Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ongoing theme of people not being with who they love and an emphasis on role of women in Marie de France's Lanval

Throughout Marie de France's lays, I have noticed an on going theme of people not being with who they love.  For example in Laustic, the man and woman look out of the window at each other as the Nightingale sings but never actually get to be together.  In the Lay of the Honeysuckle, although Tristan is successful in having an affair with Queen Isoude, they do not get to be together ultimately because she is already married to King Mark.  Both the woman who looks out the window in Laustic and Queen Isoude in the Lay of the Honeysuckle are already married.  For this reason, they should not be interested in another partner as this would be adultery.  However, as one reads the lays it is easy to forget about adultery and have sympathy for the people trapped in relationships in which they are not happy.  Women are not seen as deceitful in Marie de France's lays as they are in earlier works we have read.  Marie de France writes in a way that we can sympathize with them.

She also gives women considerable power in her lays that we do not see in works by different authors.  For example in the lay, Lanval, Lanval's partner seems to take control over him by first rescuing him from court where the king has accused him of a crime and then taking him off on a horse.  It is no surprise that Marie de France gives women more power in her lays as she was believed to be the first woman French writer.

2 comments:

Lindsay A said...

In medieval upper crust society it was common for women to have lovers. In AP Euro, we read some of Joan Kelly's works and she explained the woman's role in courtly love. It was actually considered incorrect to love one's husband, since marriages were for political purposes and emotions would only get in the way of political alliances. Instead, women were expected to have lovers on the side. So I find it only natural that Marie de France would write about lover affairs. Political marriages are not happy things, even when lovers are encouraged and, in some cases accepted. The husbands that Marie writes about are not happy with their wives affairs - King Mark exiles Tristan. With Tristan and Isoude, the two characters are aware of the sins of their affair, but their desire causes them to meet in secret. I think Marie aims to express the flaws in political marriages rather than support adultery.

Michell D said...

It seems like the problem of spouses not enjoying each other is going to be a problem no matter when it's happening. Im sure this issue is present today as well as in the past, and will therefore always be somewhat entertaining. Writers usually want their stories to be read, so they'll write about something that will be true forever, or at least as far as they can see. This is not to say that the only thing that will be true forever is the insufficiency of marriage, but someone will be able to relate to it and have that "misery loves company" feeling. These problems were present in these lays as well as other stories to shed light on these events and prove that they are not exclusive to a single marriage.