Lais vs Canterbury Tales

1 January 2017

The two literary works are framed narratives, containing several small stores. Both were written in a similar time period with The Lais of Marie de France being written in the 12th century and The Canterbury Tales composed in the 14th century. More specifically, the Franklin’s Tale from The Canterbury Tales and the Eliduc from The Lais of Marie de France contain a handful of similar elements.

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The two tell the stories of seemingly fortified romances turned fowl after the husband leaves for an extended period of time. However, the two stories have a few differences, specifically the gender of the protagonist. In the Eliduc, the male character commits adultery while he is away from his homeland. In the Franklin’s Tale, however, the female character seeks extramarital affairs when her husband is away.

Appropriately, the Eliduc’s protagonist is the male character and the Franklin’s Tale focuses more on the female character. The Eliduc and the Franklin’s Tale describe near identical stories about extramarital affairs, with the genders of the characters reversed. In the Eliduc, and the Franklin’s Tale, one can observe similarities between the two protagonists and between their spouses. In the opening lines of the two narratives, marriages are articulated to the reader.

In the Eliduc, Eliduc “had wedded in his youth a noble lady of proud race and name” (31). It appears that Eliduc chose the person that he would marry and she consented to the wedding. She consented immediately, and he did not have to prove anything to his future wife. In the opening of his tale, the Franklin describes the marriage between Arviragus and Dorigen saying, “[Dorigen] did perform for [Arviagus] so she’d be won,/ for she’s among the fairest beneath the sun” (Franklin, 25–26).

Arviragus finds Dorigen to be very special, but Dorigen may not have felt the same way. Arviagus had to work for Dorigen’s love, which proves the discrepancy between the couple’s feelings for each other. The Franklin farther qualifies imbalance of love between the couple, saying that, “But she, at last for all his worthiness,/ and namely for all his meek obeying,/ such pity took then on is suffering,/ that privately with him she did accord/ to take him for her husband and her lord” (Franklin, 30–35).

Dorigen actually chose to marry Arviagus. She knew that Dorigen had affection for her, but was unsure of her feelings at first. Dorigen’s charm, loyalty, and love overwhelmed her, however, and she eventually agreed to marry him. The balance of power in the relationships is reserved for the protagonist. There is no mention of who had more control over the relationship between Eliduc and Guildeluec, tacitly delegating the rule to the man, as was custom.

The Franklin’s Tale strays away from the status quo and gives the marital power to Dorigen instead of Arviagus. The Franklin describes the power in the relationship saying “Of his free will, he swore to her, as knight,/ In all his life, that never, day or night,/ would he upon himself take mastery/ against her will, nor show his jealousy, but heed her will and also obey her, as his lay, just like any lover/ Except that the title of sovereignty,/ To save his rank from same, that would keep he” (Franklin 37–44). The Franklin starts by stating that men usually had control over their wives, but that he chose not to exercise his power.

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