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Medieval Literature

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Medieval Literature
In the traditional society of the medieval ages, women were considered to be inferior to men, thus their lives and their actions were usually determined by their father or their husband. Women were taught to be obedient and complaisant, and required to maintain this high standard of behaviour throughout their lives. However, in certain medieval romances it is the female character that takes an active role in shaping the plot and becomes the protagonist rather than existing as a passive being.
Marie de France represented a new voice in medieval literature, concentrating on the actions of her female characters. In her Breton lai, Eliduc, instead of focusing on a male hero, the two female characters behave more like protagonists. "Marie de France 's Eliduc is ostensibly about Eliduc 's divided loyalties and loves, [...]. However, Marie renames the lai after two women because, as she says, 'the adventure upon which the lai is based concerns the ladies '."
Guildeluec represents the perfect example of the typical medieval woman. She is altruistic and devoted; a lady for whom her husband 's happiness comes before her own. Her actions are clearly defined by her husband, Eliduc 's ambitions. As soon as she learns that her husband is in love with another woman she is not only willing to let him go; but encourages him to marry his lover, Guilliadon. "The generous wife in Eliduc does not react with jealousy when she discovers her husband 's mistress in a coma; instead, Guildeluec revives the maiden, Guilliadon, with a magic herb and joins a nunnery so her husband may marry the maiden." For Guildeluec it is her husband 's happiness that matters the most and what she shapes her life and actions around. When she realizes that her husband is sorrowful, she steps aside despite her love for him. Her love is so strong for him that she would rather see him happy with another woman than miserable with her. "The wife ultimately sacrifices her own husband to Guilliadon, a gesture



Cited: Barnes, Geraldine. Counsel and Strategy in Middle English Romance. Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: Boydell & Brewer, 1993. Barber, Richard W. Myths and Legends of the British Isles. Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 1999. Bennett, Judith M. and Amy M. Froide. Singlewomen in the European past, 1250-1800. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999. Dinshaw, Carolyn, and David Wallace. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Women 's Writing. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Krueger, Roberta L. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Romance. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2000) Meale, Carol M [ 2 ]. Roberta L. Krueger, The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Romance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000) 139. [ 3 ]. Carolyn Dinshaw and David Wallace, The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Women 's Writing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003) 84. [ 4 ]. Judith M. Bennett and Amy M. Froide, Singlewomen in the European past, 1250-1800 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999) 158. [ 5 ]. Carol M. Meale, Women and Literature in Britain 1150-1500 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 15. [ 6 ]. Carol M. Meale, Women and Literature in Britain 1150-1500 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 9. [ 7 ]. Carol M. Meale, Women and Literature in Britain 1150-1500 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 13. [ 8 ]. Carol M. Meale, Women and Literature in Britain 1150-1500 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 13. [ 9 ]. Geraldine Barnes, Counsel and Strategy in Middle English Romance (Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: Boydell & Brewer, 1993) 45. [ 10 ]. Richard W. Barber, Myths and Legends of the British Isles (Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 1999) 443. [ 11 ]. Carol M. Meale, Women and Literature in Britain 1150-1500 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 31.

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