The Lais of Marie de France

Empowering Medieval Women: Aspects of Courtly Love in The Lais of Marie de France

During the Medieval time period, a woman would generally be forced to depend upon a man for her livelihood. However, in the fictional world of courtly love, a 12th century philosophical phenomenon believed by some to have originated as a form of goddess worship, a man is unable to survive without his beloved. As a result of this, her love causes him to aspire to complete noble deeds, and he becomes obedient and subservient to her in hopes of winning her affection. In The Lais of Marie de France, specifically "Chevrefoil," "Laustic," "Lanval," and "Yonec," the author by no means follows all of the rules of courtly love, yet she does model the relations between the man and his beloved after the aforementioned aspects of it. She bestows beauty, intelligence, and wisdom upon her heroines, giving them power over those men who love them. While Marie de France often constrains women to the oppressive realities of the Middle Ages, she allows her characters to unknowingly rebel against the societal norms of the time period through using the courtly love relationship as a way of empowering women.

In his essay, "Women in Love," Glyn S. Burgess states that "the cruel way in which [the...

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