The Franklin in The Canterbury Tales: Description & Characterization

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  • 0:04 Who Is the Franklin?
  • 0:51 Lifestyle and Diet
  • 1:41 Character Traits
  • 3:06 The Franklin's Tale
  • 4:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Celeste Bright

Celeste has taught college English for four years and holds a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature.

In 'The Canterbury Tales,' the Franklin has an enviable position in society, and he enjoys life to its fullest (stomach, that is). In this lesson, we'll learn about the description of the Franklin and discuss clues to his character.

Who Is the Franklin?

The Canterbury Tales is a collection of short stories, or tales, each one told by a different character. One of these characters is referred to as the Franklin. The text doesn't include a detailed physical description of the Franklin. However, we learn in the General Prologue that he has a white beard and has had a career in local government, so he seems to be an older man. The Franklin is a wealthy member of the middle class, and he wears a white silk purse on a belt next to his dagger. In the Ellesmere manuscript, an illustrated medieval manuscript of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the Franklin is depicted wearing a vibrant red coat and a hat, and his silk purse looks fairly ornate. Since the Franklin is a wealthy member of the middle class, it's likely that he dressed well to reflect his status.

Lifestyle and Diet

In the General Prologue, the Franklin is described almost exclusively in terms of the food he eats. The text calls him 'Epicurus' very son,' which is a figure of speech. The Franklin isn't actually the son of Epicurus the ancient Greek philosopher, but he does lead an epicurean lifestyle, which means that he enjoys gourmet foods, fine wines, and quality ales or beers. The Prologue tells us that he has large amounts of food and pies in his house, so much that it seems to 'snow' refreshments there. Much as restaurants do, he keeps a seasonally appropriate menu and his dining table is set all day long. He has the best wine cellar in his area, and demands flavorful sauces from his cook. He also keeps live partridges and fish on his property, which can be killed to make a sumptuous meal at any time.

Character Traits

The Franklin is a vavasor, or a feudal citizen ranking just below a baron. The General Prologue says 'there was nowhere such a worthy vavasor,' which suggests that the Franklin is a good citizen in his society. Since he has worked in the past as a sheriff and tax auditor, the narrator may also mean that his career as a public servant has been notable or admirable. At any rate, there is nothing in the Prologue's description of him to suggest that he is corrupt, unlike other characters in The Canterbury Tales.

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