The Romance of the Rose Background

The Romance of the Rose Background

The Romance of the Rose is an allegorical romance composed in two parts by two different writers over the course of half a century (more or less) during the 13th century. Gillaume de Lorris contributed the opening 4,000 lines (more or less) around 1230 and Jean de Meun followed up in 1275 with more than 17,000 lines. The differentiation is significant. The original section lays out an allegory of courtly love dealing with the narrator’s efforts to win over his lady fair. Jean de Meun took this framework and constructed upon it a more expansive examination of love.

Within the context of the existing narrative, the latter section removes the pursuit of passion in the court from its garden setting and into lifts it into the sphere of academic study. The Romance of the Rose becomes, in the hands of collaborative authorship, a meditative analysis of love as a philosophical concept that touches upon ethics and the social dependence placed upon it for the very exist of civilization.

Romance of the Rose exists in more extant versions than any other work of non-Biblical literary work from the Middle Ages with the exception of Dante’s Inferno. In addition to being translated into nearly every language on the planet, translation into Middle English octosyllabics of about a third of the text became known as the Romaunt of the Rose and was (probably mistakenly in full or in part) attributed to Geoffrey Chaucer.

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