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One may have a better sense of Marie de France from her very first lay, or rather, the Prologue she uses to prep her readers for what is to come. She wants people to read what she has produced, along with her ideas, and as such urges readers to search between the lines for her writing will be subtle. In this Prologue alone, Marie de France has deviated from common poets of her time by adding subtle, delicate, and weighted writing to her repertoire.

Instead, adventures happen to them. While the settings are true to life, the lais often contain elements of folklore or of the supernatural, such as Bisclavret. Lanval features a fairy woman who pursues the titular character and eventually brings her new lover to Avalon with her at the end of the lai.

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That may be contrasted with the 25 manuscripts with Marie's Fables and perhaps reflects their relative popularity in the late Middle Ages. In these Fables, she reveals a generally aristocratic point of view with a concern for justice, a sense of outrage against the mistreatment of the poor, and a respect for the social hierarchy. Along with her lais, Marie de France also published a vast collection of fables.

Marie de France introduces her fables in the form of a prologue, where she explains the importance of moral instruction in society. In the first section of the prologue, Marie de France discusses the medieval ideal of "clergie". Here, in the prologue, she is referencing the duty of scholars to preserve moral philosophy and proverbs.

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Structurally, each of the fables begins with the recounting of a tale, and at the end Marie de France includes a short moral. Marie de France repeats the established moral at the end, "But these are things rich nobles do…destroy folk with false evidence".


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However, in the new fables, featuring human female characters, Marie de France asserts female power and cunning, disparaging men who are ignorant or behave foolishly. One character, a peasant woman, makes multiple appearances in the fables of Marie de France and is praised for her shrewd and sly ways. Fables 44, The Woman Who Tricked Her Husband and 45, A Second Time, a Woman Tricks Her Husband , both recount tales of the same peasant woman successfully carrying out an affair despite her husband having caught her with her lover both times.

In the first fable, the peasant woman convinces her husband that her lover was merely a trick of the eye and in the second, persuades her husband that he has had a vision of her and a man, foreshadowing her death. Marie de France lauds the woman for her crafty ways and faults the peasant husband with idiocy.

Marie De France

Marie's lovers are usually isolated and relatively unconcerned with anything outside the immediate cause of their distress, whether a jealous husband or an envious society. However, "the means of overcoming this suffering is beautifully and subtly illustrated. If society does not appreciate the lovers, then the lovers die or abandon society, and society is the poorer for it. She wrote about adulterous affairs, women of high stature who seduce other men, and women seeking escape from a loveless marriage, often to an older man, which gave the idea that women can have sexual freedom.

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Marie de France: A Critical Companion - Sharon Kinoshita, Peggy McCracken - Google книги

She wrote lais, many of which seemed to endorse sentiments that were contrary to the traditions of the Church, especially the idea of virginal love and marriage. The lais also exhibit the idea of a stronger female role and power. In this, she may have inherited ideas and norms from the troubadour love songs that were common at the Angevin courts of England, Aquitaine, Anjou and Brittany; songs in which the heroine "is a contradictory symbol of power and inarticulacy; she is at once acutely vulnerable and emotionally overwhelming, irrelevant and central.

The heroines in Marie's Lais are often imprisoned. This imprisonment may take the form of actual incarceration by elderly husbands, as in Yonec , and in Guigemar , where the lady who becomes Guigemar's lover is kept behind the walls of a castle which faces the sea, or "merely of close surveillance, as in Laustic , where the husband, who keeps a close watch on his wife when he is present, has her watched equally closely when he is away from home. In addition to her defying the construct of love exhibited by the contemporary Church, Marie also influenced a genre that continued to be popular for another years, the medieval romance.

Marie de France

By the time Marie was writing her lais, France already had a deep-rooted tradition of the love-lyric, specifically in Provence. Her stories exhibit a form of lyrical poetry that influenced the way that narrative poetry was subsequently composed, adding another dimension to the narration through her prologues and the epilogues, for example.

She also developed three parts to a narrative lai: aventure the ancient Breton deed or story ; lai Breton melodies ; conte recounting the story narrated by the lai. In the late 14th century, at broadly the same time that Geoffrey Chaucer included The Franklin's Tale , itself a Breton lai, in his Canterbury Tales , [38] a poet named Thomas Chestre composed a Middle English romance based directly upon Marie de France's Lanval , which, perhaps predictably, spanned much more now than a few weeks of the hero's life, a knight named Sir Launfal.


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  • From the lambskin feel of the cover to the critique of Marie's works, this book is a great asset in studying the lais and fables of MDF. Go to Amazon.

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    Marie de France

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