How the Concept of Courtly Love is Represented in the Franklin’s Tale Essay Sample

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Courtly love is a common theme within the Franklin’s Tale, and different characters seem to have different attitudes and approaches towards the concept. For example, Aurelius seems to see it as a somewhat more lustful pursuit than Averagus; he presumably went through the process of courtly love to marry Dorigen, but his vows suggest that he has genuine love for Dorigen. Throughout the Tale, Chaucer seems to poke fun at the idea of courtly love via the Franklin’s comments. This could either be Chaucer representing the idea of courtly love as interpreted by Aurelius as foolish, or the traditional ideas behind it.

Traditionally, courtly love was like a game, in which a noble young man, often a knight or squire, would attempt to woo a lady. Usually, it would be a lady of higher status, and it was not uncommon for her to be married as well. The lady would always be in control, and the young man would perform many foolhardy and dangerous deeds to get her attention. It was, in theory, a chaste pursuit, and not for sexual purposes; Aurelius clearly sees it differently. The brave and foolhardy deeds to the whim of the lady then continue until she shows some form of concern or pity toward the young man; then, there is supposed to be a secret, painful passion between the two, and they get married unless she is already married; if this is the case, the love should be static and unrequited so as not to disrupt the marriage. If she isn’t married, and they marry, the roles reverse and the man takes mastery over the woman. Of course, all of this is theory, and things did not necessarily happen in this way.

In the Franklin’s Tale, the idea of the man taking mastery over the woman after marriage is challenged by Averagus’ marriage to Dorigen: [74-75] ‘That never in his lyf he, ne day ne night/ Ne sholde upon him take no maistrie’. This clearly shows that Chaucer wanted to present an alternative to the traditional roles of man and woman within a marriage resulting from courtly love. This represents courtly love as more of a game, in that it doesn’t last beyond marriage. This implies that the normal procedure, where the amn does gain mastery, is wrong and defies the point of love Of course Chaucer, via the Franklin, challenges this idea of courtly love which ends in mastery: [92] ‘Love wol nat been constrened by maistrye’. This shows that Chaucer is showing his views via the Franklin, the idea that mastery constrains the ideal of true love.

Another representation of courtly love within the Franklin’s tale that deviates from the traditional ideal is the idea of it being a chaste pursuit. H

owever, Chaucer uses Dorigen’s point of view to give a cynical view on it, and to expose it as

a lustful practice: [331-333] ‘What deyntee [pleasure] sholde a man han in his lyf/ For to fo love another mannes wyf,/ That hath hir body whan so that him liketh?’. This represents courtly Love as being a purely physical, lustful thing, with Aurelius only after ‘hir body’. This likens courtly love to adultery; Chaucer may be subtly hinting that he disapproves of courtly love, and that it is in fact very base, and just an excuse to make adultery seem more acceptable and somehow noble. This suggests that Chaucer is against the principles of courtly love, and that he wanted to express his contempt for what he saw as a mere fa�ade for adultery in the Franklin’s tale.

The overblown, melodramatic nature of courtly love is represented and exaggerated in the text; Chaucer was probably aiming to poke fun at the nature of courtly love in lines such as [338] ‘Thanne moot I die of sodyn deth horrible’; here, the idea of ‘dying of a broken heart’ is taken quite literally, as Aurelius is over-dramatic about the situation. The Franklin, who’s views in this case seem to represent Chaucer’s own, has little sympathy for him: [429-430] ‘In languor and torment furius/ Two yeer and moore lay wrecche Aurelius’. The use of the word ‘wrecche’ shows little sympathy for Aurelius, as it is a very negative word, implying that the Franklin sees Aurelius as wretched. The very concept of him lying on a bed weeping for two years is a clear exaggeration; this raises the idea that Chaucer meant this as a parody of courtly love, a way of mocking the overreactions and melodrama associated with it.

The Franklin shows a distinct apathy for Aurelius, which gives the impression that he cares not for courtly love, and feels more contemptuous than sympathetic, which again seem to mirror Chaucer’s own views: [413-414] ‘Lete I this woful creature lie;/ Chese he, for me, wheither he wol live or die’. This shows that the Franklin, as the storyteller, does not care whether or not Aurelius lives or dies; Aurelius is in this state due to his pursuit of Dorigen by courtly love, which is why the Franklin is so uncaring. We can infer from the text, as given in quotes above, that the Franklin presents courtly love in a negative light. Clearly, the Franklin disapproves of courtly love; it is represented is an adulterous, melodramatic pursuit, hence the Franklin’s apathy for Aurelius.

The idea that courtly love is not actually ‘true love’ is quite apparent in the Franklin’s tale. Indeed, Aurelius seems to want Dorigen for her body mostly, and not for true love. As has already been stated above, Dorigen certainly believes that Aurelius is only after her body for adulterous purposes, and Aurelius also seems to revel in the control he has gained by getting the rocks to disappear: [648] ‘Aviseth yow er that ye breke youre trouthe’. Here, he seems to be almost gloating at the fact that she is bound by her promise to offer her body to him, as he has made the rocks disappear. The use of the word ‘Aviseth’, which here is used to say ‘Be warned’, is hardly a word that one would associate with courting and true love; it is much more of a formal warning, implying that Aurelius sees nothing in Dorigen except for the superficial, and sees her as more of an object that he wants to obtain.

In conclusion, courtly love is represented in the Franklin’s Tale in quite a negative light; although it could be said that the love between Dorigen and Averagus is courtly and true, it is not typical of courtly love; the vows break the traditions of courtly love, and in the Franklin’s tale, the focus is on the courtly love of Aurelius for Dorigen. Chaucer, speaking through the Franklin and through Dorigen, presents courtly love as a lustful, superficial, overblown concept. The Franklin’s clear apathy regarding Aurelius is perhaps the best example of Chaucer’s attitude; he uses the Franklin to present his own ideas regarding courtly love, which he seems to believe is a mere fa�ade for adultery and melodrama. The way the Tale is written certainly shows contempt for courtly love, as outlined in examples, and Chaucer seems cynical of the realities of courtly love.

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