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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: October 2019

Chapter 4 - Franklin

  • Robert J. Meyer-Lee, Agnes Scott College, Decatur
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • pp 173-235

Summary

Chapter 4 argues that the Franklin’s performance serves as the dialectical synthesis of the views on value of the preceding performances, encompassing the wondrous renewal of the Squire, the amoral instrumentalism of the Merchant, and the meta-value of the Clerk. In this way, the Franklin’s performance presents a sober, disenchanted, but nonetheless ultimately affirmative meditation on the creative power of fiction - one that recognizes fiction’s instrumental value but insists that a paradoxically knowing mystification of this instrumentality can be the basis for a practicable ethics for living in a fallen world. To pursue this argument, the chapter performs a close reading of the Squire-Franklin link (taking into account the bearing of manuscript evidence), examines key aspects of the tale’s prologue and narrative, and considers the Franklin’s portrait in respect to the social status of franklins in Chaucer’s day. It concludes that the performance formulates a commitment to literary value that not only transcends the vulnerabilities of the preceding tales, but is also precisely the literary value that someone socially situated like Chaucer is best positioned to create.