In addition to being the author of the lays, Marie often interposes herself into the work as an active narrator. She sometimes poses the explicit moral of a particular poem, and other times praises her own talent as a storyteller.
The title character of "Guigemar." A virtuous knight who initially has no interest or use for love until a magic set of circumstances brings him overseas, where he falls in love with a married woman for whom he will ultimately fight.
The old king in "Guigemar"
The husband of the lady with whom Guigemar falls in love. He is perpetually jealous of his wife, and keeps her trapped in an isolated enclosure.
The queen in "Guigemar"
The lady with whom Guigemar falls in love. The wife of a lord in a far-away land, she lives in an isolated enclosure until the titular character arrives and they fall in love.
The maiden attendant in "Guigemar"
The lady's trustworthy attendant, who helps the lady to investigate Guigemar once he arrives and helps her keep the affair secret.
A king in "Guigemar" who finds Guigemar's beloved lady when she lands in Brittany. He loves her and won't let her go, and Guigemar ultimately has to defeat him to win her back.
The title character of "Equitan." The lord of Nantes, he falls in love with the wife of his seneschal, and dies tragically because of it.
Equitan's trustworthy servant. He takes care of the king's lands and judicial duties for him, but is cuckolded by the king.
The seneschal's wife
The woman with whom Equitan has an affair, who plots her husband's murder so they can be together. Instead, she dies at her husband's hands after being discovered in Equitan's arms.
The neighbors in "Le Fresne"
Two kind knights who live near one another. When the first has twins, the second is happy, and chastises his wife for maligning the other couple. He ultimately discovers his own daughter many years after his wife gave her away in a plot to save her reputation.
The mother in "Le Fresne"
A woman who slanders her neighbor cruelly when the neighbor has twins. She later has her own twins and, fearing such slander, gives away her daughter, who will be named "Le Fresne." She eventually repents and is reunited with her daughter at the end of the lay.
The maid in "Le Fresne"
The loyal servant of the slanderous wife, who raised the maid. She brings the infant girl far away to an abbey, so that the mother can keep her good reputation without killing the infant.
The porter in "Le Fresne"
The porter of the abbey where the title character is raised. The porter finds the girl and brings her to the abbess.
The porter's daughter in "Le Fresne"
A widow with her own infant, she nurses Le Fresne when her father brings the baby to her.
The abbess in "Le Fresne"
She raises the title character as her niece once her porter brings the infant to her.
A noble lady raised by an abbess when her mother abandons her to save her own reputation. Le Fresne grows up to have real nobility of spirit and to exhibit true selfless love, which leads her to a happy marriage and a reunion with her birth family. She is named for the ash tree in which she was found as an infant.
A great lord who falls in love with Le Fresne based on her reputation and convinces her to be his mistress. He later is forced by his vassals to marry a noble woman, which leads to the final act of the poem.
The twin sister of Le Fresne. She is betrothed and married to Gurun, but the marriage is annulled after the truth has come out. She ends up with her own successful marriage.
The title character of "Bisclavret." A noble knight with a werewolf problem.
A disloyal woman who after learning Bisclavret's secret, fears his bestial side and so convinces a suitor to trap him in his werewolf form permanently. She ultimately comes to a bad end because of her disloyalty.
The knight in "Bisclavret"
He long pursues Bisclavret's wife to no avail until she learns of her husband's werewolf form. He helps her trap Bisclavret and happily takes his place as her husband. They both end up poorly because of their betrayal.
The king in "Bisclavret"
The ruler who is loyal to Bisclavret, both before and after he turns to wolf. He keeps the wolf as pet after he notices the wolf's noble and human-like behavior.
The wise man in "Bisclavret"
A servant of the king who helps the king realize that the wolf pet is possibly Bisclavret in wolf form.
Lanval's lord. He ignores Lanval in his granting of land and booty, and later holds Lanval on trial after his queen makes accusations.
The title character of "Lanval." A lonely knight who falls in love with a beautiful, mystical lady. He ends up with her after she saves him from his trial in Arthur's court.
The lady in "Lanval"
A lady more beautiful and more finely attired than any that ever lived, with some supernatural qualities. She seeks out Lanval and they have an affair he almost ruins by telling of her existence. She ultimately arrives to save him.
One of Arthur's knights, and the only one who stands up for Lanval when he is accused by Guinevere of illicit behavior.
Arthur's wife, and the queen who, offended by Lanval's rejection, tells the king that he made a move on her and then insulted her. She is never named in the lay.
The lady's attendants in "Lanval"
Attendant maidens to the beautiful lady, and all supernaturally lovely themselves, though less so than their lady.
The king in "Les Deux Amanz"
An old man who, lonely after his wife's death, keeps his daughter with him by requiring all would-be suitors to complete an impossible task.
The girl in "Les Deux Amanz"
A lovely young girl kept separated from suitors by her father's scheme. She fears hurting her father by eloping, but this leads to her death by heartbreak when her plan to help the young man fails.
The young man in "Les Deux Amanz"
A young, ambitious fellow who tries to beat the king's scheme and thereby marry his daughter. He ultimately dies when their plan fails due to his recklessness.
The aunt in "Les Deux Amanz"
A master of potions. She prepares the potion that was supposed to help the young man and women succeed in the mountain scheme.
The lord in "Yonec"
A rich old man who keeps his beautiful wife hidden away out of jealousy. When he learns about his wife's relationship with Muldumarec, he sets traps to kill the man, and he ultimately pays with his own life for it.
The lady in "Yonec"
The old man's young and beautiful wife, who falls in love with Muldumarec. Mother of Yonec.
The magical knight who carries on a relationship with the lady. He can transform into a hawk, and is later killed. Father of Yonec.
The old woman in "Yonec"
Sister to the old lord. She looks after his wife, and ultimately betrays her once she learns about the young woman's relationship with Muldumarec.
Son to Muldumarec and the lady of "Yonec." He is raised by his mother and step-father, and later learns the truth, which leads him to kill the latter.
The abbot in "Yonec"
He shows the family around the abbey after the feast of St. Aaron, and tells them the story of how Muldumarec died.
The husband in "Laüstic"
An oppressive knight who kills his wife's nightingale when he grows suspicious of her frequent trips to the window at night.
The neighbor in "Laüstic"
The knight with whom the lady carries on a dalliance from across the courtyard. He ends up carrying the dead nightingale around his neck.
The lady in "Laüstic"
The wife who falls in love her neighbor, and carries on a relationship wherein they talk to one another across a courtyard.
The title character of "Milun," the greatest knight in all the land. Lover of the lady, and father of the Peerless One.
The lady in "Milun"
A nobleman's daughter who falls in love with Milun and grows pregnant with his baby. She gives the baby away, and later enters a loveless marriage. She continues to have a relationship with Milun for twenty years, largely through secret messages, until her husband dies and her family is reunited.
The lady's sister in "Milun"
She raises the lady and Milun's child until he is old enough to seek fame and his father.
The Peerless One
Nickname for the son of Milun and the lady. Once he is old enough, he seeks fame and his father, becoming the most reputed knight in the land, a reputation that ultimately brings him together with Milun.
The lady in "Chaitivel"
An extremely beautiful lady, who refuses to choose a husband from her four suitors, and leads them on all incessantly. Her vanity ultimately leads to tragedy for all.
The four knights in "Chaitivel"
The four best fighters amongst the lady's suitors. They all recommend themselves well through their ability to fight, but are ambushed and killed (save the Unhappy One).
The Unhappy One
The surviving knight of the four knights. He is wounded terribly and must be nursed the rest of his life, and he gives the name to the lay.
Nephew to Mark, the king whose wife Tristam loves. He lives in suffering except for when he can see the queen.
The queen in "Chevrefoil"
Isolde, though she is never named by Marie. Wife to Mark and lover of Tristam.
The king in "Chevrefoil," whose wife is in love with his nephew Tristam. He keeps them separated and hence do they have to facilitate secret meetings.
Title character of the final lay. A knight of great reputation who is torn between loyalty to his wife Guildeluec and love for the maiden Guilliadun.
Wife of Eliduc. She is a model of charity. Her completely selfless love for Eliduc ultimately leads her, Eliduc, and Guilliadun to dedicate their lives to God.
The king in "Eliduc"
King of Brittany. Loves Eliduc but believes slander that leads him to banish the knight, though he later asks Eliduc to come back.
The lord of Tontes
The king in the land where Eliduc settles after being banished from Brittany. Father of Guilliadun.
Princess of Tontes, the maiden with whom Eliduc falls in love.
The chamberlain of "Eliduc"
A messenger who helps Eliduc communicate with Guilliadun.
The Lais of Marie de France Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Lais of Marie de France is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
This lay is unique in its use of the extended metaphor of the werewolf. While the metaphor is straightforward enough – the wolf represents our beastly, perhaps sexual side – its implications are more skillfully handled in the lay than such a...