Essay on Lais of Marie de France

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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,…show more content…
Guigemar endures severe anguish to please his beloved, and his undying love inspires him to prove himself to her. This lay provides a good example of what Marie de France considers wrong and right in love. We see another selfish love in the story of Bisclavret, a man with a werewolf alter ego who is betrayed by his adulterous wife. Ironically, although her husband is physically a beast, the real beast, as portrayed by Marie de France, is the wife, who not only betrays him, but also marries another man. She is selfishly concerned with her physical desires, something Marie de France considers ignoble and far worse than the jealousy displayed in the story of Guigemar. The selfish love in this story is inspired by sexual desire, a desire that Marie de France sees as a threat to selfless love. Selfish love is again shown in the lay of “Les Deux Amanz,” in which a young man has to carry his beloved to the top of a mountain without falling in order to prove his worthiness to her father. This seems to be an act of love, but, in fact, when the woman begs her lover to take a potion that will help him reach the top, he reveals another, vainer, motivation: “These people would shout at us and deafen me their noise…”(Burgess and Busby 84). In other words, his desire to reach the mountaintop is motivated at least in part by a need to prove himself to others, and less
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