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Since nearly the beginning of time, adultery has been thought of as morally wrong. Marriage, on the other hand, has been thought of as a sacred institution shared by most of the people and religions of the world. In the “Lais” written by Marie de France, we are given insight into the inner workings of five adulterous affairs, six pre-marital sexual encounters, and one instance of impure thoughts. Although Marie de France does not seem to condone adultery, she writes in a manner that allows the reader to feel possible sympathy with it, depending upon the situation. In fact, she seems to separate her lays into two categories. The first category consists of extenuating circumstances in which the reader is made (allowed) to feel empathy and compassion for the couple such as in “Yonec” and “Lanval.” The second category however seems to combine the ideas of sympathy and disdain. In this category belong only the lais of “Bisclaveret” and “Equitan.” Although the lais focus entirely on sex outside of marriage, the affairs that take place in these poems were often rewarded with various prizes that included children, wealth, healing, and loving marriages.
In the first lai, “Yonec” tells the seeming tragic tale of a beautiful young woman who is kept locked away in a castle by her rich and old husband. The poem tells us that “he kept her there more than seven years” (37), and that she was never allowed to come down not even “for a relative, not for a friend” (40). The young woman, who ha...

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...inute to accept the affairs that occur in these poems. The reader is allowed to feel sympathy and understanding for the couples in some lais while they feel disdain and contempt in others. Sympathy arises in the situations in which there are cruel or unusual circumstances, while contempt develops when mischief and evil are plotted. Overall, these poems provide us with insight into fairytale and nightmare like situations. One moment as we read, we as readers are hoping the couples end up together, while the next moment we are hoping for revenge. In the end, Marie de France’s lais take us on a wonderful journey that is filled with many exciting highs and disastrous lows. The lais were a pleasure to read and a joyous adventure to undertake.

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