Lais of Marie de France

Topics: Love / Pages: 5 (1041 words) / Published: Oct 5th, 2013
Knights of Old and Harry Potter
October 7, 2012

Love and Marie de France

According to American mythologist, Joseph Campbell, “The greatest love was during the Medieval Ages, when noble hearts produced a romantic love that transcended lust” (Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers [2001]). The Lais of Marie de France are primarily concerned with this idea of love--specifically, courtly love--between a man and a woman. Courtly love, a union modeled after the feudal relationship between a knight and his liege lord, became a popular convention in the 12th century (“Backgrounds to Romance: ‘Courtly Love’”). Instead of proving loyalty to a lord, the man would have to prove his love to a woman. Marie de France, however, focuses not just on the idea of love, but also on the differing kinds of love that existed in medieval society. She recognizes love as a force that cannot be avoided and that can be executed correctly or incorrectly; not all love is equal.
Marie begins her collection of lais with the story of Guigemar, a noble knight who is cursed with the task of finding true love to heal a physical injury. This lay introduces two types of love: selfish and selfless. Selfish love is not courtly love. It lacks devotion and true loyalty. It lacks suffering and self-denial. Marie de France portrays this kind of love in the old husband of the woman whom Guigemar loves. The man locks his wife away in an enclosure guarded by a castrated man. By doing this, the husband shows a mean, limited devotion to his wife; perhaps even worse, he limits her ability to experience true love. This kind of love does not last; in fact, the husband is cuckolded when his wife has a year-long affair with Guigemar. He is made a fool, the dupe of love.
Guigemar, however, in contrast to the old husband, practices selfless love. He is kind and noble, and, although he suffers from his physical wound, the pain of love is keener: “ Love had now pierced him to the quick…for



Cited: “Backgrounds to Romance: ‘Courtly Love’” Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers [2001]. De France, Marie. The Lais of Marie De France. Trans. Glyn S. Burgess and Keith Busby. London: Penguin Group, 1986. Print.

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