The Lais of Marie de France

Love is a primary theme in the short narratives written by Marie de France. The author defines and expresses different aspects of country love that are portrayed in the society through a series of short, narrative poems. This paper analyzes the role of love in the society as expressed through the adventures of the main characters in the narratives of Guigemar and Equitan.

The narrative of Guigemar defines love as being hard to attain and expresses love with a lot of jealousy. Guigemar a wise knight finds it difficult to find true love in his country. However, Guigerman manages to fall in love in a strange country with an imprisoned lady. They share deep love and affection toward each other for finding love in the most difficult way. Capellanus in his book two of The Rules of Love agrees that “The easy attained of love makes it of a little value; the difficulty of attained makes it prized.”

In the narrative of Guigerman, love is also expressed through jealousy. I disagree with Capellanus rule of “He who is not jealous cannot love” because jealousy is portrayed by those who force others to love them. Love should be natural and mutual among the partners. When the Lord discovers the lady’s affair with Guigerman, he is forced out of the country depicting more expressions of jealousy in forced love.

The author depicts true love as being hard to find but also appreciates that through sacrifice and patience, true love can always be attained. The desire to be with the person one loves enables them to sacrifice whatever it takes to be with their lover. Guigemar and the lady were patient enough and sacrificed their lives for the love that they shared. In his rules, Capellanus concurs that “A true lover does not desire to embrace in love anyone except his beloved.”

In the narrative of Equitan, the author analyzes the negative impacts of love in the society. The author acknowledges the existence of true love but also fosters the need for responsible love. In this narrative irresponsible love is defined as having negative consequences for the partners. Irresponsible love can be identified by the negative terms of the relationship. Cheating is an attribute of irresponsible love that is depicted by King Equitan. Cheating is a form of irresponsible love because the affair between the lovers is often secretive and cannot result in marriage. Capullanus in his rules of love suggests that “It is not proper to love any woman whom one should be ashamed to seek to marry.” The King claimed that he loved the wife of his seneschal yet he could not marry her. That was a portrayal of irresponsible love in the society.

Irresponsible love is also associated with acts of betrayal which are executed by evil plans. The King and his secret lover planned to betray the seneschal by plotting his death. Their betrayal plan was an act of irresponsible love and the evil plan turned against them. Despite Capullanus suggesting that “Nothing forbids a woman from being loved by two men or one man by two women,” the intentions of the lovers should not be evil and the love should be genuine. Capullanus goes ahead and agrees in his rules of love that “A true lover considers nothing good except what he thinks will please his beloved. The irresponsible love affair between the King and the lady finally leads to their death.

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