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in what literary tradition are the lais of marie de france

by Dr. Howard Nolan Published 11 months ago Updated 3 months ago

The Lais of Marie de France are a series of twelve lai poems written by Marie de France that are primarily concerned with the ideas of courtly love and chivalric romance
chivalric romance
As a literary genre of high culture, heroic romance or chivalric romance is a type of prose and verse narrative that was popular in the noble courts of High Medieval and Early Modern Europe. › wiki › Chivalric_romance
. They are highly notable for influencing the development of the medieval romance genre, including the renowned Arthurian romance.
Jul 30, 2021

Full Answer

What are the Lais of Marie de France?

The lais of Marie de France are a series of twelve short narrative Breton lais by the poet Marie de France. They are written in Anglo-Norman and were probably composed in the late 12th century. The short, narrative poems generally focus on glorifying the concept of courtly love by the adventures of their main characters.

What is the theme of the Lays of Marie de France?

The Lays of Marie de France are not at all consistent, nor do they carry a single, general theme about love. Each individual story provides different points of view which vary in the amount of control women and men have. In stories like The Lay of Eliduc, men exhibit unfaltering power over their lovers, which almost drive the women to suicide.

What are the characteristics of Marie Antoinette's Lais?

Marie de France's lais, told in octosyllables or eight- syllable verse, are notable for their celebration of love, individuality of character, and vividness of description, hallmarks of the emerging literature of the times.

What inspired Marie Antoinette to write the Lais?

The Harley 978 manuscript also includes a 56-line prologue in which Marie describes the impetus for her composition of the lais. In the prologue, Marie writes that she was inspired by the example of the ancient Greeks and Romans to create something that would be both entertaining and morally instructive.


What genre of poetry did Marie de France typically write in?

She is considered by scholars to be the first woman known to write francophone verse. Marie de France wrote in Francien, with some Anglo-Norman influence.

What was Marie France known for?

Marie De France, (flourished 12th century), earliest known French woman poet, creator of verse narratives on romantic and magical themes that perhaps inspired the musical lais of the later trouvères, and author of Aesopic and other fables, called Ysopets.

Why was the Lais of Marie de France written?

The Lays are short romances, often about women and men who suffer in love. In the prologue, Marie says that she was looking for a work in Latin or French to translate and could not find anything, so she decided to write down some lays (short narrative poems, intended to be sung) which she had heard performed.

What is the Lais?

Definition of lais plural of lai. 1 : a medieval type of short tale in French literature that is usually in octosyllabic verse and deals with subjects of Celtic origin often connected with Arthur or the Round Table.

Who wrote the Lais of Marie de France?

Marie de FranceLais of Marie de France / Author

What do the choices or characters made by Marie de France's lais reveal about the increasingly complex society of twelfth century Europe?

Marie de France's lais reveal that courtly love cannot be narrowed down to a single definition; its complexity reflects the intricacy and contradictions of courtly life in the medieval period.

Is Marie de France a feminist?

Her adept develop ment of the diverse personalities of the women in the Lais is evidence that Marie de France historically is not only an important woman writer, but a humanist and one of the first feminist writers in French literature.

What is lais literature?

LAI (plural lais, also spelled lay): A short narrative or lyrical poem, usually in octosyllabic couplets, intended to be sung. Helen Cooper called the genre the "mini-Romance" since the typical theme and content deals with courtly love and the other concerns of medieval romance.

When were the Lais of Marie de France written?

The lais of Marie de France are a series of twelve short narrative Breton lais by the poet Marie de France. They are written in Anglo-Norman and were probably composed in the late 12th century, most likely between 1155-1170.

When was Bisclavret written?

12th century"Bisclavret" ("The Werewolf") is one of the twelve Lais of Marie de France written in the 12th century. Originally written in French, it tells the story of a werewolf who is trapped in lupine form by the treachery of his wife.

The Lais of Marie de France: Introduction

A concise biography of Marie de France plus historical and literary context for The Lais of Marie de France.

The Lais of Marie de France: Plot Summary

A quick-reference summary: The Lais of Marie de France on a single page.

The Lais of Marie de France: Detailed Summary & Analysis

In-depth summary and analysis of every chapter of The Lais of Marie de France. Visual theme-tracking, too.

The Lais of Marie de France: Themes

Explanations, analysis, and visualizations of The Lais of Marie de France 's themes.

The Lais of Marie de France: Quotes

The Lais of Marie de France 's important quotes, sortable by theme, character, or chapter.

The Lais of Marie de France: Characters

Description, analysis, and timelines for The Lais of Marie de France 's characters.

The Lais of Marie de France: Terms

Description, analysis, and timelines for The Lais of Marie de France 's terms.

Who translated Marie's Lais into Portuguese?

I want to thank various members of Arthurnet who have encouraged and criticized my translation and notes, especially Antonio Furtado (himself a translator of Marie’s Lais into Portuguese), Peter Kardon, Ken Waldron, and Patrick Roper.

Who is Marie de France?

We know nothing about Marie de France. For various reasons, it’s thought that her twelve Lais date from around 1170, that their author was a woman named Marie who also wrote a rhymed collection of Aesop’s Fables (or rather of an expanded medieval version of these fables) and one longer poem, the Purgatory of St. Patrick.

What is the prologue of Marie's book?

Prologue –Marie’s prologue to the twelve lais. Equitan — a story of courtly adultery which develops into disaster. Le Fresne –a version of “patient Griselda” in which a young wife’s humility is rewarded. Bisclavret –the werewolf and his wife. Lanval –one of King Arthur’s knights finds a fairy mistress.

What tense does Marie use?

Marie uses an “historical present” tense often, switching from past to present and back again in a way that is much commoner in French than in English. I’ve followed this practice in most of my translations, partly because it gave me the option of choosing, for example, between “stands” and “stood” as a rhyme- word.

Is Judy Shoaf's translation copyrighted?

A VERSE TRANSLATION by Judy Shoaf. These files are in pdf format and the contents are copyright J. Shoaf 1991-96. Anyone may consult them here or link to these pages freely. However, they should not be copied.

Critical History

The ‘Lais of Marie de France’ is an omnibus edition of works by a medieval female writer. The collection consists of twelve narrative poems, among which are Bisclavert, Cheverfoil, and Lanval.


Though critics have provided a lot of materials on the lais by Marie de France, and almost all of them wrote on the topic of love, ‘few have attempted an analysis of the nature of the love presented’ in them (Mickel 39).


Beginning with existing critical materials on her lais (especially those of Mickel, who suggested to make a reconsideration of the lais of Marie de France), I will first show the subtle hints of her female focus, occurring in the previous criticism works, that prompted me to collect and unscramble all distinctive features of her representation of love, and search for more by myself..


Burgess, Glyn Sheridan. The Lais of Marie de France: Text and Context, Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1987. Print.

Love and Suffering

In the Lais of Marie de France, a collection of 12 short tales from the 11th century, the idea of courtly love is everywhere. Courtly love is a medieval literary motif in which a knight undertakes chivalrous quests in pursuit of a noble lady whom he loves from afar.

Virtue, Vice, and Justice

The Lais don’t always offer clear-cut moral lessons. To an extent, they emphasize chivalry, a code of virtuous conduct for knights, and Christian behavior more broadly. The knight Lanval is an exemplar of chivalry: he stays devoted to his fairy lady despite jealous accusations from Arthur’s queen, and he wins acquittal at trial and a happy ending.

Gender Roles and Class Status

Marie de France generally flatters her noble audience’s sense of social superiority while subtly critiquing the conventions of her time (the 12th or 13th century). In particular, Marie largely adheres to the gender expectations of the day while highlighting struggles faced by women in particular.

Magic and Storytelling

In the Lais, supernatural elements (like talking animals and fairy lovers) are sprinkled throughout the stories in no obvious pattern. When love is involved, such phenomena are simply expected. Often, magic is mainly a narrative element that serves to entertain the audience while moving a story along.

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