Nicholas Perkins
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Exchanging words and deeds
The Franklin’s Tale and The Manciple’s Tale
in The gift of narrative in medieval England
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Chapter 4 focuses on the giving and receiving of promises and speech acts. Reading The Franklin’s Tale and The Manciple’s Tale from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, it asks what kind of obligations and responses are engaged by promising and other performatives, and how gender and genre make a difference to the effects of these linguistic acts. In The Franklin’s Tale, a potential sex triangle is resolved happily through the protagonists’ generosities of body, word and coin. The Manciple’s Tale, by contrast, has a darker narrative patterning whose reciprocal gestures are destructive, and whose final warnings are of the dangers of giving and telling. Both tales represent the spoken or written word as an unpredictable object, whose meanings and return value may be initiated but not finally contained by its speaker or author.

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