This is a love story that is not quite in the courtly love tradition. We are introduced to Arveragus, a young knight, who is in love with Dorigen, a high born lady. He wins her affections at the start of the novel unlike the Knight’s Tale. They agree that there marriage will be an equal partnership with Arveragus assuming the lead position only when in public so not as to damage his reputation. Quite an advanced concept for an age that viewed women as chattel.
After they get married, Arveragus goes to Britain to earn fame and glory, and Dorigen is left in despondency though her husband writes her frequently. Her friend convince her to walk by the sea, but the sight of the black rocks makes her fear that her husband will come to harm on them when he returns.
Dorigen is invited to a garden where she meets Aurelius who also loves her. When asked what he can do to make her happy, she tells him she will be his lover if he can make the black rocks of Brittany disappear so her husband can return. Well Aurelius prays to the heathen gods who created an unusual high tide that covers the rocks. Arveragus comes home but Dorigen does not honor her word. So Aurelius is sick at heart for two years.
When Arveragus finds out what Dorigen has done, he insists she keep her word. When Aurelius sees this, he forgives Dorigen’s promise recognizing that Arveragus is a noble man and dearly loves his wife.
The Franklin concludes the tale by asking who was more noble.
Yes, in case anyone was wondering, this was the answer to one of the questions on the Literature Test. I recall reading this story as a child- like 2nd grade. They edited it a wee bit off course. I didn’t realize I was reading classical literature that early on.