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  • Conduct Shameful and Unshameful in The Franklin’s Tale

“Dictus vero Johannes fatetur quod promisit ipsam ducere in uxorem sub hiis verbis, ‘Volo te ducere in uxorem si bene facias.’ “ [The said John admits that he promised to marry the woman with these words: ‘I will take you as my wife if you conduct yourself well.’]

Registrum primum, Act Book, Ely, 1381

“If I am a bright housewife, I may be ashamed because too much of my work is too exclusively muscular.”

—Silvan Tomkins

In the marital negotiation that opens The Franklin’s Tale, Dorigen and Arveragus premise their marriage on an interlocking set of conduct obligations applying to both sexes. Dorigen, having observed Arveragus’s worth, vows to be a “humble trewe wyf” and permits him to possess “swich lordshipe as men han over hir wyves.”1 And Arveragus pledges obedience to Dorigen’s will, on the condition that she preserves his “name of soveraynetee, / That wolde he have for shame of his degree” (V.751–52). Each would be wife or husband only if certain behavioral conditions are met: her wifehood is conditioned on his display of gentillesse, and his husbandhood on her consent to his name of soveraynetee.

The agreement set out here falls, in certain respects, under what R. H. Helmholz has categorized as “conditional marriages.” In his analysis [End Page 99] of marriage litigation in late fourteenth- and early fifteenth-century England, Helmholz notes a particular category concerned with disputes over the precise meaning of various conditions stipulated in marriage contracts, especially those involving a woman’s conduct. In a 1365 marriage case in York, for example, a man contended that he had agreed to marry a woman “sub bono gestu suo” [under the condition of her good conduct]. In 1381, a man in Ely claimed that he had pledged to a woman, “Volo te ducere in uxorem si bene facias” [I will take you as my wife if you conduct yourself well]. And in a 1417 Norwich case, a man testified that he had promised marriage only if a woman could demonstrate “bonam gestionem” [good conduct]. According to Helmholz, such conditional matrimonial contracts caused real difficulties of legal interpretation. The courts did not possess any useful tradition of precedents to help clarify the ambiguities, nor were they able to establish definitive rulings.2 The records of the 1381 Ely case, he notes, offer no conclusive ruling or legal clarity.

The origins of medieval theories of conditional marriage have been traced by Bartholomew Timlin to the School of Bologna in the twelfth century.3 Gratian, the first to speak of giving marriage consent with a condition, picked up Augustine’s discussion on the validity of marriage to an infidel on the condition of his or her conversion. John Faventinus contended that marital conditions must not be against canon or civil law. Alexander III (Roland Bandinelli) asserted that marriage engagements are contracts, and he distinguished present consent from future consent. Condition of present consent (consensus de praesenti sub condicione), however, was rejected by Huguccio of Pisa, who allowed conditional sponsalia de sponsalia de futuro and affirmed that sexual consummation makes marriage unconditional. To Tancred of Bologna, a thirteenth-century Dominican canonist, present consent may be declared with a condition, but the condition must refer to a future event. The theoretical debates also centered on the honorableness of conditions, the verification of which would validate a marriage immediately. By the second decade of the thirteenth century, the doctrine of conditional marriage was met with wide approval by canon lawyers.4 [End Page 100]

In a crucial sense, contractual disputes over conditions of female conduct centered on the contested meaning of si bene facias, and I want to suggest that a similar semantic difficulty exists in Dorigen and Arveragus’s marital contract. What exactly is the sense of shame that Arveragus possesses or of the “name of soveraynetee” that he demands? The idea of shame, rather than eliminating maistrie and upholding the Franklin’s ideal of “an humble, wys accord” (V.791), reintroduces the question of a power differential into their marriage and constrains the free love to which, purportedly, they subscribe. Shame is therefore integral to Arveragus and Dorigen’s marriage because it realizes and measures the efficacy of the conduct condition si bene facias. Sovereignty, galvanized by shame, is more than a mere name that preserves public reputation. The alignment of shame and honor with the modern public/private dyad, typified in G. L. Kittredge’s reading of the tale as a convincing solution to the marriage debate in the Canterbury Tales, does not accurately describe the complex workings of shame within the married estate.5 Emotions, Ewa Hess and Hennric Jokeit recently have suggested, are “social attention signals directed inward and outward,” and knowledge about emotions is both interpretive and productive knowledge because it always involves the possibility of application.6 Within the emotional economy of The Franklin’s Tale, shame is a social attention signal that directs the traffic of love, marriage, and gentillesse.

In the first section below, I examine the marriage contract between Dorigen and Arveragus within the contexts of companionate marriage and of the household. I argue that their contract does not definitively draw a clear public/private divide or stipulate divergent behaviors for separate spheres along dichotomies of man/woman or courtly love/marriage. Shame, instead of carving out a protected interiority for a post-Enlightenment sense of the liberal self, destabilizes the boundaries of the [End Page 101] public and private. In the second section, I show that medieval conduct literature is of key importance to understanding Arveragus’s deployments of shame. The late medieval middle classes, in their pursuit of wealth and status, embraced a premodern form of emotional capitalism that emphasized affective, immaterial labor. Consequently, the male authors of conduct manuals for wives actively attempt to map distinctions between the public and private onto distinctions between shame and honor, while simultaneously exposing the inherent gender asymmetries in companionate marriage. In the third section, I analyze Dorigen’s litany of virtuous women in terms of the technologies of affective literacy prescribed in conduct and devotional literature. By mimicking the devotional programs prescribed for laywomen in texts such as the journées chrétiennes, Dorigen defers her shaming and gains access to the virtues of the good wife. Yet the internal incoherence of Dorigen’s litany ultimately prevents her from assuming any stable identity. In the concluding section, I theorize that conduct literature upends gender and class distinctions, thereby allowing Dorigen to acquire a queer female masculinity and the Franklin to become an effective but feminized manager of shame. In The Franklin’s Tale, the affective labor of shame produces conditions of conduct that regulate companionate marriage and the purportedly fre selves within the middling household.

Contracting Marriage Pryvely, Apert

With its lack of any explicit reference to land or money and its focus only on conditions productive of gentil conduct, Arveragus and Dorigen’s model of conjugality closely resembles that of companionate marriage. Martha Howell has noted that the late Middle Ages and early modern period gave rise to “a form of conjugality grounded in personal choice, intimacy, and desire rather than . . . in property or more generalized socio-political relations.”7 Socioeconomically, companionate marriage [End Page 102] came to be associated with the middle strata during this period.8 While Arveragus and Dorigen’s union might appear more aristocratic than “middling” in nature, as Howell points out, historically it was Europe’s elites who first adopted elements of companionate marriage; marriages among English aristocrats were “ ‘affective’ in some sense” and spouses entered marriage with expectations of forming bonds of intimacy.9 This ideological focus on marital affection is central to the Franklin’s valuation of Dorigen and Arveragus’s marriage, for he consistently [End Page 103] notes that they “lyveth in blisse and in solas” (V.803), and by the end of the tale, in “sovereyn blisse” (V.1552). Because the production and maintenance of affects are the desired ends of matrimony, conditions of conduct become crucial to the marriage contract. Demands of particular conduct are made of Arveragus and Dorigen precisely “for to lede the moore in blisse hir lyves” (V.744). Hence, conduct within their companionate marriage seeks to uphold the amalgamated ideals of free choice, equality, mutuality, partnership, married friendship, and love. More important, conduct as the production of affect is vital to the claims of each character, and implicitly also the Franklin, to gentility.

The Franklin glosses Dorigen and Arveragus’s marriage agreement as a utopic fusion of courtly love and marriage: Arveragus will be “Servant in love, and lord in marriage” (V.793), and Dorigen “His lady, certes, and his wyf also” (V.797). But the nature of the condition that Arveragus demands of Dorigen—the name of sovereignty—is more complicated than it appears, for it reflects the interpretative difficulty of si bene facias. Kittredge contends that Arveragus, as “an enlightened and chivalric gentleman,” requires the name of sovereignty in order to “ensure the happiness of their wedded life.”10 Subsequent critics, working within or against Kittredge’s construct of the Marriage Group, have variously read Arveragus’s proposition as a generic adaptation of a romance motif in which a low-ranked knight courts a high-born lady, as a reflection of the “Epicurian optimism” of the Franklin’s class, as an imaginative extension of ideas of vassalage and lordship, as Arveragus’s conformity to traditional hierarchy or to “a non-utopian public’s expectations,” as an indication of his being a “proper man” within an ideal society, and as Arveragus’s defense of his reputation as a knight or as a husband.11 Underpinning many of these readings is a critical move that [End Page 104] uncannily reenacts Arveragus’s strategy to mask and avoid shame by subsuming it under the cultural ideal of soveraynetee. Moreover, Arveragus’s prenuptial maneuvers are symptomatic of the Franklin’s broader approach to shame throughout the tale, in which he repeatedly invokes the threat of shame only to expose it as a sham that appears to harm no one, thereby converting shame into a preservative of gentillesse. Dorigen, faced with the consequences of her rash promise of love to Aurelius, is nonetheless spared the shame of her name and body when he releases her from her vow; and Aurelius, unable to pay the Clerk of Orleans for the illusion he has created, escapes the shaming of his “kyndred” (V.1565) when the Clerk absolves him of his financial obligations. As the Franklin would have it, shame is merely a felicitous route to “gentil dede[s]” (V.1611), and upholds the state of virtues.

Replicating the Franklin’s affective strategy, many critics have read the tale’s negotiations with shame, exemplified in Arveragus’s reverse discourse that transforms shame into the “name of soveraynetee,” as self-evident. Arveragus’s concern for reputation is therefore interpreted as obvious and natural, as what A. C. Spearing calls an “all-too-human approach to gentillesse.12 In reading shame as a mere impetus toward its own concealment in the tale, recent scholarship has both sidestepped shame and contained it within the privileged ideal of gentillesse and its cluster of noble virtues: trouthe, routhe, curteysie, honour, pacience, pite, frendshipe, and franchise.13 Yet shame is instrumental to the regulation of gentil [End Page 105] conduct, as it is explicitly integrated into the marital contract between Dorigen and Arveragus from the outset. Resisting Spearing’s contention that gentillesse and shame are “not quite so closely connected as the Franklin feels,” I contend that while gentillesse remains a central discursive rubric that governs The Franklin’s Tale, it cannot be understood in isolation, that is, without a fuller engagement with negative affect.14 Moreover, treating shame as solely “the spur to honourable acts” risks overlooking the material reality of shame as a bodily affect, which both Arveragus and Dorigen experience.15

Medieval companionate marriage, while emphasizing bonds of intimacy between partners, demanded that the formation of conjugality follow recognized, if not necessarily publicly performed, formulas and rituals. In The Franklin’s Tale, the companionate marriage between Arveragus and Dorigen is established through an explicit exchange of vows. After Arveragus swears “Of his free wyl” (V.745), Dorigen professes: “I wol be youre humble trewe wyf” (V.758). The exchange of pledges and consent between Dorigen and Arveragus is here facilitated through spoken words, words that in J. L. Austin’s speech-act theory are performative utterances that effect the marriage ceremony. The tale thus enacts late medieval marriage practices in which the speaking of the words of consent created the marriage bond.16 Dorigen’s verbal allusion to the marriage vow suggests that The Franklin’s Tale, in spite of its pagan setting, actively engages the discourse of Christian marriage in the late Middle Ages. For Dorigen and Arveragus, the performative “I do” brings the possibility of companionate marriage into their married estate more fully than the reversals of hierarchy imagined by courtly love could do. In the vows exchanged between them, the “I do” functions [End Page 106] proleptically to imagine the prenuptial conditions as already appearing real within their new married estate.17 And by insisting on his “name of soveraynetee,” Arveragus points to the potential threat of shame as a foundational force that makes possible the realization of his and Dorigen’s marriage performative in the first place.

But the formation of Dorigen and Arveragus’s marriage raises more questions than answers. The Franklin, in fact, presents multiple iterations of the couple’s contracting of marriage. Dorigen agrees to take Arveragus as her “housbonde and hir lord” (V.742). Arveragus, as a lover and out of his free will, promises to take no maistrie against her will, to show no jealousy, and to obey her will (V.745–50). He then demands the “name of soveraynetee . . . for shame of his degree” (V.751–52). In response, Dorigen pledges to be a good wife and forswears war and strife between them (V.758–59). At the end of his discussion of friendship, love, and mastrie, the Franklin notes that Arveragus “suffrance hire bihight” (V.788), and Dorigen vows there would be no “defaute in here” (V.790). However, in all these iterations of the marriage contract, we do not know definitively where the contract took place, if there were witnesses, whether love tokens were exchanged, and despite the virtual absence of Christianity in the tale, whether banns were pronounced, or if the marriage was ever solemnized. The Franklin seems uninterested in the details of the lovers’ courtship or the formal steps of the marriage process. Instead, he telescopes the courtship rituals and strips the marriage formation down to the bare minimum requirement for a valid marriage: present consent. Indeed, Dorigen and Arveragus are married because the Franklin calls them “housbonde” and “wyf” (V.805).

Dorigen “pryvely” voices her consent to become Arveragus’s wife. But, as Elaine Tuttle Hansen has asked, “Just what is Dorigen ‘pryvely’ agreeing to, and why ‘pryvely’?”18 On the basis of the word pryvely, many critics have read the marriage agreement between Arveragus and Dorigen as comprised of two contracts: one for the masculine public sphere of marriage, in which the husband rules his wife, the other for the feminine private sphere of romance, in which the lady dominates her [End Page 107] knight.19 Such readings are quick to interpret pryvely as strictly meaning “privately” in the modern liberal sense of the public/private divide; thus the two contracts are assumed to be secretly formed between Dorigen and Arveragus. However, we cannot with confidence know from the tale whether the couple contracted marriage without witnesses, or if the conditions of conduct stipulated in their contract were known only to themselves. The marriage, though “pryvely” agreed to at least by Dorigen, is not necessarily “secret” or “private.”

The Middle English priveli and the Old French privément certainly carry the sense of “secretly, covertly.” However, priveli also means “intimately,” or “carefully, discreetly.” When used in reference to architectural spaces, the Middle English prive suggests physical seclusion; but it also can convey the sense of one’s being “aware, knowing, informed.”20 The Anglo-Norman privé, as an adjective, means both “private” and “intimate”; as a noun, it denotes a “close friend, [an] intimate,” or in the legal sense, an interested individual who is party to “an action, contract, [or] conveyance.”21 Intimacy, friendliness, discretion, awareness, and contractual consent are not the same as secrecy or privacy. In the Ménagier de Paris, a conduct manual for wives written by an anonymous and presumably male author around 1392–94, the husband-narrator urges his wife to maintain the proper distance with respect to different categories of men: “vous devez estre tresamoureuse et tresprivé de vostre mary par dessus toutes autres creatures vivans, moyennement amoureuse [End Page 108] et privee de voz bons et parfaiz prochains parans charnelz et les charnelz de vostre mary, et tresestrangement privee de tous autres hommes.”22 Eileen Power, in her 1928 translation, renders privé into the English “privy,” whereas Arthur Goldhammer, in his 1988 translation, opts for the English “private.” Both Power’s and Goldhammer’s translations occlude the sense of intimacy and closeness in the French original. In contrast, Gina L. Greco and Christine M. Rose have recovered and preserved the affective dimensions of the French privé in their recent translation: “Your obligation [is] to be especially loving and intimate with your husband above all other living creatures. Be moderately affectionate and close toward your and your husband’s nearest blood relatives, but distant from all other men.”23 Given the semantic complexity and range that privé encompasses, it is possible to read Dorigen’s “pryvely” as not simply denoting her marriage taking place “privately” or “secretly,” but her accepting of Arveragus in an intimate fashion while being fully informed. In other words, “pryvely” could also express the state of Dorigen’s affection and her legal consent to enter the marriage contract.

Shannon McSheffrey has recently examined the problematic applications of the modern public/private dyad in critical studies of late medieval marriage practices, especially the unqualified use of terms such as “private,” “clandestine,” “secret,” “illicit,” and “extra-ecclesiastical.”24 Central to McSheffrey’s critique is Georges Duby’s problematic appropriation of the liberal public/private divide in the multivolume series A History of Private Life, especially in volume 2, Revelations of the Medieval World. Duby theorizes that the economic growth of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries led to a greater awareness of personal property and to a more individualistic, introspective existence. The opposition between the public and private hinges on space, and “the zone of private life is apparently that of domestic space, circumscribed by walls,” which [End Page 109] offers “an inner privacy of the self.”25 But Duby’s erasure of the affective register of privé and his construction of an enclosed inner self, McSheffrey argues, implicitly naturalize and perpetuate the liberal public/private dyad, as formulated by John Locke and later developed into the ideology of separate spheres in the nineteenth century. Despite his admission that the adoption of modern notions of public and private is anachronistic, Duby nonetheless characterizes medieval “private life” as sexual, feminine, domestic, and familial.26

The labeling of medieval marriages contracted outside the church as “private,” and hence problematic and disreputable, is therefore both inaccurate and misleading. As historians have shown, the model of separate spheres along gender lines cannot accurately account for the complexity of medieval marriage or that of the household. The home of the middle strata, in particular, was a site not only of domesticity but also of manufacture and trade. In addition to the married couple and their children, servants, apprentices, and guests inhabited the domus, all working to “consolidate friendship networks, business contacts or the household’s [End Page 110] social standing.”27 Never an exclusively private and enclosed space, the household was engaged in a continuous exchange with the outside world: buying and selling goods, hiring labor, receiving visitors, and negotiating hierarchy and authority.28 Architecturally, medieval houses had thinner walls, and the boundaries between the interior and exterior spaces were more porous than those of their modern counterparts. Instead of a clear separation between the public and private, a sense of a more permeable boundary predominated. Medieval domesticity, Felicity Riddy observes, did not necessarily depend on the paradigm of a private, domestic feminine sphere and a public, external masculine sphere.29

While medieval companionate marriage was intimate and personal, it was never a strictly private affair. Publicity, McSheffrey argues, was “situational as well as spatial,” and homes also served as the place of the public exchange of marital consent.30 In the late Middle Ages, marriages contracted at the home of the prospective wife, her parents, employers, relatives, or friends, were not perceived as secret and disreputable but quasi-public and respectable. In fact, court records show that marriages were frequently contracted in a domestic setting, before a few or even no witnesses. In the Canterbury deposition book of 1411–20, thirty-eight of the forty-one marriages contracted by words of present consent took place at home or in some private place. For example, in a 1372 case before the diocese of York, a witness testified that the marriage in dispute was in fact contracted at a home.31 In this instance, the witness [End Page 111] served a quasi-public function at a marriage contract initiated within a household. Even an allegedly “secret” marriage could involve more than the couple in question. In 1269, a certain Cecilia “made all the women who were present swear that they would reveal [her marriage] to no one in that year.”32 While Cecilia thus gave herself and her husband some time to secure her father’s permission, the marriage itself was not strictly a clandestine affair. And in The Wife of Bath’s Tale, though the knight marries the old woman “prively” (III.1080), the marriage is not secret because the royal court already knew of the contract between them; in fact, by making public their private agreement in front of the queen, the old woman forces the knight’s compliance.

In The Franklin’s Tale, Dorigen’s consenting to the marriage “pryvely” offers no precise indication of where it takes place. Even if the marriage were contracted in a domestic setting (such as Dorigen’s household) or in some secluded space, it is not necessarily a secret marriage. The fact of the marriage is public knowledge in the tale; all of Dorigen’s friends, as well as Aurelius, who is “hire neighebour” (V.961), know that she and Arveragus are married. Henry Ansgar Kelly, who notes that the marriage was contracted without explicit witnesses, concedes that “presumably they made their marriage public . . . for they lived together publicly as man and wife.”33 Instead of reading Arveragus and Dorigen’s marriage and seemingly secret agreement as two separate contracts for the public and private spheres, it might be more useful to view their marriage as a process that moves through “widening circles of publicity rather than from private to public.”34 Where church and state authorities played an active role in matters of gender and sexuality, McSheffrey concludes, private sexual relationships did not exist.

The critique of the liberal public/private dyad present in Duby’s [End Page 112] study of medieval domesticity and marriage, I argue, could also be extended to our understanding of shame in the Middle Ages. Many readings of The Franklin’s Tale have applied the modern paradigm of the public and private not only to the formation of Dorigen and Arveragus’s marriage but also to the workings of shame in the tale. Joseph D. Parry, for instance, suggests that Arveragus’s insistence on “ ‘lordshipe’ is for public show, to avoid the shame of his own noble, knightly status,” while pryvely he and Dorigen enjoy their respective libertee.35 Parry’s reading implicitly coordinates a liberal demarcation—one between publicity and privacy—with shame and shamelessness. The deep entrenchment of the Enlightenment spatial model in modern psychology is evident in many contemporary studies of shame. Psychologist Léon Wurmser, for example, postulates that

[t]here is above all an area of inwardness and interior value that should not be violated by any agent from outside or even by other parts of one’s personality. If this area of integrity and self-respect is infringed upon, shame and often violent rage ensue. . . . There is an inner limit covering this intimate area that one does not want to show. Yet there is also an outer limit beyond which one should not expand one’s power. The inner limit may be called the “boundary of privacy,” the outer limit the “boundary of power expansion.” . . . Shame guards the separate, private self with its boundaries and prevents intrusion and merger.36

Likewise, Carl Schneider contends that the primary function of shame is the protection of the private sphere from public exposure. Privacy is crucial to the development and maintenance of the inner psyche, which Schneider renders in spatial terms: “Each of us needs some time offstage, a private space, before we are ready to go public. Rehearsal is a process which becomes more sophisticated and differentiated as we mature. . . . The sense of shame protects this process”; shame is a protective covering for the embryonic self.37 Like Duby, who conceives of the private as [End Page 113] “an enclosure, a protected zone, much like a fortress under siege,” both Wurmser’s and Schneider’s theories of shame depend on the liberal dichotomy of the public and private.38

One reason critics of The Franklin’s Tale have neglected shame is that in dividing Dorigen and Arveragus’s marriage contract into separate spheres of proper conduct, they impose the liberal public/private dyad on shame as well. Reflecting Wurmser’s and Schneider’s notion that shame is a shield covering a private, interior essence, Arveragus’s sense of shame thus protects his inner self—his degree, however defined. Consequently, the sovereignty he demands is understood to be merely the name of authority. Such a reading is premised on the sense of the Middle English name as a “label, pretense.”39 But is Arveragus’s name of sovereignty a mere appearance? As the tale bears out, his authority is anything but mere appearance. Benjamin Kilborne, in his discussion of the modern experience of shame, suggests that “the dichotomies between public and private spheres of our lives may be said to depend upon culturally shared illusions of mastery, and these, in turn, upon appearance.”40 The equation of Arveragus’s name of sovereignty with mere appearance, therefore, indirectly reproduces the modern public/private divide that Kilborne describes.

While the Franklin uses the word pryvely, he never uses apert, or the more familiar phrase “privé and apert” to convey the sense of “in private and public.”41 It is true that Dorigen pryvely agrees to take Arveragus as her husband and lord. However, when Arveragus proposes to obey her will but keep his name of sovereignty, he does not explicitly frame these conditions in terms of privé and apert. Critics, such as Kittredge, are too quick to accept the Franklin’s gloss of Dorigen and Arveragus’s marriage and to align “Servant in love” (V.793) with the private and “lord in mariage” (V.793) with the public. Arveragus might never intend to [End Page 114] demarcate his “name of soveraynetee” into mutually exclusive spheres, obeying Dorigen’s will only in privé and demanding his sovereignty only apert. Their marriage contract remains difficult and messy. If we must characterize Dorigen and Arveragus’s marriage agreement in terms of publicity and privacy, it is at best partially private and partially public, mirroring the permeability of the late medieval household and the married estate. Arveragus never ceases to be Dorigen’s husband in privé. Instead of a dyad, publicity and privacy form a continuum along which the spouses locate and shift the everyday condition of their married life; never is their marriage at either pole of full publicity or privacy. Only then can we begin to understand what happens later in the tale, when Arveragus orders Dorigen to fulfill her pledge to Aurelius but keep it secret, and why she obeys him without protest.

This is not to suggest that there was no sense of the public and private dimensions of shame in the late Middle Ages. On the contrary, husbands, wives, and lovers deliberately allude to and contest the dividing line of the public and private in order to advance their particular ends in love and marriage.42 If shame turns on what is brought into the [End Page 115] public, it also turns on what is brought into the private. It may be helpful to conceive of Dorigen and Arveragus’s companionate marriage as a lever: shame is the fulcrum on which the public-private continuum pivots. Depending on where the fulcrum is placed, the lever allows for the multiplication of the individual effort exerted to counteract the force of publicity or privacy, gain personal leverage, and achieve social equilibrium. However, in The Franklin’s Tale, shame does not function as a proper fulcrum. It is rather the constant shift of the pivot of shame and the concomitant destabilization of the public-private continuum that are at work here. The marriage vows between Arveragus and Dorigen do not confidently establish coherent identities, for the conditions of their union are not yet, if at all, fully realized. In fact, the trajectory of the tale brings about a torsion from the conjugal “I do” to the postnuptial “Shame on you”—a movement away from any stable marriage to a conditional married estate whose dynamics are governed by shame.43

The Art of Keeping

Although The Franklin’s Tale opens as a courtly romance, the genre of conduct literature rapidly comes to dominate our understanding of courtliness in it.44 Conduct manuals, such as the Ménagier de Paris and The Book of the Knyght of the Towre, were central to the ethos of the middle [End Page 116] classes.45 And despite the popularity of the genre with both sexes, women remain its narrative focus. Kathleen Ashley suggests that as an alternative to the emphasis in romance on noble birth as desirable in marriageable daughters or young wives, conduct literature, aiming at bourgeois readers, seeks to redefine women’s desirability through their comportment. Specifically, the good wife’s conduct carries significant political and socioeconomic valence, for she is responsible for creating domestic harmony through virtues that can also promote the common good. For the middling sorts, the common good begins with the household and the family that resides within it. Female honor, in a household economy that fuses economic and affective functions, is synonymous with bourgeois family honor. A woman’s bonne renomée therefore affects not only her reputation but her family’s social aspirations as well.46 In The Book of the Knyght of the Towre, the father-author delineates three “prisons” that his daughters would face as wives: “The one pryson was loue the other was dred / and the thyrd shame.” He also urges them to seek “the grete worship / whiche cometh of good name and Renomme.”47 Companionate marriage, with its ideological aspiration to noble values, is conceived as primarily a gentil discipline.

Medieval conduct literature for young girls and wives has as one of its goals the maintenance of conduct conducive to the affective bond promised, whether explicitly or not in conditional contracts, in the formation of companionate marriage. Yet despite the fact that proper conduct [End Page 117] was frequently included as a precondition in late medieval marriage negotiations, historically, marriage contracts did not stipulate the regulation of everyday conduct during marriage. Helmholz observes that “neither secular nor spiritual contracts made any provision for regulating the conduct of the man and woman during the course of their marriage. . . . This excludes the trendy modern forms: agreement about who will do the dishes, where the couple will live, how long their vacation will be, and so on.”48 Conduct manuals therefore filled the regulatory vacuum left unattended by conditional matrimonial contracts.

But while the Ménagier preaches wifely obedience and diligent management of the household, its male author exhibits an open hostility toward the idea of a regulatory contract for daily conduct within companionate marriage. In one exemplary story, a married couple’s constant bickering necessitated the intervention of their friends. And “out of pride, the wife would accept no alternative but, on the one hand, that all of her rights be written down, point by point, with all of the obligations she owed her husband, and, on the other hand, that her husband’s rights and obligations to her also be clearly listed.”49 Having done so, the wife then carefully guarded her rights and conducted herself according to her charter (cedule). One day, when the husband fell into water and sought his wife’s assistance, she insisted that she look into her cedule first to see what she should do. Since the cedule made no particular mention of the current situation, the wife told her husband that she would do nothing and went on her way. Later, the local lord and his retinue passed by the drowning husband and saved his life. When the lord found out what had happened, he had the wife seized and burned to death.

Ostensibly, the Ménagier exemplum shows the deadly consequences of wifely disobedience and of a wife’s literal reading of a conduct cedule.50 But more crucially, the story suggests that the idea of a contract for regulating daily behavior between spouses is, on the one hand, completely [End Page 118] meaningless and impractical because it simply cannot address every possible scenario in the married life. On the other hand, the exemplum does not wholeheartedly dismiss the necessity of a conduct cedule in marriage; rather, what it upholds is a more foundational marital contract formed at the outset of marriage that stipulates the wife’s complete obedience to her husband’s will in all matters big or small. In fact, the existence of a separate contract that governs the everyday might actually work to undermine the husband’s authority.51 An obedient wife presumably needs no other source of guidance than her husband. The Ménagier exemplum, by making a violent mockery of the wife’s unsophisticated reading skills, implicitly reaffirms the notion that while the wife needs no conduct cedule, she does need a conduct manual, like the Ménagier de Paris, that is authored and glossed by men.

In The Franklin’s Tale, matters of conduct are expressed through social deployments of shame and their effects on reputation. When Dorigen takes Arveragus as her husband, she binds herself to a conditional matrimonial contract in which her conduct is measured primarily by her wifely obedience. It may be objected that the opening lines of the tale stress Arveragus’s obeysaunce (V.739, 749) and not hers. However, when Dorigen subjects herself to “swich lordshipe as men han over hir wyves” (742–43), she in essence neutralizes his claim to obedience by professing her servile humility in return. For her, obedience coordinates with wifely honor and disobedience with wifely shame. As Aurelius demands that Dorigen fulfill her promise, he disingenuously expresses concern for her honor (V.1331). And Arveragus, fearing the loss of his reputation, commands Dorigen to keep her trouthe to Aurelius a secret. He further instructs her to mask her shame by making “no contenance of hevynesse” (V.1485), assuming that, as a good wife, Dorigen will align her will with that of her husband.

Dorigen’s shame, moreover, serves as the link between Arveragus and Aurelius. The two men, who never meet in person, are connected through a woman, or more specifically, through the shaming of a woman. Dorigen takes on a mediate function in male competition. That is, in light of the constitutive role played by shame in male honor, the traffic in women between the two male characters—Aurelius, who confronts Dorigen, and Arveragus, who commands her—can be read as a wager between two men to see who has the most control over women, [End Page 119] and who can best tolerate the threat of shame himself, traffic it most successfully, and thereby become the most gentil. The topos of the male wager over the obedience of wives is used by the ménagier several times to illustrate the need of wifely submission. In one account, a group of young husbands at Bar-sur-Aube compete to find “the best and most obedient wife, compliant in all things—orders or interdictions, large or small.”52 By releasing Dorigen from her promise, Aurelius shows Arveragus that he, too, can play the game of shame. The husband, by displaying and symbolically sharing his obedient wife, transforms personal marital relation into collective entertainment.

Surprisingly, Arveragus, perhaps the person most concerned with shame in the tale, never uses the word “shame” himself; he refers to his predicament only as his “woe” (V.1484). It is Aurelius who names Arveragus’s action as a deliberate choice to suffer “shame” (V.1528). Yet having renamed Arveragus’s “woe,” Aurelius immediately appropriates Arveragus’s term of suffering for himself: “I have wel levere evere to suffre wo” (V.1531). And as a man who refuses to name shame as shame, is Arveragus rather surprised by the outcome, in which Aurelius also shuns the name of shame by relinquishing his claim on Dorigen? After Dorigen’s tearful confession of her rash promise, Arveragus nonchalantly asks her: “Is ther oght elles, Dorigen, but this?” (V.1469). Arveragus’s attitude suggests that he, with seemingly greater fore-knowledge than Dorigen, has always sensed that no harm would result from her blunder. He confidently proclaims, “It may be wel, paraventure, yet to day” (V.1473). Arveragus’s sense of confidence also imbues the Franklin, who precludes any objections from his audience that might deem Arveragus a “lewed man” (V.1494) by predicting a happy ending to his tale and by asking his listeners to suspend their judgment: “Herkneth the tale er ye upon hire crie. / She may have bettre fortune than yow semeth; / And whan that ye han herd the tale, demeth” (V.1496–98). [End Page 120] Like Arveragus, the Franklin never uses the word “shame” for himself or his family. When he interrupts the Squire, he admits that he would rather his son “lerne gentillesse aright” (V.694) than possessing “twenty pound worth lond” (V.683). The Franklin may very well be ashamed of his son, and he can face his shame only by masking it under an affected modesty topos.

No one—including the Franklin and his immediate audience—seems surprised by the denouement. In the tale, all utterances of shame are not instances of actual shaming, but acts that forecast yet forestall shame. Aquinas states that a man may lack a feeling of shame “because a disgraceful deed is counted as unlikely or readily avoided.”53 In fact, shaming is frequently a preemptive act that prevents the actualization of shame. The threat of shame is like a promise that no one intends to fulfill: an unfinished doing. As Judith Butler points out, a threat “can be derailed, defused, [and] fail to furnish the act that it threatens.”54 Arveragus’s silence on and avoidance of the word “shame” are indicative of his immunity to the negative affect; he appears untouched by shame. This is the leverage he wields. Or so it would seem.

When he calmly tells Dorigen to uphold her words, Arveragus insists that “Trouthe is the hyeste thyng that man may kepe” (V.1479). But immediately, Arveragus “with that word” bursts into tears (V.1480). Although he refuses to register shame as shame, his body nonetheless enters a negative state of affection. The Middle English kepen evokes the standard formulation of late medieval marriage vows in which prospective spouses promise “to have and to keep (or hold)” each other.55 Throughout the tale, the Franklin emphasizes the art of keeping, rather than of losing, and he underscores the mandate to “enduren” woes [End Page 121] (V.1484), “holden” trouthes (V.1513), and “saven” promises (V.1478). Yet paradoxically, to keep shame is also to be pierced by it: when Arveragus confesses that he would “wel levere ystiked for to be” (V.1476) than that Dorigen fail in trouthe, he foreshadows his own affective rupture. Desperately avoiding shame, Arveragus ends up keeping it as a bodily affection; his confidence, not his shame per se, is the real sham.56

The affective strategy at work in The Franklin’s Tale is thus not so much preemptive as possessive and preservative. If kepen evokes the marital vows between Dorigen and Arveragus, it also denotes affairs of the household. In the late Middle Ages, kepen can also mean “to take care of (property), look after (goods), manage (affairs), in the sense of ‘kepen hous.’ ”57 The word’s valence with both conjugality and household conduct forcefully ruptures the protective veil of Arveragus’s spurious self-possession. His weeping suggests that late medieval ideologies of conduct serve as an affective technology for both husbands and wives, one that allows them to produce and survey one another’s affective capacities. As such, conduct manuals are shame scripts that provide a theory of life; shame becomes what Steve Connor calls “a condition of being, a life-form.”58 Despite his weeping, Arveragus remains committed to his earlier advice to Dorigen that she should “lat slepen that is stille” (V.1472).59 Here his admonishment evokes a different kepen, meaning “to preserve (a quality, state, or condition), keep in a state of being, maintain.”60 For Arveragus, the fulcrum of shame must keep social equilibrium undisturbed along the public-private continuum. [End Page 122]

Yet immediately after displaying his “glad chiere, in freendly wyse” (V.1467), he threatens Dorigen with death if she ever exposes her, his, or their shame: “I yow forbede, up peyne of deeth” (V.1481). Arveragus’s sudden change in affective registers parallels a common rhetorical strategy found in conduct manuals, in which a man’s counsel to an errant woman is followed by a threat of violence toward her. In The Book of the Knyght of the Towre, the narrator speaks of a wife who had shamed her husband publicly. When the wife refused the husband’s command to “be stylle and lowe,” he “whiche was wrothe smote her with his fyste to the erthe. And smote her with his foote on the vysage so that he brake her nose.”61 Threat, Greco and Rose point out, is one of the many rhetorical devices—such as exempla, cajolements, and anecdotes—used by the husband to tame his young wife.62 Although Arveragus stops short of actual violence toward Dorigen, the intended effects of his words are the same.

Keeping shame, in the sense of “keeping watch for” shame, dovetails with the act of “preserving without losing” honor.63 The affective keeping of sociality, found in conduct literature, can be understood as what Michael Hardt terms affective labor, laboring practices that “produce collective subjectivities, produce sociality, and ultimately produce society itself.”64 Companionate marriage necessitates not simply physical labor that maintains the household, but affective labor that shapes the conjugal subjects within it. Shame, through strenuous keeping, saturates and characterizes the conjugal activities of Arveragus and Dorigen. In the absence of any visible production of material values, their married life is purely a labor of affects. While the Franklin offers no details on the daily workings of their household, he meticulously notes the “joye and blisse” that fill their home (V.1099). And the affective labor of Dorigen and Arveragus resonates with the social life of the bourgeois-gentry, who, being most dependent on movable wealth (in the forms of knowledge, skills, clientele, or expertise), eagerly embrace the rhetoric of love, the construct of conjugal companionship, and the ideal of emotional marital bonds. For these dealers in immaterial capital, affect becomes another form of mobile wealth that they could produce and [End Page 123] circulate as the necessary condition for proper conduct and the basis of gentil sociality. As the husband in the Ménagier reminds his wife, she must be well versed in “bien,” “l’onneur,” and “service.”65

Howell argues that for the late medieval middling sorts with movable wealth, companionate marriage answered the question of what sealed their marriage.66 I would like to suggest that Eva Illouz’s recent discussion of the rise of emotional capitalism in modernity is useful in examining the affective workings of companionate marriage in premodern figurations of capitalism. For Illouz, modernity does not necessarily consolidate the Lockean public/private divide but instead brings about the dissolution of the separate spheres. The result is the public performance of the private self, particularly within economic and political realms: “The language of emotionality and that of productive efficiency were becoming increasingly intertwined, each shaping the other.”67 The existence of departments of human resources in the work place, Illouz suggests, demonstrates the interest of capitalism in managing workers’ emotions and relations, as well as the assumption that displays of proper emotional attachments would translate into career advancement. The confluence of emotional behavior and economic behavior is especially true for the middle classes. Twentieth-century advice literature, in fact, provides a common vocabulary for the bourgeois self as it negotiates among social relations. If modern psychology has enabled the language and practice of emotional capitalism, then medieval conduct literature, I contend, serves a similar function for the middling sorts. That is, marriage and household conduct are economic behaviors inseparable from affects.

The conditionality of the shame contract between Dorigen and Arveragus, its “if . . . then . . .” temporal logic, implies an affective economy—a traffic in shame—that creates symbolic capital. As Mark Amos observes, being a member of the bourgeois-gentry required both substantial financial investment and a less visible investment in reputation.68 And it was the men of the middling elites who were most concerned with their gentil name. Late medieval conduct literature, ostensibly [End Page 124] meant for women, ideologically catered to men. When describing Arveragus’s marital bliss, the Franklin asks: “Who koude telle, but he hadde wedded be, / The joye, the ese, and the prosperitee / That is bitwixe an housbonde and his wyf?” (V.803–5). The male authorial voice of conduct literature, likewise, addresses not only his wife and other women, but other men as well. Forever forward-looking, the old husband in the Ménagier is conscious of his young wife’s next husband, whom he desires to impress with his wife-training skills. Aurelius himself is a prospective husband who, through his brother, Arveragus and the Clerk of Orleans, participates in the disciplining of Dorigen. It is he whom Arveragus seeks to impress, under the pretense of upholding Dorigen’s trouthe. What the conduct genre advocates is the art of keeping both personal and collective investment in the affects conducive to companionate marriage and to household management.

A man is never home alone with his wife. There are always other men present, ghostly or bodily, in his household. Arveragus, when he returns to Dorigen, “is comen hoom, and othere worthy men” (V.1089). The marriage between a husband and a wife is never simply a marriage of two. The haunting presence of other men within the nuclear household exposes the porosity of the boundaries between the public and private in late medieval conjugality. As the tale unfolds, the rigidly demarcated identities of servant-lord and lady-wife are impossible to achieve because the public is already embedded within the private, and vice versa. In the Ménagier exemplum of the disobedient wife and her conduct cedule, the couple initially draws their friends into their squabbles, and the husband later requires the intervention of his lord to save him and to punish his wife.

In spite of the ambiguous borders of the public and private within the married estate, the male authors of conduct literature cling to the Aristotelian theory of a public masculine shame that must be avoided at all cost. When the ménagier instructs his wife on proper devotion to the husband, he articulates what appears to be a model of separate gender spheres: “I entreat you to see that he has clean linen, for that is your domain, while the concerns and troubles of men are those outside affairs that they must handle.”69 The father-narrator of The Book of the Knyght of the Towre argues that it is “to a woman gret shame and vylonye to stryue ageynst her husbond be it wrong or right / And in especial to [End Page 125] before the peple,” and that she should divulge her thoughts only when she and her husband are “pryuely and allone.”70 But within the multi-functional medieval household that does not offer clear lines of publicity and privacy, where and when could the couple be truly alone and in private?71

I am less interested in the historical inaccuracy of the public/private divide put forth by the male authors of conduct books and more in the fact that theirs is a masculine articulation of gender asymmetries within marriage. Such asymmetries are rooted in the problematic concept of companionate marriage, which conceives of the wife as simultaneously her husband’s inferior and his equal partner. The Ménagier desires a wife who contractually agrees to her subordination and to her function as the husband’s lover, helper, and mate. This incoherence is already evident in Hugh of Saint Victor, who wrote that

since [woman] was given as a companion (socia), not a servant or a mistress, she was to be produced not from the highest or from the lowest part but from the middle. . . . She was made from the middle, that she might be proved to have been made for equality of association. Yet in a certain way she was inferior to him, in that she was made from him, so that she might always look to him as to her beginning and cleaving to him indivisibly might not separate herself from that association which ought to have been established reciprocally.72

The Franklin’s application of the friendship model to Dorigen and Arveragus’s marriage is flawed and misleading. The male-friendship paradigm appropriated by medieval theologians for companionate marriage is based on an inherent inequality between friends. For Aristotle, love in friendship is excellent because it is proportionate to one’s worth, and “those who are unequal will become friends because they will thus be [End Page 126] made equal”; Aquinas similarly argues that “when people love one another according to their worth, even those who are of unequal condition can be friends because they are made equal in this way.”73 Arveragus and Dorigen never use any terms of friendship to describe their marriage; that gloss belongs to the Franklin.

Although the Franklin professes that “Love wol not been contreyned by maistrye” (V.764), Arveragus and Dorigen’s nuptial agreement already serves as a condition that constrains their love and enforces the inequality between them. Arveragus’s concern for public shame marks not simply his narcissistic class aspiration and his attachment to social appearance; it exposes the very ambiguities of companionate marriage—ambiguities stemming from the difficulties of conduct ideals—troubling the period. As articulated in conduct manuals, female honor exists always under threat of slippage into shameful behavior. Ironically, the male authors of conduct literature also bring the threat of female shame dangerously close to masculinity by situating it within the married estate and the conjoined household. Companionate marriage therefore leads to greater risk of mutual contamination of shame for both spouses. What Arveragus discovers is that he cannot keep his honor without keeping Dorigen’s shame at the same time.

Wifely Devotee: A Future Dead Person

Once she recognizes the reality of her dilemma, Dorigen identifies her shame primarily in bodily and sexual terms: “yet have I levere to lese / My lif than of my body to have a shame” (V.1360–61). Shame, for medieval women, is an affective experience inseparable from sexuality. Valerie Allen has argued that while shame is “a more widely diffused emotion in medieval male experience, in woman it signifies more purely, retaining its essential mark of sexual lack and exposure.”74 The only viable alternative to losing her wifely chastity and to facing shame, Dorigen believes, is suicide. Feminist readings of Dorigen have tended to [End Page 127] stress the apparent gender difference in The Franklin’s Tale. Central to this critical tradition of gender difference is the idea of a unique and locatable female voice, subjectivity, or self-expression that seeks to be heard. And closely related to the concern with women’s representation is the project of reclaiming female literary characters from the margin. This impulse to uncover the feminine is premised, in some readings, on a model of separate spheres of gender existence and of women’s exclusion from the male public space.75 But rather than seeing Dorigen as consciously carving out an essentialized, biologically based female identity in her lament, it might be more useful to interpret her litany as an instance of what Eve Sedgwick calls a “minoritizing” act.76 The critical task is not necessarily the unearthing of an identity formed around a timeless essence but the teasing out of how one identity, as opposed to another, assumes a determinative importance in the lives of a minority.

Countering a universalizing discourse of male-inflected shame that regulates the daily life of the household, Dorigen seeks to align affectively her identity with a small, distinct minority of dead women in whose lives the threat of shame remains a persistent structural difficulty. To support her theory, she has no trouble locating virtuous female predecessors: “Hath ther nat many a noble wyf er this, / And many a mayde, yslayn hirself, allas, / Rather than with hir body doon trespas?” (V.1364–66). Through her litany, Dorigen attempts to contain her shame by mapping and inserting herself into a genealogy of exemplary women, thereby constructing her wifely identity within an imagined community across time—a kind of female translatio studii instantiated by shame. Critics have traditionally read Dorigen’s lament as a rhetorical set-piece and as Chaucer’s reworking of his source, Jerome’s Against Jovinian.77 But it might also be useful to look to late medieval conduct [End Page 128] and devotional literature contemporaneous with Chaucer for a different interpretive lens.78 What is significant here is the didacticism of both genres that seeks to produce and regulate gender roles within the household. The necessary inculcation of proper wifely conduct is not lost on Dorigen; in fact, the pursuit of self-betterment through exemplarity is the central work of her complaint. Immediately after Arveragus’s departure for England and prior to her encounter with Aurelius, Dorigen already patterns her behavior after noble wives: “For his absence wepeth she and siketh, / As doon thise noble wyves whan hem liketh” (V.817–18). While Dorigen is of nobler birth than Arveragus, her affective imitation of aristocratic feminine ideals is more “middling” in nature; the Franklin therefore heeds the Ménagier’s warning that a wife’s superior lineage does not excuse her disdainful behavior. But whereas the old husband in the Ménagier takes it upon himself to train his young wife in the hope that she could one day instruct herself, Dorigen quickly becomes her own teacher, household manager, and husband who discipline a misbehaving wife: herself.

Dorigen’s impulse toward rhetorical listing mimics the citations of female exempla found in late medieval conduct literature, such as Griselda and Lucretia in the Ménagier de Paris or The Book of the Knyght of the Towre; her litany is as much an actual speech as a virtual reading of an internalized text of conduct. She cites stories “as the bookes telle” (V.1378), expresses the view that “it is ful greet pitee / To reden” of the death of Cedasus’s daughter (V.1428–29), and speaks about how “of Laodomya is writen thus” (V.1446). Beyond recitation, Dorigen also strategically performs her complaint as she weeps, wails, and swoons, “With face pale and with ful sorweful cheere” (V.1353). In so doing, Dorigen engages in what Mark Amsler identifies as affective literacy, a practice of reading in which one develops “emotional, somatic, [and] activity-based relationships with texts.”79 An affective phenomenon, reading (silently or out loud) can be viewed as a form of speech act precisely because of the involvement of the body in an active relationship with the text. At the nexus of reading and utterance, the body [End Page 129] performs the text, for “there is what is said, and then there is a kind of saying that the bodily ‘instrument’ of the utterance performs.”80 While he primarily analyzes real or imagined reading scenes in which the materiality of texts is central to the reader’s affective experience, Amsler asserts that affective literacy need not necessarily involve bodily contact with a physical book or manuscript. Margery Kempe, for example, is a self-proclaimed illiterate who recites her narrative out loud, weeps, faints, and moans; yet hers is a text that she remembers and not the one she touches or sees. For Amsler, Kempe’s affective literacy is “located in her desire to textualize her spiritual story and on her own responsive body, rather than in her physical contact with texts themselves.”81 In The Franklin’s Tale, it is unclear if Dorigen is physically holding a text as she laments. Dorigen’s affective literacy is therefore akin to that of Margery Kempe; lacking any direct contact with a conduct book, Dorigen still marks its presence in her desire and on her body. Her litany is an act of affective labor that consciously engages with its own performative potential. Shame, as is voiced through her, becomes tangible and emotive.

In crucial ways, Dorigen’s affective engagement with shame resembles the instructions for proper confession found in late medieval conduct manuals. In The Book of the Knyght of the Towre, Mary Magdalene’s shameful weeping for her sins is praised as the exemplary attitude for the confessant, for “the shame that men haue to telle [sins] / is to them a grete part of their indulgence & god whiche seeth the humylyte & the repentaunce moueth hym self to pyte & eslargyssheth his misericorde.”82 Dorigen’s affective state also mirrors closely the kind of “private” devotional program prescribed for laywomen, such as the one found in the 1408 journée chrétienne written by an anonymous clerical author and included in Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal MS 2176.83 Here the male narrator [End Page 130] urges a female devotee, at midnight after a day of labor, to seek an isolated place where she may display signs of her sweet devotion to God, such as “bitter cries, plaints, and laments interrupted by many humble sighs, prostrations, and kneeling, eyes moist, face changing and damp, now red, now pale.”84 Private devotion—including prayer, confession, and reading—transforms the solitary devotee into both actor and audience in the sight of God. Dorigen, trapped at home and confiding her dilemma in no one (V.1351), creates a self-imposed isolation and affective program not dissimilar to the devotional solitude of the female devotee advocated in the 1408 journée.85

There are of course important differences between Dorigen’s litany and medieval devotional literature; her litany is not an instance of lay piety in the strict sense. While Dorigen is busily constructing her sense of self and its place within an imagined community through affective performance, there is neither a Christian God nor Christ the spiritual spouse to whom she prays. Yet I contend that Dorigen’s lament is not only a readerly but also a devotional engagement. The real object of her secular devotion, in fact, is shame itself, not Fortune. Hers is not time sanctified but time ashamed. In her affective engagement with shame are techniques of lay devotion—isolation, recitation, and affection—that she deploys in order to make sense of her predicament. Even pagan wives depicted in conduct books sometimes behave uncannily like pious Christian women. Lucretia, in the Ménagier de Paris, is pictured as sitting “within the innermost chambers of her house . . . alone and apart . . . [End Page 131] holding her book devoutly and with bowed head saying her hours humbly and piously.”86 If the journées chrétiennes foreground the superiority of the good wife’s immaterial labor, Dorigen’s litany, devoid of an explicitly Christian framework, emphasizes affective labor—one that is ethical if not spiritual in nature—as the work par excellence of the good wife. Not a narrative defect, the pagan setting of the Tale has the powerful effect of accentuating the affective nature of companionate marriage, in which shame and honor are forms of cultural capital that facilitate particular social ends. The Franklin’s Tale is an instance of the bourgeois devotion if not to God then to an emerging affect-based economy.

The public performance of private suffering, Illouz suggests, is key to the therapeutic work of self-realization and social recognition in emotional capitalism.87 Dorigen’s litany, though performed in solitude, is not exactly a “private” or personal act. Rather, she is manipulating shame as a fulcrum to pivot the public-private continuum in ways that would grant her personal leverage and counteract the force of male surveillance of female conduct. That is, Dorigen is actively invoking noble women’s avoidance of shame in solitude in order that her sense of honor be “publicly” demonstrated and acknowledged. Devotional performance, Jessica Brantley observes, is “an individual and private activity that nonetheless draws upon communal and public ones.”88 Although personal acts of piety might be performed in solitary spaces, they are rooted in the traditional prestige associated with collective devotion practiced within monastic communities. To engage in private devotion is to seek membership in the community of the faithful. Lay devotional programs, produced by the clergy for the middling sorts, are simultaneously universal and individual, public and private.89 The good wife’s spiritual labor, like her secular work, accrues social capital in the forms [End Page 132] of honor, piety, and domesticity. She therefore equals or even excels virgins and the female religious, women who traditionally live apart from the lay household. This leveling of the prestige associated with maidens and wives in private devotion may explain why Dorigen includes both categories of women in her litany. In addition to the fifty maidens of Lacedomye (V.1379–85), she also praises Teuta’s “wyfly chastitee” (V.1453) and Artemesie’s “parfit wyfhood” (V.1451).

As the Tale progresses, Dorigen undergoes a rapid change in her role from that of a courtly heroine to a domestic wife. Aurelius initially calls her his “sovereyn lady deere” (V.1070) or “madame” (V.967); after he releases her from her vow, however, he calls her a “wife” for the first time (V.1539). By then, Dorigen’s transformation through shame is complete, and “hoom unto hir housbonde is she fare” (V.1546). Not quite a minoritized female suicide, Dorigen instead assumes the universalized role of an obedient wife, an elevated figure within conduct literature: this is her shameful becoming. For Aurelius, she is “the treweste and the beste wyf” (V.1539), a characterization that alludes to her marital pledge (V.758). Therefore, Dorigen does seem to fulfill her part of the matrimonial contract; at least that much appears to be the case for the men involved. Moving from praise to lecture, Aurelius immediately turns her into an exemplum of wifehood: “But every wyf be war of hir biheeste! / On Dorigen remembreth, atte leeste” (V.1541–42). While Aurelius is the alleged speaker, the Franklin, as the narrator, could also be interjecting his own voice here. It is therefore possible to hear, through the layered male voices, the Franklin representing himself as a writer of conduct books that instruct all wives and, implicitly, their husbands.

In foregrounding Dorigen’s “verray feere” (V.1347) that triggers her affective engagement with shame, the Franklin alludes to the Aristotelian conception of shame as a species of fear; specifically, shame is the fear of ill repute. The strong affinity between shame and fear demonstrates the capacity of shame for binding with other affects and forming what Silvan Tomkins calls “affect-shame binds.” Indeed, all affects can form complexes among and beyond themselves, creating a “great variety of admixtures of affect with cognitive, behavioral, and event references.”90 Because many affects are socialized through techniques of [End Page 133] shaming, a diverse range of situations could activate affects that are then bound to shame and impressed on memory; an individual’s experience and behavior are mediated through the hybridized effects of these affect formations. One can thus imagine an assemblage of shame-binds at work in The Franklin’s Tale—shame-fere, shame-pite, shame-trouthe, shame-routhe, shame-gentillesse—that incorporates not only other affects but also ideals and conditions of gentil conduct. Within Dorigen’s litany, the ability of shame to mutate and adhere is manifest in Dorigen’s capacity to attach herself, at least performatively and mimetically, to exemplary female suicides, and to create such affective identity-binds, or masks, as Dorigen-Lucretia, Dorigen-Teuta, and Dorigen-Penelope. This is one effect of exemplarity: (re)citation ending in adhesion. But in a moment of sudden illumination, Dorigen ironically gestures at the potential absurdity of her attempts at affective binding. The possibilities for her list of exempla, she realizes, are theoretically ad infinitum: “Mo than a thousand stories, as I gesse, / Koude I now telle as touchynge this mateere” (V.1412–13, my emphasis). As Tomkins remarks, “The number of different complex assemblies of affects and perceived causes and consequences is without limit.”91 In the midst of weeping and swooning, Dorigen nevertheless catches herself.

Underlying Dorigen’s performative litany is the logic of conditionality that keeps circling back not to the marital vow “I do” but to the performative “Shame on you.” It might be more precise to label Dorigen’s complaint as a conditional speech act in which, according to Eve Sweetser, “the speaker presents the performance of a speech act as taking place in the conditional mental space established by the protasis [the if-clause].”92 Each exemplary female suicide on Dorigen’s list represents a possible model of conduct for her to emulate; each woman’s history becomes a mental space that she imagines herself occupying. In drawing up a series of conditionals and analogies between herself and the exempla, Dorigen inadvertently establishes a “remote past” of virtuous wives and a “remote future” of herself as a possible suicide, both of which elide the shameful crisis in the present that she, in suspense, is afraid to confront.

In contrast to Arveragus, who is unable to name his shame, Dorigen [End Page 134] deliberately invokes shame in order to defer its actualization. She desperately drags the past into the present in order to forestall any concrete experience of shame while seeking to identify with “a set of social coordinates that [exceed] her own historical moment” and constructing herself as a “future dead person” who appears destined to join the pantheon of virtuous women.93 But her litany creates only a suspensive future in which she exists only as a potential female suicide. The spectral effect of shame on Dorigen, which disrupts any linear teleology, can be understood in terms of Pierre Bourdieu’s notion of emotion as “a (hallucina-tory) ‘presenting’ of the impending future, which . . . leads a person to live a still suspended future as already present, or even already past, and therefore necessary and inevitable—‘I’m a dead man,’ ‘I’m done for.’ ”94 But Dorigen’s difficulty lies in the fact that, as long as she continues to lament, she is not yet done for by anything or anyone. Like Arveragus, who dances around shame, Dorigen too cannot bring herself to do or say, “Now, I kill myself.” She can offer only scripted reruns of “Years ago, such and such women killed themselves.” But in so doing, Dorigen locks herself within a temporal nowhere, tiptoeing around other people’s death wishes without an unequivocal course of action or guidance. Her quasi-conduct book, her litany, teeters on the verge of collapse. Not yet dead, Dorigen is imminently dying.

At the Tale’s most precarious moments, shame remains iterable but never fully realizable as productive of a stable identity for Dorigen—either a female suicide or a good wife. Toward the end of her litany, Dorigen evokes the pagan wife Bilyea (V.1455), who, according to Jerome, is famed for being tolerant of her husband’s bad breath.95 The apparent incoherence in Dorigen’s complaint is more than an unconscious slip on her part from serious moralizing to comic posturing. From its start, the catalogue of exemplary women has presented problematic models of identification for Dorigen, who will never be a Lucretia or a Teuta. In her minoritizing act, Dorigen presumes the existence of a discernible, essential, and emulable identity to which she has access. But as Butler has shown, gender is a performance, a “copy of a copy,” and [End Page 135] the faith in a natural origin is only a normalizing myth.96 Dorigen’s collection of clichés therefore enacts a similar clash of exemplary discourses and captivity to the dissonant platitudes that plague the conduct genre. Instead of her imposition of the same interpretation on all exempla, Dorigen’s relationship to her litany is marked by a persistent incoherence. Like the disobedient and ill-fated wife in the Ménagier who cannot find an exact conduct prescription in her cedule that addresses her current predicament, Dorigen cannot be minoritized because there is not a single, simple, or coherent minority identity available to her. By the time she invokes Bilyea, there has been a movement definitively away from female martyrdom to the household and good wifely conduct.

Shame Management

Jennifer C. Manion suggests that it is “the way in which an ashamed person manages her shame that establishes its usefulness in any particular situation.”97 One does not know precisely which trouthe Dorigen is upholding when she sets out to meet Aurelius in the garden. Is it the marriage vow that she has made to Arveragus (V.759)? Or her playful promise to Aurelius (V.998)? Or both? Regardless of her motives, Dorigen ends up becoming an exemplary wife who has successfully managed her body and avoided public shame. But what do treweste and beste mean? Are they the universal answers to the difficulty of si bene facias? Or are they just as murky to define?98

Aurelius’s characterization of Dorigen as the trewest wyf resonates with Arveragus’s admonishment to her that “Trouthe is the hyeste thyng that man may kepe” (V.1479, my emphasis), thereby linking directly the [End Page 136] idea of trouthe to male honor.99 However, the fundamental problem in the Tale—one of body and identity—is that Dorigen, in her initial self-representation and conduct, is not a man. What Arveragus demands of her is an impossibility. When she agrees to (or obeys?) Arveragus’s request, “half as she were mad” (V.1511), Dorigen is acting neither as a chaste wife/suicide nor as an obedient wife. As the Tale torques from the “I do” to the “Shame on you,” the only identity option left to her is uncannily a queer one. Dorigen, consciously or not, assumes the identity of a “manly wife,” for she manages to keep the highest thing that a man may keep.

Some readers have argued that Arveragus and Dorigen’s marriage betrays a conflict between courtly love, in which women dominate, and secular marriage, in which men exert control.100 However, the Tale’s insistent engagement with shame via technologies of conduct works to destabilize power differentials along dichotomies of men/women or the public/private. The good wife or the good husband’s shame is simultaneously privé and apert. Conduct literature, ostensibly affirming a rigid gender division of spiritual and secular labors, paradoxically works to undo gender and blur social hierarchy. In The Book of the Knyght of the Towre, a good lady possesses as much renown as a good knight: “For men ought to doo and bere as moche worship and honour to a good [End Page 137] lady or damoysel as to a good knyght or squyer.”101 The good wife, who successfully manages her shame, is not inferior to the good husband. For Dorigen, what shame makes possible is a queer minority identity, a female masculinity that exposes masculinity as primarily a prosthetic, “technical special effect.”102 And if she is capable of detaching gender roles from biology—teacher, household manager, and husband—and appropriating them in her litany, there is potentially no limit to how far or how dangerously she could continue in pley.

The Franklin himself exemplifies the gender and class hybridity of the middling sorts. As historians and Chaucer critics have repeatedly pointed out, in the late Middle Ages, franklins occupied an ambiguous social category without a clearly delineated identity or status. While they were, by definition, freeholders without military or labor obligations, franklins were not strictly a single identifiable professional category.103 Chaucer’s Franklin, nominally a small landholder, is also a lay bureaucrat who has held positions as diverse as a “knyght of the shire” (I.356), a “shirreve” (I.359), and a “contour” (I.359). And though he professes to be “a burel man” (V.716), the Franklin is nevertheless much concerned with the symbolic capital of gentillesse. More important, the Franklin presents himself as the nexus linking the aristocracy and the middling group. Serving the interests and tastes of the two strata, he welds the genres of romance and conduct literature together and seeks to please both the nobility, exemplified by the Knight, and the bourgeoisie, represented by the Merchant, among his fellow pilgrims. Chaucer characterizes the Franklin as a great “housholdere” (I.339) who enjoys “pleyn delit” (I.337) and whose home is never without “mete and drynke” (I.345). Household consumption, as traffic in material goods, necessarily blurs the distinction between the public and private. Moreover, avid consumption presupposes diligent management; under emotional capitalism, the manager is a rational, responsible being who regulates labor relations and affections in order to maximize productivity.104 The Franklin’s success in life is a testament to his effective management [End Page 138] of household conduct and affects—except possibly those of his son. Oddly enough, he is a good wife.

As he attempts to finish his tale, the Franklin asks: “Which was the mooste fre, as thynketh yow?” (V.1622). In other words, if the tale’s various virtualizations and actualizations of shame serve only to uphold proper conduct, who emerges as the most “gentil”? Glenn Burger suggests that “[a]ccess to the cultural capital of gentility allows subjects to be ‘fre’ in the old sense of giving of their worth . . . while manifesting freedom in the modern sense of individual autonomy.”105 But realizable freedom also depends on the realizability of shame; both are social attention signals that can be bought, sold, and exchanged within affective economy. Shame, blurring categorical differences of gender, class, and publicity, exerts its force on affective modes of sociality and invades the seemingly private, autonomous, and fre selves constructed by the tale. If shame is a potential to be trafficked, so too can gentillesse circulate from Arveragus, to Aurelius, to the Clerk of Orleans, and implicitly to the Franklin. By invoking the unfinished doing of shame as social leverage, the Franklin becomes a trafficker in affective potential, a shame manager who surveys and preserves the condition of household order and the fiction of companionate conduct. [End Page 139]

Wan-Chuan Kao
The Graduate Center, CUNY


I am grateful for the generous advice of Glenn Burger, Steven Kruger, Shannon McSheffrey, and the anonymous readers for SAC. I would also like to thank Alcuin Blamires for the opportunity to present an early version of this paper at the 2006 congress of the New Chaucer Society, as well as Sylvia Tomasch for her support.


1. The Franklin’s Tale, V.758, 742–43. All references are to The Riverside Chaucer, gen. ed. Larry D. Benson (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987).

2. These and similar cases are cited in R. H. Helmholz, Marriage Litigation in Medieval England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974), 47–57.

3. Bartholomew Thomas Timlin, Conditional Matrimonial Consent: An Historical Synopsis and Commentary, Ph.D. diss. (Catholic University of America, 1934), 25–69.

4. On medieval conditional marriages, see also Shannon McSheffrey, Marriage, Sex, and Civic Culture in Late Medieval London (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006), 87–97; Helmholz, Marriage Litigation in Medieval England, 47–57; Frederik Pedersen, Marriage Disputes in Medieval England (London: Hambledon Press, 2000), 28–29, 64–65; Peter Fleming, Family and Household in Medieval England (New York: Palgrave, 2001), 47–48; and Ruth Mazo Karras, Sexuality in Medieval Europe: Doing unto Others (New York: Routledge, 2005), 70–71. On the frequency of marriage litigations involving conditional contracts, see Helmholz, Marriage Litigation in Medieval England, 48. On the legal arbitration clause, see Frederik Pedersen, “Marriage Contracts and the Church Courts of Fourteenth-Century England,” in To Have and to Hold: Marrying and Its Documentation in Western Christendom, 400–1600, ed. Philip L. Reynolds and John Witte Jr. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 287–331 (290). And on the bargaining nature of conditional marriages, see Helmholz, “Marriage Contracts in Medieval England,” in ibid., 265–66.

5. G. L. Kittredge, “Chaucer’s Discussion of Marriage,” MP 9.4 (1912): 435–67. Kittredge calls the marriage of Arveragus and Dorigen “a brilliant success” (467).

6. Ewa Hess and Hennric Jokeit, “Neurocapitalism,” trans. Melanie Newton, Eurozine (2009): 1–8 (7).

7. Martha Howell, “The Properties of Marriage in Late Medieval Europe: Commercial Wealth and the Creation of Modern Marriage,” in Love, Marriage, and Family Ties in the Later Middle Ages, ed. Isabel Davis, Miriam Müller, and Sarah Rees Jones (Turnhout: Brepols, 2003), 17–61 (17). The development of companionate marriage can be traced to the Gregorian Reform in the High Middle Ages that sought to separate celibate clergy from married laity and to reconceptualize the institution of marriage. The twelfth and thirteenth centuries witnessed new ecclesiastical definitions of marriage that stressed the necessity of consent in the creation of the matrimonial bond, that required a public setting for the marriage ceremony, that mandated marriage be indissoluble, and that emphasized the internalized relationship between spouses. By the thirteenth century, marriage had become a sacrament that incorporated the discourse of friendship and that viewed the union as a partnership of equals. And in tandem with the emerging idea of conjugal debt went the desirability of marital affection. But for all its emphasis on the individual, the church also sought to place marriage under greater surveillance by ecclesiastical and civic authorities. Thus the ecclesiastically approved process of marriage begins with a betrothal, a contract undertaken in the future tense, followed by the calling of banns in the parish church. The couple then forms a present-tense contract before the parish priest, prior to a nuptial mass solemnizing their marriage. By the late Middle Ages, however, social practice did not necessarily follow the prescribed steps; present-tense contracts were frequently the first and only step in a marriage contract, thus bypassing the betrothal and the calling of banns. Lawrence Stone, who postulated the rise of “affective individualism” that shaped the modern nuclear household, provided the first full historical study of companionate marriage, in The Family, Sex, and Marriage in England, 1500–1800 (New York: Harper, 1977). For in-depth historical accounts, see Michael M. Sheehan, Marriage, Family, and Law in Medieval Europe: Collected Studies, ed. James K. Farge (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996); James Brundage, Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987); Erik Kooper, “Loving the Unequal Equal: Medieval Theologians and Marital Affection,” in The Olde Daunce: Love, Friendship, Sex, and Marriage in the Medieval World, ed. Robert R. Edwards and Stephen Spector (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991), 44–56; Neil Cartlidge, Medieval Marriage: Literary Approaches, 1100–1300 (Woodbridge: Brewer, 1997); Conor McCarthy, Marriage in Medieval England: Law, Literature, and Practice (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2004); Rüdiger Schnell, “The Discourse on Marriage in the Middle Ages,” Speculum 73.3 (1998): 771–86; D. L. D’Avray, Medieval Marriage: Symbolism and Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); and Reynolds and Witte Jr., eds., To Have and to Hold.

8. Howell notes that the modern sense of a “middle class” is anachronistic in the late Middle Ages; it is more accurate to speak of “ ‘middle classes’ or, perhaps better still, of ‘middling sorts’—artisans, merchants, professionals, and rural yeomanry, people who often shared little except their common distinction from both landed aristocrats and the peasantry” (“Properties of Marriage,” 22). Paul Strohm, in Social Chaucer (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989), adopts the term “middle strata” from Sylvia Thrupp to describe the middle groups in late medieval English society whose “horizontal” form of sociality, based on more fluid forms of service and remuneration, redefined the older “vertical” model of social relations (1–14); recently, David Gary Shaw has noted that status for the middling groups was “vague, uncertain, [and] changeable,” in his Necessary Conjunctions: The Social Self in Medieval England (New York: Palgrave, 2005), 90. And within the context of the Canterbury Tales, Glenn Burger argues that the middling gentils “fail to cohere as a stable, homogeneous group,” in Chaucer’s Queer Nation (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 49.

9. Howell, “The Properties of Marriage,” 22, 28.

10. Kittredge, “Chaucer’s Discussion of Marriage,” 463–64.

11. Adaptation of romance: John M. Fyler, “Love and Degree in the Franklin’s Tale,ChauR 21.3 (1987): 321–37 (323); “Epicurian optimism”: D. W. Robertson Jr., A Preface to Chaucer: Studies in Medieval Perspectives (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1962), 470; extension of vassalage: Strohm, Social Chaucer, 105; conformity to traditional hierarchy: A. C. Spearing, introduction to The Franklin’s Tale, ed. A. C. Spearing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966), 36; Derek Pearsall, The Canterbury Tales (London: Routledge, 1985), 151; Francine McGregor, “What of Dorigen? Agency and Ambivalence in the Franklin’s Tale,ChauR 31.4 (1997): 365–78 (371); nonutopian public’s expectation: David Aers, Chaucer, Langland, and the Creative Imagination (London: Routledge, 1980), 63; “proper man”: Kathryn Jacobs, “The Marriage Contract of the Franklin’s Tale: The Remaking of Society,” ChauR 20.2 (1985): 132–43 (136); knightly reputation: D. S. Brewer, “Honour in Chaucer,” Essays and Studies n.s. 26 (1973): 1–19 (16); Gerald Morgan, “Experience and the Judgment of Poetry: A Reconsideration of the Franklin’s Tale, 70.2 (2001): 204–25 (210); Emma Lipton, Affections of the Mind: The Politics of Sacramental Marriage in Late Medieval English Literature (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007), 28; defense of husband’s reputation: Elaine Tuttle Hansen, Chaucer and the Fictions of Gender (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1992), 274; McCarthy, Marriage in Medieval England, 103; Angela Jane Weisl, Conquering the Reign of Femeny: Gender and Genre in Chaucer’s Romance (Cambridge: Brewer, 1995), 107; social appearance: Elizabeth Robertson, “Marriage, Mutual Consent, and the Affirmation of the Female Subject in ‘The Knight’s Tale,’ ‘The Wife of Bath’s Tale,’ and ‘The Franklin’s Tale,’ ” in Drama Narrative and Poetry in the Canterbury Tales, ed. Wendy Harding (Toulouse: Presses universitaires du Mirrail, 2003), 175–93 (189).

12. Spearing, The Franklin’s Tale, 36.

13. For pacience, see Jill Mann, “Wife-Swapping in Medieval Literature,” Viator 32 (2001): 93–112. Mann argues that patience allows for the realization of gentillesse and leads to social harmony. For pite as a social virtue that sanctifies hierarchy, see Felicity Riddy, “Engendering Pity in the Franklin’s Tale,” in Feminist Readings in Middle English Literature: The Wife of Bath and All Her Sect, ed. Ruth Evans and Lesley Johnson (London: Routledge, 1994), 54–71. For the frendshipe model as political and personal ideals in the Tale, see Lipton, Affections of the Mind, esp. 22–23. And for trouthe, see Alison Ganze, “ ‘My trouthe for to holde—allas, allas!’: Dorigen and Honor in the Franklin’s Tale,ChauR 42.3 (2008): 312–29.

14. Spearing, The Franklin’s Tale, 37.

15. Pearsall, The Canterbury Tales, 151.

16. J. L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words, ed. J. O. Urmson and Marina Sbisá, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1962), 14. McSheffrey (Marriage, Sex, and Civic Culture, 22), Lipton (Affections of the Mind, 29), and McCarthy (Marriage in Medieval England, 102) have commented that Dorigen’s words resemble late medieval marriage vows. Her vow reflects the medieval notion of mutual consent in the formation of a marriage contract. Peter Lombard, in the twelfth century, distinguished two types of consensus, one by words of present consent (verba de presenti), as in “accipio te” [I accept you], the other by words of future consent (verba de futuro), as in “accipiam te” [I will accept you]. The thirteenth-century synodal statute from Salisbury provided a standard formulation of the marriage vow: “Ego N. accipio te in meam” [I N. accept you as mine]; see Love, Sex, and Marriage in the Middle Ages: A Sourcebook, ed. Conor McCarthy (London: Routledge, 2004), 75.

17. See MED, s.v. “condicioun,” 1(a): “A situation or state; circumstances of life or existence”; and 4(a): “A stipulation or proviso; also, an exception, reservation, or qualification.”

18. Hansen, Chaucer and the Fictions of Gender, 271.

19. Spearing, for instance, suggests that while Arveragus promises to be a courtly lover, “this situation will be concealed from the outside world” because of his concern for public reputation (The Franklin’s Tale, 30); Elizabeth Robertson, similarly, argues that the couple agree to “mutuality in private, and . . . subordination in public” (“Marriage, Mutual Consent, and the Affirmation of the Female Subject,” 190); and, more recently, Cathy Hume postulates that the two present “divergent behavior in private and public” (“ ‘The name of soveraynetee’: The Private and Public Faces of Marriage in The Franklin’s Tale,SP 105.3 (2008): 284–303 [286]). See also Mary R. Bowman, “ ‘Half as She Were Mad’: Dorigen in the Male World of the Franklin’s Tale,ChauR 27.3 (1993): 239–51 (245–46); Pearsall, The Canterbury Tales, 150–51; David Aers, Chaucer (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press International, 1986), 86; Weisl, Conquering the Reign of Femeny, 107, 114; Kathryn Jacobs, Marriage Contracts from Chaucer to the Renaissance Stage (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001), 53, 57; Lipton, Affections of the Mind, 26–28; David Raybin, “ ‘Wommen, of kynde, desiren libertee’: Rereading Dorigen, Rereading Marriage,” ChauR 27.1 (1992): 65–86 (70, 77); Joseph D. Parry, “Dorigen, Narration, and Coming Home in the Franklin’s Tale,ChauR 30.3 (1996): 262–93 (282); and McGregor, “What of Dorigen?” 371.

20. MED, s.v. “priveli,” 1(a), 2(a), and 2(b). And MED, s.v. “prive,” 1(d) and 2(e).

21. Anglo-Norman Dictionary, s.v. “privé,” (a.1), (s.1), and (s.3). See also the etymology of “privy” in OED.

22. Le ménagier de Paris, ed. Georgine E. Brereton and Janet M. Ferrier (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981), 57.

23. The Goodman of Paris, trans. Eileen Power (London: Routledge, 1928), 107. Arthur Goldhammer’s translation is in Georges Duby, A History of Private Life, vol. 2, Revelations of the Medieval World, trans. Arthur Goldhammer, ed. Philippe Ariès and Georges Duby (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1988), 350. See also The Good Wife’s Guide (Le ménagier de Paris): A Medieval Household Book, trans. and ed. Gina L. Greco and Christine M. Rose (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009), 94.

24. Shannon McSheffrey, “Place, Space, and Situation: Public and Private in the Making of Marriage in Late-Medieval London,” Speculum 79.4 (2004): 960–90.

25. Duby, A History of Private Life, 2:xii, 6–7.

26. See McSheffrey, “Place, Space, and Situation,” 960, 989. Scholarship on John Locke’s public/private dyad in modern liberalism is a vast field. Some representative works include Hannah Arendt, “The Public and the Private Realm,” in The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 22–78; Daniela Gobetti, Private and Public: Individuals, Households, and Body Politic in Locke and Hutcheson (New York: Routledge, 1992); Jean Bethke Elshtain, Public Man and Private Woman: Women in Social and Political Thought (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981); Michael McKeon, The Secret History of Domesticity: Public, Private, and the Division of Knowledge (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005); Gerald Turkel, Dividing Public and Private: Law, Politics, and Social Theory (Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, 1992); Philosophical Dimensions of Privacy: An Anthology, ed. Ferdinand David Schoeman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984); Lawrence Eliot Klein, “Gender and the Public/Private Distinction in the Eighteenth Century: Some Questions about Evidence and Analytic Procedure,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 29.1 (1995): 97–109; Mary B. Walsh, “Locke and Feminism on Private and Public Realms of Activities,” Review of Politics 57.2 (1995): 251–78; Kristin A. Kelly, “Private Family, Private Individual: John Locke’s Distinction between Paternal and Political Power,” Social Theory and Practice 28.3 (2002): 361–80; and Eric R. Claeys, “The Private Society and the Liberal Public Good in John Locke’s Thought,” Social Philosophy and Policy 25.2 (2008): 201–34. For medievalists’ critique of the liberal public/private paradigm, see Felicity Riddy, “ ‘Burgeis’ Domesticity in Late-Medieval England,” in Medieval Domesticity: Home, Housing, and Household in Medieval England, ed. Maryanne Kowaleski and P. J. P. Goldberg (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 14–17; and Riddy, “Looking Closely: Authority and Intimacy in the Late Medieval Urban Home,” in Gendering the Master Narrative: Women and Power in the Middle Ages, ed. Mary C. Erler and Maryanne Kowaleski (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003), 212–15.

27. P. J. P. Goldberg, “The Fashioning of Bourgeois Domesticity in Later Medieval England: A Material Culture Perspective,” in Medieval Domesticity, 124–44 (136).

28. See Christopher Dyer, “Public and Private Lives in the Medieval Household,” in Love, Marriage, and Family Ties, ed. Davis, Müller, and Rees Jones, 237–39 (237–38). On the ambiguous separation between the public and private in medieval households, see Cordelia Beattie and Anna Maslakovic, “Introduction—Locating the Household: Public, Private, and the Social Construction of Gender and Space,” in The Medieval Household in Christian Europe, c. 850–c. 1550: Managing Power, Wealth, and the Body, ed. Cordelia Beattie, Anna Maslakovic, and Sarah Rees Jones (Turnhout: Brepols, 2003), 1–8 (2); and Isabel Davis, “Unfamiliar Families: Investigating Marriage and the Family in the Past,” in Love, Marriage, and Family Ties, ed. Davis, Müller, and Rees Jones, 1–13 (2–3).

29. Riddy, “ ‘Burgeis’ Domesticity,” 17. Riddy notes that the concept of privata (“private business”) did not have a definitive sense of spatial divide; in fact, fourteenth-century “burgeiseries” in London were in the process of defining where the public/ private divide would lie (32).

30. McSheffrey, “Place, Space, and Situation,” 986, 971. Other “domestic” spaces that served as the place for marriage formation included taverns and gardens.

31. “[The witness says that] one year ago on the feast day of the apostles Philip and James just past, he was present in the house of William Burton [in domo Willelmi de Burton], tanner of York, about the third hour past the ninth, when and where John Beke, saddler, sitting down on a bench of that house [dicte domus], called in English ‘le Sidebynke,’ called the said Marjory to him and said to her, ‘Sit with me.’ Acquiescing in this, she sat down. John said to her, ‘Marjory, do you wish to be my wife?’ And she replied, ‘I will if you wish.’ “ English translation in Helmholz, Marriage Litigation in Medieval England, 28–29. For discussion of marriage litigation in the Ely register, see Sheehan, Marriage, Family, 61. For the Canterbury book, see Helmholz, Marriage Litigation in Medieval England, 28.

32. “ipsa Cecilia fecit omnes mulieres affidare que interfuerunt quod in illo anno nulli demonstrarent” (Helmholz, Marriage Litigation in Medieval England, 48.) The translation is Helmholz’s.

33. Henry Ansgar Kelly, Love and Marriage in the Age of Chaucer (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1975), 91.

34. McSheffrey, “Place, Space, and Situation,” 965–66, 968.

35. Parry, “Dorigen, Narration, and Coming Home in the Franklin’s Tale,” 282.

36. Léon Wurmser, The Mask of Shame (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), 62–65.

37. Carl Schneider, “A Mature Sense of Shame,” in The Many Faces of Shame, ed. Donald L. Nathanson (New York: Guilford Press, 1987), 201; and his Shame, Exposure, and Privacy (New York: W. W. Norton, 1977), xv. Other theorists of shame who replicate the liberal public/private divide include Carroll Ellis Izard, Human Emotions (New York: Plenum Press, 1977), 400; Francis J. Broucek, Shame and the Self (New York: Guilford Press, 1991), 37; and Mario Jacoby, Shame and the Origins of Self-Esteem: A Jungian Approach (New York: Routledge, 1994), 21.

38. Duby, A History of Private Life, 2:6.

39. MED, s.v. “name,” 2(c). See Kittredge, “Chaucer’s Discussion of Marriage,” 30; Aers, Chaucer, Langland and the Creative Imagination, 163; and Priscilla Martin, Chaucer’s Women: Nuns, Wives, and Amazons (London: Macmillan, 1990), 124.

40. Benjamin Kilborne, Disappearing Persons: Shame and Appearance (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002), 5.

41. The Riverside Chaucer glosses apert as: (1) “plain, clear”; and (2) “open, not secret” (1215). In The Squire’s Tale, when the falcon grants the tercet her love, she stipulates “upon this condicioun, / That everemoore [her] honour and renoun / Were saved, bothe privee and apert” (V.529–31). And in The Wife of Bath’s Tale, the old woman asserts that a gentil man is he “that is moost vertuous always, / Pryvee and apert” (III.1113–14).

42. Aristotle classifies shame as a species of fear, and it is associated with the masculine public realm. Unmanliness or cowardice is therefore shameful. Likewise, a man feels ashamed before those he holds in high regard. The classical theory of the public nature of shame remained foundational in medieval understandings of shame. See Aristotle, The Art of Rhetoric, trans. H. C. Lawson-Gancred (New York: Penguin Books, 1991), 157–58; and Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics, trans. C. I. Litzinger, O.P., 2 vols. (Chicago: Regnery, 1964). In the religious realm, there was the diligent attendance at mass and the “public” requirement, after Lateran IV, of confession. But increasingly in the late Middle Ages, more personal and “private” modes of acknowledging the shame of sinfulness became available to the laity. Public images and rituals, reconfigured and appropriated by conduct manuals and spiritual guides, became the bases of private devotion taking place in solitary spaces. In secular terms, chivalry and courtly love work in similar ways. Siegfried Christoph has shown that Arthurian heroes require a sense of modest shame in order to develop their personal ethos, and Stephanie Trigg argues that courtly shame is more often a performance of authority than an actual assault on emotions. The shame a lover feels has a public dimension in the poetry and songs that already exist to express his feelings, and in private he trains himself to focus solely on his beloved. This is exactly what Aurelius engages in before he reveals his love to Dorigen (V.943–50). In both spiritual and secular discourses, the ideal homology between public and private modes of shame works to keep it not really shameful but capable of constituting proper identities. See Christoph, “Honor, Shame and Gender,” in Arthurian Romance and Gender, ed. Friedrich Wolfzettel (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1995), 29–32; and Trigg, “ ‘Shamed be . . .’: Historicizing Shame in Medieval and Early Modern Courtly Ritual,” Exemplaria 19.1 (2007): 67–89. We can also look at the fabliaux, in which characters often undergo extreme shaming punishments for their pride or sexual misconduct taking place in private. At the same time, many fabliaux also work to deflect public shame in order to preserve order and social relations. See Sheila J. Nayar, “ ‘Thou Art Inexcusable’: Deflected Disgrace in the Old French Fabliaux,” Exemplaria 21.1 (2009): 24–42.

43. I am indebted to Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s foundational work on J. L. Austin’s exemplary performative “I do” and the queer performative “Shame on you.” See Sedgwick’s “Queer Performativity: Henry James’s The Art of the Novel,GLQ 1 (1993): 1–16; and her Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), 35–66.

44. See Kathleen Ashley and Robert L. A. Clark, “Medieval Conduct: Texts, Theories, Practices,” introduction to Medieval Conduct, ed. Kathleen Ashley and Robert L. A. Clark (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001), ix–xx. Middle English romances, Riddy argues, were always already centered on domesticity and the nuclear family. See Felicity Riddy, “Middle English Romance: Family, Marriage, Intimacy,” in The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Romance, ed. Roberta L. Krueger (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 235–52; Riddy, “Temporary Virginity and the Everyday Body: Le Bone Florence of Rome and Bourgeois Self-Making,” in Pulp Fictions of Medieval England: Essays in Popular Romance, ed. Nicola McDonald (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004), 197–216; and D. Vance Smith, Arts of Possession: The Middle English Household Imaginary (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003). Caxton, in many of the introductions to his printed works, advocates romances because they are guides to proper conduct. See N. F. Blake, Caxton’s Own Prose (London: André Deutsch, 1973), 58, 60, 109.

45. The late Middle Ages witnessed changes within the traditional upper classes; the gentry, increasingly distinguished from the nobility, converged with the urban elites. See Riddy, “Middle English Romance,” 237; Riddy, “Mother Knows Best: Reading Social Chance in a Courtesy Text,” Speculum 71.1 (1996): 66–86 (67); and Mark Addison Amos, “Violent Hierarchies: Disciplining Women and Merchant Capitalists in The Book of the Knyght of the Towre,” in Caxton’s Trace: Studies in the History of English Printing, ed. William Kuskin (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2006), 69–100 (90–91). The bourgeois-gentry, in search of self-definition and a code of behavior that would legitimize their growing economic and political powers, were busily appropriating modes of noble display. See Mark Addison Amos, “ ‘For Manners Make Man’: Bourdieu, De Certeau, and the Common Appropriation of Noble Manners in the Book of Courtesy,“ in Medieval Conduct, 23–48 (28–29, 46).

46. See Kathleen Ashley, “The Miror des bonnes femmes: Not for Women Only?” in Medieval Conduct, 86–105 (100). For the good wife’s conduct and the common good in the French tradition, see Carolyn P. Collette, “Chaucer and the French Tradition Revisited: Philippe de Mézières and the Good Wife,” in Medieval Women: Texts and Contexts in Late Medieval Britain: Essays for Felicity Riddy, ed. Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, Rosalynn Voaden, Arlyn Diamond, Ann Hutchison, Carol M. Meale, and Lesley Johnson (Turn-hout: Brepols, 2000), 151–68 (152–54).

47. The Book of the Knyght of the Towre, trans. William Caxton, ed. M. Y. Offord, EETS s.s. 2 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), 129, 151.

48. Helmholz, “Marriage Contracts,” 269.

49. Brereton and Ferrier, Le ménagier de Paris, 73–74; The Good Wife’s Guide, trans. and ed. Greco and Rose, 119.

50. Greco and Rose read the story as demonstrating the dangers of both conduct contracts and a literal reading of them, constructed by the male author as abuses of contract (The Good Wife’s Guide, 39). See also Roberta L. Krueger, “Identity Begins at Home: Female Conduct and the Failure of Counsel in Le ménagier de Paris,Essays in Medieval Studies 22 (2005): 21–39. Krueger argues that the cedule “fails to restore harmony and leads instead to the couple’s dissolution” (30).

51. Helmholz, “Marriage Contracts,” 269.

52. Brereton and Ferrier, Le ménagier de Paris, 8; The Good Wife’s Guide, trans. and ed. Greco and Rose, 130. In the version of the wager found in The Book of the Knyght of the Towre, three drapers bet on who has the most obedient wife (36). See Gaston Paris, “Le cycle de la gageure,” Romania 32 (1903): 481–551; and Roberta L. Krueger, “Double Jeopardy: The Appropriation of Women in Four Old French Romances of the Cycle de la gageure,” in Seeking the Woman in Late Medieval and Renaissance Writing: Essays in Feminist Contextual Criticism, ed. S. Fisher and J. E. Halley (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1989), 21–50. For the tradition of the wager motif in medieval and early modern drama, see Lynette R. Muir, “The Wager,” in Love and Conflict in Medieval Drama: The Plays and Their Legacy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 102–5.

53. “quia non apprehendunt turpitudinem ut possibilem sibi vel quasi non facile vita-bilem.” Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologicae, vol. 43, Temperance, trans. John Patrick Reid (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964), 68; English translation on 69.

54. Judith Butler, Excitable Speech: A Poetics of the Performative (New York: Routledge, 1997), 11.

55. In the fifteenth-century marital litigation of Brocher vs. Cardif, the deposition records: “Et tunc ipse Johannes tenens antedictam Johannam per manum dexteram, secundum informacionem eiusdem Johannis Monk primo dixit eidem sic, I John take the Johan to my weddid wif, the to loue and kepe, and as a man owght to loue his wife, and therto I pliᵹt the my trowth. Et incontinenter prefata Johanna similiter ad informacionem predicti Johannis Monk dixit antenominato Johanni Brocher, I Johan take the John to my weddid husbond, the to loue and to kepe as a woman ought to do her husband, and therto I pliᵹt the my feith“ (London, Guildhall Library, MS 9065, fol. 23r). I would like to thank Shannon McSheffrey for sharing this with me. See also MED, s.v. “kepen,” 22(a): “To abide by . . . follow . . . obey . . . adhere to”; also 22(b): “To observe . . . to honor . . . to follow.”

56. According to the OED, “sham” is of obscure origin, and the word first appeared about 1677. While the OED concedes it is “not impossible” that the word is connected to “shame” in northern dialects, the alleged origin is ultimately inconclusive and unsatisfactory.

57. MED, s.v. “kepen,” 15(b).

58. Steve Connor, “The Shame of Being a Man,” Textual Practice 15.2 (2001): 211–30 (212).

59. Arveragus’s words are proverbial. See Bartlett J. Whiting and Helen W. Whiting, Proverbs, Sentences, and Proverbial Phrases from English Writing Mainly Before 1500 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1968). The medieval proverb, in its basic form, states that “[i]t is not good to wake a sleeping hound (cat)” (296). Arveragus’s juxtaposition of Dorigen and the embedded but suppressed animal in the original proverb suggests an uncanny parallel between them. Riddy, commenting on the association between conduct literature and folkloric wisdom, notes the prevalence of “the old-fashioned, home-spun, experiential advice” in the conduct genre (“Mother Knows Best,” 78).

60. MED, s.v., “kepen,” 13(a). See also OED, s.v. “keep,” 24: “preserve, maintain, retain, or cause to continue, in some specified condition, state place, position, action, or course . . . in suspense.”

61. The Book of the Knyght of the Towre, ed. Offord, 35.

62. The Good Wife’s Guide, trans. and ed. Greco and Rose, 13.

63. MED, s.v. “kepen,” 12(a): “To preserve (sth.) without loss or change”; and 17(a): “To keep watch for (sb. a hunted animal).”

64. Michael Hardt, “Affective Labor,” Boundary 2 26.2 (1999): 89–100 (89).

65. Brereton and Ferrier, Le ménagier de Paris, 2; The Good Wife’s Guide, trans. and ed. Greco and Rose, 50. For movable wealth, see Howell, “The Properties of Marriage,” 30.

66. Ibid., 52.

67. Eva Illouz, Cold Intimacies: The Making of Emotional Capitalism (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007), 14.

68. Amos, “For Manners Make Man,” 26.

69. The Good Wife’s Guide, trans. and ed. Greco and Rose, 138.

70. The Book of the Knyght of the Towre, ed. Offord, 35, 94.

71. Even the bedchamber is not exactly a private space in the modern sense, for it is where the couple sleeps and where the wife gives birth, engages in devotional practices, and entertains female friends and relations. See Goldberg, “The Fashioning of Bourgeois Domesticity.” For the bedchamber as a site of marriage formation, see Helmholz, Marriage Litigation in Medieval England, 29; and McSheffrey, “Place, Space, and Situation,” 977–78.

72. Hugh of Saint Victor, On the Sacraments of the Christina Faith (De sacramentis), trans. Roy J. Deferrari (Cambridge, Mass: Medieval Academy of America, 1951), 329. Although writing in the twelfth century, Hugh was responsible for setting a particular tone on the sacramentalization of marriage that incorporated the paradoxical differential in power between spouses. For a full discussion of the unequal equality in companionate marriage, see Kooper, “Loving the Unequal Equal,” 44–56.

73. Both quotes are from Aquinas, Commentary, 740, 743. See Aelred of Rievaulx’s discussion of marriage and friendship in De spirituali amicitia (c. 1160); English translation in Mary Eugenia Laker, Spiritual Friendship (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1974). Aelred discusses the friendship model of marriage in which “a superior must be on a plane of equality with an inferior” (115).

74. Valerie Allen, “Waxing Red: Shame and the Body, Shame and the Soul,” in The Representation of Women’s Emotions in Medieval and Early Modern Culture, ed. Lisa Perfetti (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2005), 191–210 (194).

75. See Bowman, “ ‘Half as She Were Mad,’ “ 240; Jacob, “The Marriage Contract,” 135; Ann Thompson Lee, “ ‘A Woman True and Fair’: Chaucer’s Portrayal of Dorigen in the Franklin’s Tale,ChauR 19.2 (1984): 169–78 (169); Parry, “Dorigen, Narration, and Coming Home in the Franklin’s Tale,” 262–93; and Raybin, “Rereading Dorigen,” 65–86.

76. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990), 1.

77. As a rhetorical set-piece, see James Sledd, “Dorigen’s Complaint,” MP 45.1 (1947): 36–45; and Pearsall, Canterbury Tales, 155. As Chaucer’s reworking of his source, Jerome’s Against Jovinian, see James I. Wimsatt, “The Wife of Bath, the Franklin, and the Rhetoric of St. Jerome,” in A Wyf There Was: Essays in Honour of Paule Mertens-Fonck, ed. Juliette Dor (Liège: Université de Liège, 1992), 275–81; and Warren S. Smith, “Dorigen’s Lament and the Resolution of the Franklin’s Tale,ChauR 36.4 (2002): 374–90 (375).

78. See also Mary J. Carruthers, “The Gentillesse of Chaucer’s Franklin,” Criticism 23.4 (1981): 283–300; and Hume, “The Private and Public Faces of Marriage in The Franklin’s Tale,” 284–303. Neither Carruthers nor Hume analyzes Dorigen’s litany in the context of conduct literature.

79. Mark Amsler, “Affective Literacy: Gestures of Reading in the Later Middle Ages,” Essays in Medieval Studies 18 (2001): 83–110 (83).

80. Butler, Excitable Speech, 11.

81. Amsler, “Affective Literacy,” 95–96.

82. The Book of the Knyght of the Towre, ed. Offord, 132.

83. La journée chrétienne (“The Christian Day”) is a term coined by Geneviève Hasenohr to describe a particular genre of conduct texts composed in French and Italian from the mid-thirteenth century to the early sixteenth century that seeks to project a quasi-monastic form of religious devotion onto the daily activities of the laity, especially those of lay wives. See Hasenohr, “La vie quotidienne de la femme vue par l’Eglise: L’enseignement des ‘journées chrétiennes’ de la fin du Moyen-Age,” in Frau und spätmittelalterlicher Alltag (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1988), 19–101; Robert L. A. Clark, “Constructing the Female Subject in Late Medieval Devotion,” in Medieval Conduct, 160–82; and Glenn Burger, “Labouring to Make the Good Wife Good in the journé es chrétiennes and Le ménagier de Paris,Florilegium 23.1 (2006): 19–40. For books of hours, see Time Sanctified: The Book of Hours in Medieval Art and Life, ed. Roger S. Wieck (New York: George Braziller, 1988).

84. “les ameres clameurs, plainctes et complainctes entrerompuez par fors souspirs, les prostracions et agenoillemens d’umilité, les yeux moulliez, la face muante ou suante, maintenant rouge, maintenant pale.” French in Hasenohr, “La vie quotidienne,” 44–45; English translation in Clark, “Constructing the Female Subject in Late Medieval Devotion,” 175–76.

85. In the Ménagier de Paris, the young wife is urged to select a private and solitary place within the church; and in the evening at home, she is advised to withdraw herself “from all worldly thoughts, and find a private, solitary place and remain there . . . thinking only of hearing Mass early the next morning” (The Good Wife’s Guide, trans. and ed. Greco and Rose, 60). Often the only place of real or imagined privacy available to the good wife is her bedchamber, which becomes sanctified through private devotion. See Diana Webb, “Domestic Space and Devotion in the Middle Ages,” in Defining the Holy: Sacred Space in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, ed. Andrew Spicer and Sarah Hamilton (Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2005), 27–47.

86. The Good Wife’s Guide, trans. and ed. Greco and Rose, 90. Medieval conduct books often cite both Christian and pagan women as exempla. The Miror des bonnes femmes, for example, includes Dido and Lucrece; and Philippe de Mézières, in his Livre de mariage, links Griselda to classical virtuous women. And in The Book of the Knyght of the Towre, the narrator wishes to “speke of the good wydowes ladyes of Rome / the whiche whan as they held them clenly in theyr wydowhede they were worshipfully crowned in signe and token of chastyte” (148).

87. Illouz, Cold Intimacies, 4.

88. Jessica Brantley, Reading in the Wilderness: Private Devotion and Public Performance in Late Medieval England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 15.

89. See also Clark, “Constructing the Female Subject in Late Medieval Devotion,” 166–67. For the public and private functions of books of hours, see Lawrence R. Poos, “Social History and the Book of Hours,” in Wieck, Time Sanctified, 33–38.

90. Silvan Tomkins, Affect, Imagery, Consciousness, vol. 3 (New York: Springer, 1963), 51.

91. Ibid., 50.

92. Eve Sweetser, “Mental Spaces and the Grammar of Conditional Constructions,” in Spaces, Worlds, and Grammar, ed. Gilles Fauconnier and Eve Sweetser (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 318–33 (327).

93. Elizabeth Freeman, “Packing History, Count(er)ing Generations,” NLH 31 (2000): 727–44 (728). I borrow the term “future dead person” from Carla Freccero; see Freccero, Carolyn Dinshaw, Lee Edelman, et al., “Theorizing Queer Temporalities: A Roundtable Discussion,” GLQ 13.2–3 (2007): 177–95 (184).

94. Pierre Bourdieu, The Logic of Practice, trans. Richard Nice (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990), 292 n. 2.

95. Sources and Analogues of the Canterbury Tales, ed. Robert M. Correale and Mary Hamel, vol. 1 (Rochester: Brewer, 2002), 62–63.

96. Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 1999), 41.

97. Jennifer C. Manion, “Girls Blush, Sometimes: Gender, Moral Agency, and the Problem of Shame,” Hypatia 18.3 (2003): 21–41 (35).

98. The Middle English trouthe encompasses a complex range of meanings that do not neatly sort into categories of public and private. See Richard Firth Green, A Crisis of Truth: Literature and Law in Ricardian England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999). Trouthe can assume four main areas of meaning: legally, as “a promise, a pledge of loyalty”; ethically, as “honor, integrity”; theologically, as “divine righteousness” or “absolute truth”; and intellectually, as “correspondence, exactitude” (9). Trouthe thus refers, on the one hand, to the condition of agreements between people, and, on the other hand, to absolute divine truths independent of social relations. Like shame, trouthe straddles the nebulous boundaries between public socialization and private individuation.

99. While the Middle English man may also denote a person of either sex, there is an inherent gendered asymmetry. See Steven F. Kruger, The Spectral Jew: Conversion and Embodiment in Medieval Europe (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006); Carol J. Clover, “Regardless of Sex: Men, Women, and Power in Early Northern Europe,” in Studying Medieval Women: Sex, Gender, Feminism, ed. Nancy F. Partner (Cambridge, Mass.: Medieval Academy of America, 1993), 61–85 (75); and Thomas Laqueur, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990). The ancient one-sex model, “the idea that male and female are not opposed states of being but rather different points of development on a single continuum of sex” (Kruger, Spectral Jew, 74), posits men as the privileged state of being (Clover, “Regardless of Sex,” 75) and women as “inverted, and less perfect men” (Laqueur, Making Sex, 26). Some medieval writers, such as Petrarch and Christine de Pizan, re-imagine the feminine in positive and useful ways by associating it with (quasi-)manliness. Petrarch’s Griselda has a “virilis senilisque animus” (“mature, manly spirit”) (Correale and Hamel, eds., Sources and Analogues, 1:115), and Christine states that a female household manager should have the “courage d’omme” (“heart of a man”); see Le livre des trois vertus, ed. Charity Cannon Willard and Eric Hicks (Paris: Honoré Champion, 1989), 150. As Kellie Robertson points out in The Laborer’s Two Bodies: Literary and Legal Productions in Britain, 1350–1500 (New York: Palgrave, 2006), estate management was one avenue for gentry housewives to become “like a man” (129).

100. See, for instance, Hansen, Chaucer and the Fictions of Gender, 267–92; and Mark N. Taylor, “Servant and Lord / Lady and Wife: The Franklin’s Tale and Traditions of Courtly and Conjugal Love,” ChauR 32.1 (1997): 64–81.

101. The Book of the Knight of the Towre, ed. Offord, 152.

102. Judith Halberstam, Female Masculinity (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998), 3.

103. For a summary of the critical debate over the Franklin’s status and ambiguity, see Elizabeth Mauer Sembler, “A Frankeleyn Was in His Compaignye,” in Chaucer’s Pilgrims: An Historical Guide to the Pilgrims in the Canterbury Tales, ed. Laura C. Lambdin and Robert T. Lambdin (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996), 135–44.

104. Illouz, Cold Intimacies, 11–12.

105. Burger, Chaucer’s Queer Nation, 114–15.

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