Although the Lais of Marie de France may seem to be ordinary tales of knights and chivalry, each explores the complicated issues surrounding love, loyalty, and gender. Marie uses four stories in particular to make statements on the relationships between men and women of that time.
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
Annette Bair and Marilyn Friedman have opposing views on whether women have distinct moral perspectives. Like Friedman, I believe that women have no different moral perspectives than men. Some people, like Bair, think that women base their moral perspectives on merely trust and love and men base theirs on justice. Friedman points out that care and justice coincide . People use justice to decide what is appropriate in caring relationships and care is brought into account when determining what is just. Since these two moral perspectives correspond, gender does not distinguish different moral perspectives.
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 ). 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 stor y of Guigemar, a noble knight who is cursed with the task of finding true love to heal a physical injury.
The tales of Marie de France, shed light on the romantic relationships and chivalry of this time period. This is very insightful for modern people to be able to read and understand the culture of that time. Knighthood and chivalry were respected by some, but many times they were disregarded for passion. Love and marriage are largely connected to physical attractiveness of the person and the passion involved. Marriage is not a very serious commitment and will be disregarded whenever another presents themselves as a more attractive lover. Religion is not huge in the stories but can be present when looking for a lover. Magic plays a part in the Yonec and Bisclavret stories, but is not largely present throughout.
She wraps her female sexual fantasy of Guenever's humiliation around a woman's perception of a male masturbatory fantasy. A handsome, dejected knight withdraws to a forest meadow next to a stream to reflect on his ill fortune. When he wakes from a nap, two lovely maidens take him to a fabulous pavilion where he spends the afternoon making love to the most beautiful woman on earth who loves him "more than anything" (116). Moreover, his generous lover provides him with "a dowry" of inexhaustible means and the opportunity to have her whenever he wishes, knowing he will circumscribe his pleasures to discrete circumstances. Marie's lai reflects twelfth-century feminine tastes.
Marie de France lived in a time when social graces were paramount to a good reputation, lordships and to securing good marriages. A woman was considered less valuable if she lost her virginity; a wife was subjected to her feudal lord, father, brother or son after her husband’s death. According to Angela Sandison’s article “The Role of Women in the Middle Ages”, this was because in the Middle Ages the Church and the aristocracy controlled public opinion and the legal system. These authorities of the times believed a woman’s place was in a submissive role to a man. In The Lay of the Nightingale, we will see how this social and religious hierarchy will impact the behaviors of the three people involved.
One of the most influential writers Adrienne Rich once said, “She is afraid that her own truths are not good enough.” Adrienne Rich talks about women’s role and issues in her essay called “Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying”. She describes how women during the 1977 lied about everything. They lied about their appearance, their job, their happiness, and even about their relationship. Adrienne Rich is one of the most powerful writers, who identifies herself as lesbian feminists. Her work has been acknowledged and appreciated mainly in her poems. Throughout her decades of work as a writer-activist, Rich uses essays, speeches, and conference papers, magazine, articles book reviews, and personal reflection to articulate with
At the end of Medieval literature a new literature was created. Women wanted stories where they could have a role. The women wanted to be treated like queens. This idea of courtly love-where a knight honored a married woman like he would “his liege lord” (Schwartz 1) can be found in Gardner’s translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Sir Gawain must honor such a lady. Because Sir Gawain honors a married woman, he struggles with being an honest and loyal knight.
In the 1800’s a women was suppose to have four things Piety, Purity, submissiveness, and domesticity. These principles shaped the “Cult of True Womanhood” an idea that women were to be seen but not heard. Women had no say when it came to politics, they couldn’t own property, they were not allowed to do many jobs, and they couldn’t even speak in front of men. They had the duty to be a mother and raise their children but even thought they had this responsibility it was the husband who had the complete control and guardianship of the children. Because of these ideas it was very difficult for change to happen. When women started to receive more education they began to ask questions about why they were being denied these rights, which began the
Chaucer admired and made use of the medieval "courtly love" romance tradition, although he did not fully "buy into it." The "courtly love" code is based on the woman as the center of attention. The medieval knight suffers greatly for his love, who is often someone else's wife. He will do anything to protect and honor her, remaining faithful at all costs. Adultery and secrecy characterize these relationships. The knight views a woman and experiences true love. The knight fears that he will never be accepted by his love; therefore, she is worshiped at a distance.
Throughout many decades women have been struggling to be equal to men, both at home and in the work place. Women have come a long way and are certainly fighting to gain that equality, but gender roles are very important in our society. They have become important in life from birth, and society continues to push these gender roles. The treatment of the male gender is very different from that of the female, and this issue has become very important to me, as a woman. As children we learn and adapt to specific gender roles, and as we grow they become more evident and more important to our role in a society. There is a lot of discrimination against the female gender. Carol Gilligan argued that
During the Middle Ages, Courtly love was a code which prescribed the conduct between a lady and her lover (Britannica). The relationship of courtly love was very much like the feudal relationship between a knight and his liege. The lover serves his beloved, in the manner a servant would. He owes his devotion and allegiance to her, and she inspires him to perform noble acts of valor (Schwartz). Capellanus writes, in The Art of Courtly Love, “A true lover considers nothing good except what he thinks will please his beloved”. The stories of Marie de France and Chrétien de Troyes illustrate the conventions of courtly love.
“The courtly lady…possesses a curiously hybrid gender. While maintaining stereotypically female sexuality, she also holds, in principle at least, the status of a feudal lord.” Burns’ statement insinuates a reversal of power dynamics between man and woman in the courtly love lyric, implying that the woman’s stereotypical beauty and sexuality in courtship, is a gateway to subverting and overpowering the lovesick male, making her a superior lord. The Amour Courtois lyric is deemed inconsistent with the representation of woman as an empowered “feudal lord” due to the sheer objectification of femininity and beauty. Poets such as Geoffrey Chaucer and William Dunbar commend a woman’s aesthetic appeal or satirise the lack of it, thus elevating medieval misogynistic expectations of physical beauty as a feminine necessity that objectifies women under the control of man’s advances. Throughout courtly love lyrics female beauty is a purely frivolous and superficial trait lacking predominant depth, to render woman as a “lord” would be poetically conflicting as the only power exemplified by female subjects in courtship is through the idolisation and sexual lust of the male devotee.
Women have found power in a variety of ways though out history in their struggle towards justice and equality. Though personal power can take many forms this paper will primarily focus on power found through gender solidarity, class issues, race or sexuality. I intend to examine the ways in which three different women, of different races and times in history, were able to find such power resulting in a positive change to either their own lives or the lives of others. Those women are: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eleanor Roosevelt and Melba Beals.