No Laughing Matter: Fraud, the Fabliau and Chaucer’s Franklin’s Tale
journal contributionposted on 22.05.2012, 11:43 by Ben Parsons
In terms of its genre, the Franklin’s Tale is one of Chaucer’s most puzzling texts. It not only presents an Italian novella as a Breton lay, but splices further material from chronicles, saints’ lives and classical and patristic literature into its overall form. This paper aims to deepen the Tale’s complexity by noting the presence of a further, unremarked genre in the text, that of the fabliau. In particular, it pays close attention to the figure of the magician, arguing that this character and his tacitly rationalised sorcery are designed to evoke the rascally clercs escoliers of the French texts, whose trickery often has comparable methods and results. The wider implications of these allusions for interpreting the poem are also considered.