In both the Wife of Bath's Tale and the Franklin's Tale, the Breton lai romances of the Tales, as well as in the Wife of Bath's Prologue, Chaucer explores the roles and rules of love and marriage for the medievals. Through the Wife of Bath's Prologue, he presents the vast body of anti-feminist ‘authority' of the time, which consisted of abundant Biblical reference as well as Greek and Roman tales and legends that ‘proved' how difficult marriage was because of the inherent faults of womankind. The Wife portrays marriage as a womanly role just as valuable as holy virginity, separated only by their “differing dignity,” but reverses the typical hierarchical marital structure in which the man rules the home. Her insistence upon having ‘maistrie' over her many husbands becomes one of the most prominent themes in these tales, as she explores it more within her own tale, and the Franklin returns to it in his. Within the rules of courtly love, women were often granted power temporarily for the purpose of enriching the game of love played by the knights and ladies of romances and assuring these ladies of their suitors' immeasurable love.
[...] In the Franklin's Tale, love and marriage manage to exist a bit more harmoniously, though certain details sit uneasily in the way of proclaiming the union between Arveragus and Dorigen perfect. In the quintessential courtly romance tradition, Arveragus, the knight, proclaims his love for the lady Dorigen, and promises her that “nevere in al his lyf he, day ne nyght, / Ne sholde upon hym take no maistrie / Agayn hir wyl but hir obeye 746-49).” This vow, meant to prove that his love for her is so great that he can place all of his power in her hands and feel secure that she will do right, is precisely what allows the hag to make her own decision in the Wife's Tale, but here it is much more permanent. [...]
[...] Angela Weisl says that romance's borders can be tested by new configurations of power Dorigen's and Arveragus's equal marriage of the female authority of the Wife of Bath's Tale but they ultimately reassert themselves and require male dominance and male submission (Weisl This assertion, however, is oversimplified in relation to both tales. The Wife of Bath never truly submits to male authority; although she does feel oppressed within it for a period of time, she attacks Jankin and regains her power in the relationship. [...]
[...] Suddenly the courtly equality they had established and maintained is gone, only to be replaced with the domineering male authority of knighthood. Arveragus and Aurelius trade Dorigen back and forth to validate their honor and nobility, but Dorigen herself is forgotten in the Franklin's conclusion. His question of who is the most generous is an interesting one, but it totally avoids her feelings on the matter. After all the talk about their beautiful, mutual union, the bluster of knighthood seems to win out in the end over the intimate relationship between Dorigen and Arveragus. [...]
[...] As for love, it tends to follow courtly tradition, but is generally incompatible with marriage, unless the marriage exists without ‘maistrie:' “Love wol nat be constreyned by maistrie” says the Franklin in his tale, “When maistrie comth, the God of Love anon / Beteth his wygnes, and farewel, he is gon! Chaucer ultimately presents both love and marriage as relationships of power, the first a game in which the woman is freely given power temporarily, the second a reinstatement of male authority, though it only succeeds when the traditional roles are reversed or eliminated altogether. [...]
[...] Although it is not as clearly stated as it will be in the Franklin's Tale or her own, evidence that the Wife has this romantic ‘maistrie' comes in the form of her proposal to Jankin: spak to hym and seyde hym how that he, / If I were wydwe, sholde wedde me (III: 567-68).” Obviously theirs is not the typical courtship, but the theme of woman's power before marriage is certainly present. The Wife says that she married Jankin love, and no richesse (III: but immediately there are complications with this supposed love-match. [...]
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