The Canterbury Tales The Franklin's Tale
A young Breton knight named Arviragus marries the beautiful Dorigen in the opening of the Franklin's tale. In an unusual egalitarian marriage, their union consists of a couple in which neither is servant nor master, dominant nor subservient. Arviragus is unfortunately sent away to Britain to work for two years soon after their marriage, leaving Dorigen alone in tears. He continued to send letters to her, yet they never erased her pain. She would walk over to the cliffs sometimes with her friends, overlooking the ocean. Perhaps one of the ships would bring back her beloved. Through the days of looking at the ocean, she became worried that the rocks on the shore would destroy her husband's ship upon return.
Dorigen and her friends had garden parties, in which they invited many singers and squires, including the young, Aurelius, who had been in love with Dorigen since her arrival in Brittany. Aurelius declared his undying love for Dorigen and she agreed to become his lover if he could clear the rocks near the shore that could endanger the incoming ships that may contain Arvirigus. Aurelius knew that the hopeful task was impossible and thereupon contacted a law student in Orleans who was skilled with the sciences of illusions and other such magic. Aurelius set out to journey to Orleans to meet this student, where in the house of the illusionist, Aurelius found fantastical objects. The law student had the powers to remove all the rocks from the shore for one week in exchange for one thousand pounds. Aurelius was thrilled with the bargain and told a melancholy Dorigen, who realized that she must either give up her body or her name to Aurelius. Dorigen cites several famous maidens who gave up their lives for their faith and their lovers, in lieu of giving themselves to other men, such as Lacedaemon, Hasdrubal's wife, and Lucrece.
Arviragus eventually returned home to a somber Dorigen who told him of the events that occurred during his absence: that she must succumb to Aurelius because of her promise to him to save Arviragus from the rocks near the shore. Arviragus is honest with Dorigen and promises to bear the burden and chagrin of what she must do. He remarks that one must stay true to a promise above all else and then sends Dorigen to Aurelius to fulfill her promise. Aurelius is so beguiled by Arviragus's honor that he lets Dorigen go free without fulfilling the promise. Aurelius proceeds to pay the law student for his services, who does not force him to pay his debt because of his great respect and honor for his deed. All three men had proven themselves generous and honorable. The tale concludes with the open-ended question: Which of the three men is the more chivalrous, honorable, and desirous?