Chaucer’s Franklin

April Munday shares a most interesting discussion about the Franklin from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

A Writer's Perspective

This week I’m returning to another occasional series. This time it’s the one based on things I’ve found interesting or confusing in The Canterbury Tales. Today, it’s one of the pilgrims: the Franklin.

In The Canterbury Tales the Franklin is a symbol of the upward mobility that was a feature of the late fourteenth century. Franklin was a term used for a man of free birth. He wasn’t a serf, but he was still someone who held and worked land on a manor, even if that work was done by men he employed. The exact social status of Chaucer’s Franklin isn’t clear and has been argued about for decades. He might have been a member of the gentry, or, more likely, he might be someone who made a lot of money that enabled him to move among the gentry. The term ‘franklin’ covered a lot of possibilities. This franklin…

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11 thoughts on “Chaucer’s Franklin

  1. I had to come back to this one with a different (Oxford) POV – The Franklin as a literary device. The character allows Chaucer to move about freely (free man) between what amounts to castes. Not unlike modern characters from the noir PI to early Potter. They are characters who exist in the gray areas of social order. Good guy or bad guy, human or wizard? A Franklin is neither serf nor royal, can be a landowner for any number of reasons including through royal or aristocratic grants to bastard children or not so distant but royally insignificant relatives. A Franklin is the classic guy to say “I know somebody.” There are also very old and very recent examples of Franklin used in slang. ie – “We need a Franklin for this ____.” Many modern superheroes could be considered Franklins.


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