I will consider lines 507-536, to explore, primarily, the use of magic, and integrate it with other themes such as courtly love. Line 507 opens up in a sombre mood, telling the reader that ‘they dede were’ about the brother’s former companions. The deaths of all these old friends can be taken as a warning of being immersed into a world of darkness and misery, in which people’ weepful ofte many a teere.’
The magician is then described on page 511, and this description was purposely included by Chaucer to allow the reader to compare and contrast the social status and wealth of the magician, and of the Franklin himself. The description of the magician’s house and of his hospitality, definitely does remind us of the description of the Franklin who is a ‘St Julian’ in his district. It says that it ‘snewd of mete and drink’ in the Franklin’s house and this indication of wealth is a link which forms part of the secondary ironic purpose of Chaucer.
One of the main indications of pure magic in the play, are the illusions made by the magician for the Aurelius. ‘He shewed him, er he went to sopeer,’ and a list follows of all the different illusions the magician created for Aurelius. He shows Aurelius forests and parks full of wild deer and graceful harts. These beautiful animals and this scene that is set is then destroyed instantly by the hounds when ‘he saugh of hem an hondred slayn.’ This relates to the opening up of the passage, because here there is also an core implication towards tragedy and death. The illusion continues in the same way, as huntsmen fly hawks by the river and kill the heron, whilst knights are seen jousting nearby.
The words ‘and some with arwes blede’ reminds us of the traditional image of Cupid shooting arrows of love, but here they are being replaced by arrows causing death, suggesting a very contrasting image. Aurelius then sees himself dancing with Dorigen, and perhaps this final sight is no irony at all. It can be learnt from these illusions that his love for Dorigen can be seen as destructive and also illusory.The clerk then claps his hands and ‘al oure revel was ago.’
The images fabricated by the magician are not random, fanciful visions. Rather, they portray common scenes found in the literature of the courtly tradition, such as hunting and jousting. We can rationally assume that these individual scenes serve as a representation of the broader concept of courtly love: the part represents the whole. Through these visions, therefore, Chaucer establishes a metaphor by which the images of the magician represent the conventions of courtly love. However, these images are not substantive
An extension of the metaphor to its conclusion reveals that the fictions of courtly love, like the magician’s tricks, are illusory and artificial. The crux of this metaphor, however, lies in Chaucer’s choice of setting; the magician performs his tricks in the study, ‘ther as his bookes be.’ The inclusion of books is not random, but suggests a link between illusions and literary texts. Just as the magician creates visual illusions, Chaucer has constructed illusive and damaging visions of love.
Chaucer further develops the association between artificial magic and books on line 453. ‘At Orliens in studie a book he say of magyk natureel.’ Within these lines, Chaucer claims that the art of magic is learned from books. Metaphorically, the implication is that the artificial constructs of courtly love are also learned from literary texts.
The main theme of magic is clearly linked to the ideas of appearance and reality, because we know that the way things appear are not as real as they seem. The rocks are still there, because it is a mere illusion that is ‘masking’ their presence. Although they are masked, it still appears to Dorigen that they are gone, and this main theme interlinks very well, with the theme of magic.
To conclude, it is evident that the significance of magic is essential for the story to ‘work’ like it does. Without it, the theme of courtly love cannot fully emerge, and also the fact that the story is based around magic, is another primary reason why it is needed, to make this novel successful.