaucer's possible source for this passage.
25. That Chaucer had an actual Breton lai as his source, and that FranT features conventional elements of the genre as reflected in the lais of Marie de France, was an idea advanced by William Henry Schofield, "Chaucer's Franklin's Tale," PMLA 16 (1901): 405-49. Lucien Foulet remarks that an uninterrupted chain extends from Guigemar to FranT by way of, among others, the lays of Doon and Tyolet ("Le Prologue du Franklin's Tale et les lais bretons," Zeitschrift für romanische Philologie 30 : 698-711, at 708). Recognition that the main source was Boccaccio's Il Filocolo leaves open the question of which lais might have influenced Chaucer's changes to Boccaccio's narrative. None of the extant lais in English feature an épreuve d'amour, but there doubtless existed others more closely approximating FranT that have not survived to us. The Shrewsbury School MS VII, discussed by Georgine E. Brereton, "A Thirteenth-Century List of French Lays and Other Narrative Poems" Modern Language Review 45 (1950): 40-45, indicates the existence of many lais now lost that Chaucer might have known. Fourteen items, some of which might have been lais, have been lost from the Auchinleck manuscript. The reference in the prologue of Freine to lais involving "bourdes and ribaudy" suggests that some might have resembled the fabliaux Aristote et Alixandre, Guillaume au Faucon, and Le Chevalier qui recovra l'Amor de sa Dame. See also John B. Beston, "How Much Was Known of the Breton Lai in Fourteenth Century England?," in Larry D. Benson, ed., The Learned and the Lewed: Studies in Chaucer and Medieval Literature (Cambridge, Mass., 1974): 319-42; and Emily K. Yoder, "Chaucer and the 'Breton' Lai," Chaucer Review 12 (1977): 74-77.
26. Laura Hibbard Loomis, "Chaucer and the Breton Lays:" 29n28, refers to a bibliography of Rash Promises in Celtic literature prepared by Tom Peete Cross and William Albert Nitze, Lancelot and Guinevere: A Study on the Origins of Courtly Love (Chicago, 1930), 49n3. The term appears in the title of a short article by N. A. Bøgholm, "Rash Promise," Studia Neophilologica 15 (1942): 41-42, and incidentally in numerous articles. Effie Jean Mathewson, "The Illusion of Morality in the Franklin's Tale," Medium AEvum 52 (1983): 27-37, at 28-30, makes much of the "rash promises" made by the rapist knight in WBT and alluded to by Virginia in PhyT. Kathryn Hume, "Why Chaucer Calls the Franklin's Tale a Breton Lai," Philological Quarterly 51 (1972): 365-79, at 370, draws comparisons with The Erl of Tolous, Graelent, Desiré, Lanval and its English counterparts, Fraisne, and Sir Gowther. See also Derek Pearsall, The Canterbury Tales (London, 1985), 145-47; and Leslie K. Arnovick, "Dorigen's Promise and Scholars' Premise: The Orality of the Speech Act in the Franklin's Tale," in Mark C. Amodio, ed., Oral Poetics in Middle English Poetry (London, 1996), 125-47. Echoing Bernard F. Huppé, A Reading of the Canterbury Tales (Binghamton, N.Y., 1967), Douglas J. Wurtele regards the rash promise as "the heart of the problem" in FranT ("Chaucer's Franklin and the Truth about 'Trouthe,'" English Studies in Canada 13 : 359-74).
27. See Wurtele, "Chaucer's Franklin," 367-68.
28. Some of these changes are attributed to the influence of Boccaccio's Teseide by John Livingston Lowes, "The Franklin's Tale, the Teseide, and the Filocolo," Modern Philology 15 (1918): 689-728. The correspondence with Guillaume au Faucon, particularly the context, is closer than with the Teseide, but the latter work has the advantage of being known as a Chaucerian source for KnT.
29. NRCF, 8:232 (lines 120-25).
30. The situation depicted in Guillaume au Faucon resembles that in FranT more than does the episode cited from Cligès by Mary Hamel, "The Franklin's Tale and Chrétien de Troyes," Chaucer Review 17 (1983): 316-31.
31. NRCF, 8:234 (lines 216-17).
32. NRCF, 8:232-33 (lines 139-50).
33. NRCF, 8:234, 235 (lines 204-27, 253-74).
34. NRCF, 8:236 (lines 284-91).
35. E.g., Guillaume au Faucon, NRCF, 8:232 (lines 137-45), and FranT, V 944-49).
36. The portrait of Dorigen has occasioned much commentary and become a focus for feminist criticism. See, for example, Janemarie Luecke, "Dorigen: Marriage Model or Male Fantasy," Journal of Women's Studies in Literature 1(1979): 107-21; Anne Thompson Lee, "A Woman True and Fair: Chaucer's Portrayal of Dorigen in the Franklin's Tale" Chaucer Review 19 (1984): 169-78; Susan Crane, "The Franklin as Dorigen," Chaucer Review 24 (1990): 236-52; David Raybin, "'Wommen, of Kynde, Desiren Libertee': Rereading Dorigen, Rereading Marriage," Chaucer Review 27 (1992): 65-86; Mary R. Bowman, "'Half as She Were Mad': Dorigen in the Male World of the Franklin's Tale," Chaucer Review 27 (1993): 239-51; Carol A. Pulham, "Promises, Promises: Dorigen's Dilemma Revisited," Chaucer Review 31 (1996): 76-86; Felicity Riddy, "Engendering Pity in the Franklin's Tale," in Ruth Evans and Lesley Johnson, eds., Feminist Readings in Middle English Literature (London, 1996): 54-71 (Riddy argues that having and receiving pity protects the courtly myth of male aristocracy); Francine McGregor, "What of Dorigen? Agency and Ambivalence in the Franklinrs Tale;" Chaucer Review 31 (1997): 365-78; and Nina Manasan Greenberg, "Dorigen as Enigma: The Production of Meaning in the Franklin's Tale:" Chaucer Review 33 (1999): 329-49. Dorigenes solipsistic attitude is contrasted with attitudes related to "received knowledge" (Arveragus) and "constructed knowledge" (Aurelius) in an interesting article by Anne Scott, "'Considerynge the best on every side': Ethics, Empathy, and Epistemology in the Franklin's Tale," Chaucer Review 29 (1995): 390-415. The possible influence of Deschamps' Miroir de Mariage on Dorigen's complaint is discussed briefly by John L. Lowes, "Chaucer and the Miroir de Mariage," Modern Philology 8 (1910-11): 165-86, 305-34, at 324-25.
37. Mathewson notes that Dorigen "is unable to display a modicum of nobility" ("The Illusion of Morality," 33). Holman acknowledges that in responding to the petition of Aurelius she violates all the principles of the religion of love, and that the ladies of the court would have viewed with incredulity such profoundly plebeian behavior ("Courtly Love," 250). Mathewson feels Chaucer could not have been so "pusillanimous" as to identify his own morality with that of the Franklin (27). Gertrude M. White concludes that there is no fundamental division between Chaucer and the Franklin ("The Franklin's Tale: Chaucer or the Critics," PMLA, 89 : 454-62). She also stresses the differences between MerT and FranT. Many readers choose to regard Dorigen's comments on adulterous love as ironic, but in the absence of any clear indication on Chaucer's part that irony was intended, and because the sentiments she expresses harmonize with how I interpret her character from the part she plays in FranT as a whole, I prefer to accept them at face value.
38. That the incoherence of Dorigen's complaint reflects the heroine's mounting hysteria was first argued by James Sledd, "Dorigen's Complaint," Modern Philology 45 (1947): 36-45. It has been challenged by Gerald Morgan, "A Defence of Dorigen's Complaint," Medium AEvum 46 (1977): 77-97, who finds that the complaint reflects careful organization in defense of chastity, fidelity, and honor. That Dorigen should be capable of sustained moral discussion in her circumstances, however, violates principles of psychological realism respected elsewhere in Chaucer's practice. See also Donald C. Baker, "A Crux in Chaucer's Franklin's Tale: Dorigen's Complaint," Journal of English and Germanic Philology 60 (1961): 56-64; and Robert B. Burlin, "The Art of Chaucer's Franklin," Neophilologus 51 (1967): 55-73.
39. For example, by A. C. Spearing, ed., The Franklin's Prologue and Tale (Cambridge, U.K., 1966), 35-36, 107. Michael J. Wright, "Isolation and Individuality in the Franklin's Tale," Studia Neophilologica 70 (1998): 181-86, remarks on the masculine impulse of Arveragus "towards the use of violence to defend" his honor, "the one lapse by Arveragus which threatens catastrophe." The Lacanian view of Ellen E. Martin, "The Romance of Anxiety in Chaucer's Franklin's Tale," in Deborah H. Sinnreich-Levi and Gale Sigal, eds., Voices in Translation: The Authority of 'Olde Bookes' in Medieval Literature (New York, 1994), 117-36, attributes Arveragus's threats to anxiety rather than mysogyny.
40. Kathryn Hume discusses gentilesse as a definitive feature of lais. For the significance of gentilesse within the context of the tale, see Lindsay A. Mann, "'Gentilesse' and The Franklin's Tale," Studies in Philology 68 (1966): 10-29; and Mary J. Carruthers, "The Gentilesse of Chaucer's Franklin," Criticism 23 (1981): 283-300.
41. The influence of FranT on the so-called marriage debate as begun by George Lyman Kittredge, "Chaucer's Discussion of Marriage," Modern Philology 9 (1911-12): 435-67, is discussed by Phyllis Hodgson, ed., The Franklin's Tale (London, 1960), and by Edwin B. Benjamin, "The Concept of Order in the Franklin's Tale," Philological Quarterly 38 (1959): 119-24. Michael Stevens, "The Franklin's Tale," in Michael Hoy and Michael Stevens, eds., Chaucer's Major Tales (London, 1969), 81-101, discusses a number of the issues raised in the course of this paper.