Fragments V and VI--a quick overview

        We're on to fragments V (5) and VI (6) in the a-group order, and a curious reptile it seems to be, with one tale interrupted (but by whom?), a series of two intense challenges to interpretation, and a doctor's tale that our Hooste says nearly brings on a cardynacle (heart attack? see 194 n. 312).  Then again, the remedy is "a draughte of moyste and corny ale" and a "myrie tale," so it couldn't have been anything that would interest Greg House.

        If Squire's Tale puzzles or provokes you, you're in good company.  This is one of those tales which appears to be intentionally interrupted, the second surviving successful interruption in the a-group manuscript sequence (RC order).   In addition to the Miller's derailing of the Monk's tale (see "Miller's Prologue"), there have been several unsuccessful attempts to stop tellers (Reeve to Miller, Pardoner and Summoner to Wife of Bath, Summoner to Friar's interruption, though these get progressively diluted because those interrupted are themselves interrupting--you've been to those meetings, eh?).  See the page 1121 tale orders for which teller follows SqT to determine which pilgrim is stopping the Knight's son from finishing his tale.  The "Monk's Tale" also will be successfully stopped in mid-telling, as will Chaucer-the-Pilgrim's travesty romance, "Sir Thopas."  Keep an eye on who pipes up to stop them.  The tale, itself, apart from the frame narrative friskiness, also contains some interesting interpretive challenges: the strange knights' gifts, all of which are the object of failed interpretation attempts (see Ex.Notes, 890ff.), and Canace's trip to the garden encloses a framed allegory of a falcon betrayed by her lover (the bird-brain!), which is, itself, a tiny beast fable about courtly love.  The tale's oriental setting has prompted comparisons to Arabic manuscript illuminations, which can be similarly dense with patterning.

         If you are thinking about a final paper involving oaths, agreements, promises, or any other examples of what J. L. Austin called "performatives" in Speech Act Theory, "Franklin's Tale" is a great example of their power.  Dorigen and Arveragus make pre-nuptial vows in addition to their wedding vows.  Dorigen makes a statement that Aurelius treats as a promise to him.  Aurelius makes an agreement with his friend, the practitioner of "magyk natureel," that he will turn over his entire estate in return for making the rocks of Britaigne seem to disappear "to mannes sighte" (ll. 1155, 1157-61).  That chain of actual and potential performative speeches sets up a doozy of a plot reversal.  Lots more to talk about there, of course: medieval marriage, natural philosophy ("magyk natureel"), the status of knights and squires, our old friend the walled garden as a place where secrets are told and betrayed, etc.

        Then there is "Physician's Tale," the second shortest of all the CT by line length (286 ll.) after our old friend, Roger of Ware, the Cook's tale (57 lines of tale and 39 lines of prologue--talk about terse!).  It has classical ancestry, coming originally from the Roman historian, Titus Lavinias Patavinas (Livy to the English), though the specific version the Physician tells seems influenced by the Roman de la rose (ll. 5589-5658).  The tale has often been retold as a vignette about love, lust, and the misuse of Roman law ("Raison"'s example in the Rdlr).  Why does a Physician tell it?  Why does this Physician tell it?  See his GP portrait for possible clues (RC 30, ll. 411-44).  Notice that he's also a pracitioner of "magyk natureel" like Arelius' friend, the clerk, in SqT (416).