Summary: Marie de France (fl. late twelfth century) is the earliest known French woman poet, and her lais are among the finest examples of the genre.
Lais are short stories in verse based on Breton tales, depicting a moment of crisis in a love relation always intense and refined, and often far more complicated than our received view of courtly love might lead us to suppose. The lovers are not always timid for example, nor are the ladies necessarily unhappily married ...show more. Modern readers will find Marie's forceful and resourceful heroines and her undoctrinaire approach to love immensely sympathetic, while her contemporary audience, the English court and Plantagenet royal family, must have seen their own adventures mirrored here, for although there is a fairy-tale atmosphere the protagonists are undeniably human. 'Suffering from what is often called love is present in every lai,' one critic has observed, 'but the means of overcoming this suffering is beautifully and subtly illustrated.'
For this new edition, Glyn Burgess and Keith Busby have included two new lais in the Old French original, Lanval and Chevrefoil, and an updated and expanded Bibliography. ...show less