How is Dorigen presented in the text of The Franklin's Tale in The Canterbury Tales?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dorigen is presented by the Franklin in The Franklin's Tale as having every beauty, grace, charm, kindness and virtue. Dorigen is also presented as being particular, logical and goodhearted. The knight Arveragus has to work very hard to try to convince her of his worthiness and win her love. When he offers to make her his equal, except in name to uphold his high position, she understands the great significance of his offer and promises in return to live without contentions and quarrels.

When Arveragus goes from their home across the channel to win his fortunes as a knight, she is utterly dismayed and in complete anguish. Her fervent prayers show her devout love of God and trust in Him. She is not afraid to reason with God himself asking why this wretched circumstance of separation was allowed. When approached after quite some time by Aurelius, who had been pining for her from afar, with an offer of love, Dorigen acts firmly on her loyalty and devotedness to her true love and husband and rebuffs Aurelius entirely; but seeing his misery, she offers an exchange: If he can remove the treacherous rocks from the sea to ensure Arveragus a safe arrival, she will give Aurelius the her physical love.

When it transpires that Aurelius contracts with a magician to remove the rocks, Dorigen honestly tells Arveragus the events that transpired and of her promise to Aurelius. Rather than be a dishonorable wife and rather than dishonor her promise, Dorigen chooses to ritually take her own life. Fortunately, Aurelius intercepts her and releases her from her promise for which she is overjoyed and truly grateful.

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The Canterbury Tales

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