Authors: Marie de France

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"Marie de France," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Infromation on the marble bust, c. 1381.

Selected poems (lais), transalted by Judy Shoaf

 

Handouts:

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Marie de France (late 12th century) is one of the great poets of the early Middle Ages. She was extremely important in bringing the stories of King Arthur into their present form.

Very little is known about her. That is not unusual among medieval authors. Marie wrote in a simple style, which belies the complexity of her themes. She employs common romance images and symbols (here is a bibliography of medieval symbols). The Arthurian world that Marie portrays is far from ideal: it is corrupted by greed, jealousy, lust, anger, and pride. Characters seek wisdom as they seek remedy. Readers are prompted to ask after the nature of social and ethical antagonisms, and after the compromises necesary for resolution. In Lanval, for example, Marie explores justice and loyalty, asking whether a knight is obliged to obey a corrupt, lustful sovereign (Guinevere), and whether jurispudence (Arthur's legal court) can correct an immoral world or establish a moral one.

Here we see some manuscript images of Marie at work:

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Marie writing (Paris, Bibliothèque National MS Arsenal 3142).