The Canterbury Tales by Alcuin Blamires (auth.)

By Alcuin Blamires (auth.)

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In assigning this tale to himself, Chaucer conceivably registers a personal wish that more of his male contemporaries would subdue their belligerent instincts and emulate the suffraunce such a woman displays. Dramatic or psychological readings As we have just seen, the Franklin and Wife of Bath appear to dispossess males of their maistrie in only a fleeting and token way. Let us glance at the psychological (as distinct from the sociological) repercussions of this. IfChaucer implies that women would like 'a token submission on the part of the husband', but having gained maistrie 'they want not to exercise it', is he projecting 'an ambivalent wish typical ofhuman nature, and as true of men as of women'?

Later, when Dorigen is in despair over the crisis of her commitment to adultery with squire Aurelius, her husband exercises male prerogative, taking her decision for her. If the Franklin reflects at first Chaucer's 'utopian' aspiration to transcend the current power-structure of marriage, Dorigen's emotional dependence in that moment of crisis makes for a collapse back into the old hierarchy (Aers, pp. 160-9). How much she is in fact conditioned by her culture seems anyway to 34 CRITICS DEBATE emerge in the near-brutal candour with which she envisages that her husband 'hath hir body whan so that hym liketh' (1003-5].

Other scholars, thinking of similar sentiment-puncturing lines in Chaucer's Troilus, would detect here not the Franklin's voice but a specimen of the poet's celebrated 'ambiguity of tone' (Mann 1982, pp. 141-2). Mann suggests that the effect in this case is to impose on Dorigen's emotion an amused- but not unsympathetic - sense of how it would look when time has healed her grief. But our present concern is to realise how Chaucer's authorial attitudes invade the pilgrim storytellers more extensively than Burlin implies.

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