The Canterbury Tales

Equality and Power: Marriage in The Franklin's Tale and The Wife of Bath's Tale

In Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, the Franklin's Tale and the Wife of Bath's Tale represent marriage in different ways. The most striking contrast is the role of power in relationships in the two stories, and for the two tellers. The Franklin believes in mutuality, and equality. His wedding ideal is a binding, officious contract rendering the partners equal to each other. The Wife of Bath sees marriage as an inevitable struggle for power. The assumption that one partner in a union will have more control is at the heart of both her tale, and the stories of her own past relationships. These different ideas about marriage match well with their tellers characteristics, as give to the reader in a brief description of the Franklin in The General Prologue, and the Wife of Bath's extensive discussion of marriage and love in her own prologue. Among countless subtle differences and similarities between the two stories, the ideas about power are clearly important and quite fitting.

The Franklin's idea of a contract is made clear in many instances throughout his tale. Contracts, agreements, and binding promises are found throughout the tale. The businesslike language used to describe Arveragus courting Dorigen is one...

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