Franklin tells us the story of a knight, Arviragus, who wins the love of a young lady, Dorigen, by promising her his services forever. She agrees and, in return of his promise, promises him to not cause any grief ever. They live happily in a castle for a year by the sea.
Arviragus leaves for England to build his reputation in the world leaving Dorigen alone in the castle for two years. She keeps waiting and getting depressed every day.
Her friends initially help her pass the time looking at ships come and go, but, contrary to her expectations, Arviragus’ sight is never found; hence, she grows more anxious. She dreads that large rocks by the sea might wreck his ship.
One day, her friends, in spring, organize a grand feast to entertain her. Dorigen’s eyes catch the sight of Aurelius who has been in love with Dorigen for a long time.
He reveals his love for her but she denies saying that she can’t betray her husband unless he removes all the rocks lying by the sea on the coast of Brittany—an impossible task.
Disappointed by her demand, he prays to god to help. In the meantime, Arviragus returns and both of them are overexcited by their reunion.
Aurelius, after two years of torments, finds about a magic in France from his brother. They go to France to meet his brother’s clerk friend who is also a wizard. Aurelius settles the deal of using wizard’s magic for a thousand pounds.
Aurelius, with the wizard and his brother, returns to Brittany. The wizard creates an illusion of rocks’ disappearance with his magic. Aurelius asks Dorigen to keep her promise leaving Dorigen astonished.
Dorigen contemplates of either leaving her body or her reputation and various other maidens who’d keep their honour. Finally, Dorigen tells the truth to Arviragus and he decides to allow Dorigen to go to Aurelius.
Hearing what Arviragus has done, he leaves Dorigen and ask her to return to Arviragus, leaving his promise unfulfilled. Aurelius goes to pay one thousand pounds to his magician friend who refuses to take the money hearing what he has done.
In the end, Franklin asks a simple question: who was nobler?