Lais of Marie de France

Topics: The Lais of Marie de France, Love, Marie de France Pages: 5 (1956 words) Published: October 8, 1999
Throughout the Lais of Marie de France there are several themes presented as central to the various stories. Some of these themes are present in all of the lais. One such example is that of courtly love and it's implications. Courtly love being one of the more prominent themes in all of medieval literature, it is fittingly manifested in all of the lais as well. Another theme present in two of the lais is isolation. The theme of isolation plays a large role in the stories of Guigemar and Lanval. In each of these lais we see isolation as a factor in determining the fates of the central figures. Within each lai isolation is represented on several different occasions, each time having a direct impact on the outcome. These instances of isolation may be seen at times to be similar in nature and consequence, and different at other times. By sifting through both works these instances may be extrapolated and analyzed. In general, isolation seems to be harmful to both of the heroes. One very good example of this is toward the beginning of Guigemar's tale. "They gathered in pursuit of a large stag and the hounds were released. The hunters ran in front and the young man lingered behind." (p.44) It is only when Guigemar is alone that he sees the mysterious doe with the antlers of a stag and a fawn. This creature also serves as a signpost telling us that Guigemar has crossed over from this world into the realm of Fairy and magic. It is this encounter with the animal that wounds Guigemar with an injury only love can heal. Directly after this we see another, more ironic example of isolation. Because he has been wounded Guigemar wants the aid of his friends. "My friend, ride quickly and bring my companions back, for I should like to speak to them." (P.45) By ordering his servant to go and fetch help Guigemar found himself alone again. "The young man rode off and Guigemar remained behind, lamenting his suffering. He bound his wound firmly and tightly with his shirt, then mounted his horse and departed." (p.45) Here we also see an example of foreshadowing. Guigemar uses his shirt to bind his wound, while later in the story the woman who is to cure him of his wound will untie a knot in another shirt of his, thus proving herself to be his true love. It is this love wound that overcomes Guigemar and forces him away. He is unable to remain and wait for his companions. He feels uncontrollably drawn to seek out his fate. "He was keen to get away, for he did not want any of his followers to come and hinder him, or attempt to detain him." (p.45) The isolation theme is continued as Guigemar travels alone to a harbor, in which is a ship. The ship is described as being majestic in its beauty, which keeps with the crossing over into the world of magic, signified by the hind responsible for Guigemar's wound. "There was no peg or deck-rail which was not made of ebony. No gold on earth was worth more and the sail was made entirely of silk, very beautiful when unfurled." (p.45) Upon boarding the ship Guigemar became aware of the fact that it was empty. "He rode forward, dismounted and in great pain climbed aboard expecting to find men in charge. But the ship was deserted and he saw no one." (p.45) Not only does the mysteriousness of the deserted ship keep with the isolation of the "other world" it also represents isolation itself as another immediate factor. It was the isolation of this magic ship that led Guigemar to his love. It is interesting to note that isolation is present also in Guigemar's love's situation before he arrives for her. Her jealous husband took the task of guarding her so seriously that he had her imprisoned in her own home. "There was only a single point of entry, guarded day and night. The sea enclosed it on the other side, so it was impossible to get in or out, except by boat, should the need arise in the castle. As a secure place for his wife, the lord had constructed within the enclosure a...
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