The Canterbury Tales

In Private: the Promise in The Franklin's Tale

In the Franklin's Tale, Dorigen's hasty (and unserious) promise precipitates a crisis when Aurelius completes a task that Dorigen felt certain was impossible. Aurelius faces a similar problem when, consumed by his inordinate passion, he unthinkingly promises to pay a staggering sum to a magician in exchange for completion of Dorigen's task. The power of the promise is apparent throughout this storybetween Dorigen and Arveragus, Dorigen and Aurelius, and Aurelius and the magician, three promises of great importance are made. These promises direct the action of the story. Examination of these promises reveals that in the Franklin's Tale, the promise binds two people together into a relationship which is profoundly private; this private relationship functions on a mechanism of trust. Grounding promises firmly in the private world, the tale argues that privately oriented values (as opposed to publicly oriented values, like shame) are the guarantor of harmony in relationships.

The first of these relationships is formed by the touching promise of equality made by Dorigen and Arveragus, establishing from the beginning of the story that a promise lies totally in the realm of the private. Arveragus gives his word:

Of his...

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