Lessons Well Learned
In the prologue of The Lais of Marie de France, she states that men of learning were very aware that “the more time they spent studying texts, the more subtle would be their understanding and they would be better able to avoid future mistakes" (41). What these scholars are saying is that to truly understand a work of art, in this case literature, a person would have toread and re-read the text to peel back all the layers of it until finally the ultimate meaning is revealed. Once this deeper meaning is found then that person can learn from said text and prevent future mistakes. In the prologue to her Lais, Marie de France also states that “It was customary for the ancients, in the books they wrote, to express themselves very obscurely so that those in latergenerations, who had to learn them, could provide the gloss for the text and put the finishing touches to their meaning.” (41) In her Lais, Marie de France definitely has put some deeper meanings from which she wants the reader to learn so that future mistakes are avoided. Marie de France’s Lais all tend to provide the reader with lessons in love such as, to always follow your heart when it comes to loveand that love cannot be found in a marriage.
In her many Lais, Marie de France provides a reader with many examples of how wonderful it can be to follow their heart when it comes to love, even if it means doing things that are seen as sinful and wrong, because at the end it will lead to happiness. For example in the Lai of Guigemar it tells of a handsome and respected knight, Guigemar, who oneday goes out hunting and gets severely hurt and was so eager to get away that he ends up finding a boat with a bed on it and he embarks the boat and falls asleep on the bed. When he wakes up he finds that the boat had set sail and he was in the middle of the ocean, he eventually ends up in this strange land where a lady, whom was imprisoned because of her lord’s jealousy, and her maiden found himthen snuck him in and helped him recover. Eventually Guigemar and the lady fall in love, even though the lady is a married woman. They were technically committing adultery which was sinful and wrong but Marie de France makes sure that the husband is seen as the “evil one” and the lady as the “victim”. She writes the Lai in a way that makes the reader sympathize with Guigemar when he is forced toleave his beloved. The lady escapes and ends up in a castle whose lord was Meriaduc and through there was that Guigemar found his beloved once again. Then to finally have his beloved lady “Guigemar besieged the town and would not leave until it was captured. His friends and followers increased in number so much that he starved all those inside. He captured and destroyed the castle and killed thelord within.” (54) This is also wrong but at the end what matters is the Guigemar and his lady will live happily in love.
To reinforce her lesson of following one’s heart when it comes to love and to make sure no one commits the mistake of not doing that, Marie de France also includes the Lai of Bisclavret. In this Lai, Marie de France tells a story about a “good and handsome knight” (68) whomarried a “woman who was worthy and attractive in appearance” (68). They both loved each other very much the only thing that was wrong was that Bisclavret would leave for periods of time without anyone knowing where he was, this worried his wife and so she asked him where he went off too and after much persuasion Bisclavret confessed that he would become a werewolf. He also said that if his clotheswhere ever taken from him he would stay a werewolf. His wife pretended to be okay with it but in reality she was very much disgusted and so “she sent a messenger to summon a knight who lived in the region and who had loved her for a long time…She had never loved him or promised him her affection…” (69) but after what her husband had revealed she saw the need to leave Bisclavret’s side. This is the...
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