The Princesse de Cleves Background

The Princesse de Cleves Background

Although the origin of this novel was published under anonymous, it is assumed that the author was Madame de Lafayette, born Marie-Madeleine Pioche de La Vergne. In the year 1650, she was the maid-of-honour to the Queen and began to learn how to write and other literary techniques from the writer Gilles Ménage. In 1655, she married François, Comte de Lafayette and left Paris to live with him in the countryside. Later on her life, in the 1660s, after Lafayette had written some other works (such as The Princesse de Montpensier), she formed a very close relationship with the Duc de La Rochfoucauld.

With the Duc and leading writer Segrais, Lafayette wrote The Princesse de Clèves. When the book was published, it gathered fame and success immediately. People outside of Paris had to wait months before obtaining their own copies.

The interesting morals in the story, as well as the anonymous authorship sparked potential controversy. The Princesse de Clèves proved to be a turning point in literature. Its close attention to the characters and emotions, as well as the ambiguity of the ending and choices made by the characters shattered the idealistic reality that other “romance” novels would convey at the time.

Having authored this popular and iconic novel and a few others after it, Lafayette passed away in 1693. In present time, there are still debates on the protagonist’s wisdom and choices made in her situation. Theorists find this story particularly intriguing due to the fact that this story has no true moral. It is rather a close inspection on life and characters, and how their situation and relationships affect each other and themselves. 

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