Maistrie (mastery) is a concept Chaucer mentions at first as a quality which has the power to negate love, since a woman can't be compelled to love a man but must do so out of free choice. "The Franklin's Tale " illustrates this point in various ways, some of...
Maistrie (mastery) is a concept Chaucer mentions at first as a quality which has the power to negate love, since a woman can't be compelled to love a man but must do so out of free choice. "The Franklin's Tale" illustrates this point in various ways, some of which are ironic.
Arveragus plans to be a model husband to Dorigen, seemingly giving up the maistrie, which at the time would have been considered a man's right to be dominant over the woman in his life. One wonders why he must leave her, then, for an extended sojourn in England, away from their native Brittany. His absence serves as a test of whether his kind and indulgent nature will result in Dorigen's remaining faithful to him during this time. Later in the tale when Aurelius, Dorigen's would-be lover, is in a position to hold her to her pledge that she will love him if he can make the rocks on the coast of Brittany disappear, he releases her from the pledge because he sees how much she is suffering and how much Arveragus is devoted to her.
Arveragus has proven his own pledge to renounce any dominance or mastery over Dorigen and is rewarded for this by her faithfulness and by Aurelius's generosity in releasing Dorigen from her promise to him. Finally, Aurelius is rewarded for his own kindness when the "philosophre" releases him from the debt of a thousand pounds he owed him for creating the illusion of the rocks disappearing.
It appears thus that all the principal characters are rewarded for their renunciation of maistrie over the others. It's partly ironic because an unconscious mastery is being exercised by each of the characters. First, a mastery over themselves and their own weaknesses is demonstrated when they are each kind and generous enough to forgive the others and not take advantage of the power they can wield over them. It's also true that if Arveragus had stayed at home, thus not giving his wife the freedom to associate with other men and make jesting promises to them, none of these potentially tragic situations would have arisen in the first place. But then, there would have been no opportunity for each of the characters to demonstrate his or her kindness, and presumably they all might have ended up less happy.
A final point concerns the relationship between prologue and tale, which is always interesting throughout The Canterbury Tales. The Franklin is at pains to tell the other travelers that he is not an educated man and that he probably can't produce much of a high-level literary effort, but please listen to my tale anyway. It's ironic because his tale is, in fact, filled with references to Greco-Roman mythology and is a subtle commentary on human behavior and the way men and women interact. The Franklin does show masterful knowledge of human nature. In some ways this prologue and tale are a negative analogue to the Pardoner's Prologue and Tale. The Pardoner is probably the most unsavory individual among the pilgrims, yet he produces a masterful moral tale, all the more striking because it is told so beautifully and forcefully. But his is a tale in which the characters are destroyed by their own greed, while the Franklin's Tale is one in which his characters are uplifted and redeemed by their nobility and generosity.