The Lais of Marie de France are a collection of short stories that depict situations where love arises. The author presents love as a complex emotion and demonizes it and praises it in certain instances. She is not always in favor of love as is described by the outcomes by some of the lovers in the story, such as when they either end up dead in the end or banished because of their love. The author presents this notion of love because she believes it is not always justified to love someone. In the book, two distinct types of love are shown.
There is selfless love and selfish love which are compared throughout the multiple stories n The Lais of Marie de France. By comparing the two distinct types of love, a universal truth about love can be derived to explain when love is and is not justified. The story Guigemar demonstrates selfish love and how this love can be justified even if adultery is involved. Guigemar, a king from Bisclavret, traveled on a boat to a new kingdom and met a lovely woman when he arrived, and began to fall in love with her: “Love struck him to the quick;/ great strife was in his heart” (379-380).
However, the woman that he loved also had a husband. The love that the woman and her husband had was not a healthy elationship. He hadn’t even noticed that another man arrived into his city and was sleeping with his wife: “It appears to me that Guigemar/ stayed with her a year and a half” (535-536). The woman and knight stayed in a chapel for over a year and the king had never visited her. Because the love between the husband and wife was neglected, adultery was justifiable. The author allows adultery to be committed because the love between Guigemar and the woman was more true than with her husband.
I’d rather die quickly Than suffer this lingering torture. My love, it I could escape, I’d go to where you put out to sea nd drown myself. (669-673). The love that they both share is so strong, that she would rather die than not be with him. The author uses this story to justify finding true love, even if sins like adultery are committed; however, the author does not always justify adultery. Equitan contrasts with the story of Guigemar to show that adultery can SO be harmful if it is done for selfish love.
The romantic interest starts with the king Equitan becoming affectionate for the seneschal’s wife: “I think I have no choice but to love her-/ yet if I love her, I’m doing wrong:/ she’s the wife of my seneschal” (70-72). Even though he understands that to love her would be to commit adultery, he does so anyways. The seneschal’s wife also explains why it would be toxic for them to love each other: “love wouldn’t be shared equally/ between the two of us… Love is worthless if it’s not mutual” (131-137). The apprehension the wife has foreshadows that their love will end poorly.
After the two fall in love, Equitan suggests that they try and kill the seneschal; however, their plan backfires when Equitan and the woman fall victim to their own trap: “And there he was scalded to death,/ caught in his own evil trap” (298-299). The author has both Equitan and the seneschal’s wife die at the end of the book to explore how adultery can also be harmful. There love was not pure and it was not entirely mutual, because it required the king to force himself onto the seneschal’s wife. Equitan also intervened on a relationship that the seneschal had with his wife that was mutual relationship, and not a toxic one.
Bisclavret highlights a similar relationship that describes a selfless relationship turning into a selfish relationship. Bisclavret had a happy marriage with his wife, until he revealed a secret he had been keeping from her: “My dear, I become a erewolf” (63). Her wife now feared Bisclavret and never wanted to love him again: “Over and over she considered/ how she might get rid of him;/ she never wanted to sleep with him again” (100-102). The love that the two had shared had dissipated. They had loved each other while he was a werewolf; however, this information caused the wife to forget all of the emotions that she had with him.
This caused their relationship to turn from a selfless relationship into a selfish relationship because she found a new man to love: There was a knight of that region Who had loved her for a long time, Who begged for her love.. She’d never loved him at all (103-107). While the woman may have found a new husband to love, she did not love him like she loved Bisclavret, and the relationship was a mere escape from her previous one. This type of loved is shunned again because it was selfish of her to leave her husband and find a new man that she didn’t love.
As a result, she suffered in the end: “He banished the wife,/ and chased her out of the country” (305-306). The author describes another key facet of love, which is that one should be devoted to their lover. Bisclavret never changed as a good person when he became a werewolf. Their love should have stayed together because they should have worked with this new information. While the author believes one should be devoted to their lover, there is a limit to that devotion Les Deus Amanz describes the limit that a lover should have on their devotion to each other.
The climax of this story comes when a man falls in love with the king’s daughter. To win her love, he must carry her to the top of a mountain without stopping. Knowing this will be challenging, he goes to a woman to receive a potion that will give him strength. He begins the journey of carrying her up the mountain, but refuses to take he potion: Sweetheart, my heart is very strong; I wouldn’t stop for any price, not even long enough to take a drink, so long as I can still move an inch (189-192). The man becomes devoted to winning over the young woman in the most noble way.
He doesn’t want to win by cheating and use the potion, which becomes his downfall: “He reached the top of the mountain in such pain/ that he fell there, and didn’t get up;/ the life went out of his body” (203-205). Because he was so tired from his journey to the top of the mountain, he passed away when he reached the top. If he would have drank the potion, it s likely he would have survived. This story contrasts with the previous story because the devotion had for the woman became his downfall. He was blinded by the love he had for the woman, and lost self control.
One’s love for another should be strong; however, it should not blind them from obvious consequences of their actions. The several short stories in the book come together to paint a picture of what love should be. It is evident that the author did not believe that their should be simple truths about love, but love should depend on the circumstances in which the situations arises. This is why the author constructs binary situations where some actions are positive at times, while being negative at other times.
The culmination of her stories describe that love is complicated, and can involve adultery and devotion while still being a just type of love. The author creates complicated situations about love because love is a complex feeling that everyone deals with. There is simply not an easy guide to love, and it must be different for every person. This explains why we see a multitude of situations arise on love. The author wants us to view love as a complicated idea that cannot be easily understood.