Marie de France 12th C Anglo-Norman poet
On our timeline • Marie de France is associated with the realm of Henry II (1154-1189), so her work is at least two centuries before the Gawain-poet or Chaucer. • Pre-Middle English poet – native English speakers are speaking a hybrid of Old and Middle English (remember Layamon), and the ruling class is speaking a hybrid of French and English (Anglo-Norman French) • Earliest courtly love poetry in England – sometimes credited with invention of courtly love motif
Her genre: the Breton Lai • Lai or lay = short narrative poem • Breton = in a Celtic setting, usually Brittany in France or Wales or Cornwall • Always about the adventures of a knight • Usually contains magical or otherworldly elements • For the characters in the lai, their love for one another provides a haven of bliss in a cold, uncaring world • Lovers not married in keeping with courtly love tradition
Lanval as Arthurian legend • In the native British rather than continental tradition (do not be confused by the “de France; Marie is British in her writing). • The Queen in Lanval is deeply evil − accusing Lanval first of sodomy with boys and then of attempted rape against herself. • Note the degree of chivalry required of knights towards the Queen − not even allowed to claim that another woman is as or more beautiful than she.