Empowering Women through Courtly Love

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During the Medieval time period, a woman would generally be forced to depend upon a man for her livelihood. However, in the world of courtly love, some could say that this was the first idea of goddess worship. Where the man is unable to survive without his beloved. As a result of this, her love causes him to achieve noble deeds, and become obedient to her in hopes of winning her affection. In The Lais of Marie de France, specifically Chevrefoil and Yonec, the author does not follow all of the rules of courtly love, yet she does illustrate to the reader the relationship between the man and his woman. She describes the beauty, intelligence, and wisdom of her female characters, giving them power over the men who love them. While Marie de France often confines women to the oppressive realities of the Middle Ages, she allows her characters to rebel against society, and uses the courtly love relationship as a way of empowering women in her lais. In the twelfth century, the majority of marriages were arranged. Men were often the ones given the privilege of choosing a spouse. Many times women were forced to marry men that they barely knew, and did not love. Through allowing the women in her lais to escape from their husbands and be with men who they have power over, Marie de France elevates women up onto pedestals.

She glorifies their characteristics and allows them to be worshiped by men.

Within such a relationship, the time that a man spends separated from his love leads to nothing but heartache. Yet, according to Marie de France, this is not the case for the woman. In Chevrefoil, Tristram becomes "distressed and downcast" when his uncle sends him away from his kingdom, and it is because of this separation from her that h...

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...n such as Megan Fox, and Scarlett Johansson, are perfect examples of how men still put women on pedestals. Marie de France could have been laying the early ground work for these iconic sex symbols in her writings. Women of this stature can easily control just about any man they desire. She can decide who she wants to love, and choose her future husband. Women are no longer oppressed, but have liberal freedom. It would seem as if the modern English historians would like people to believe that this theme of courtly love only exist back then, but the characteristics of women show that it is still relevant today.

Works Cited

Marie de France. “Chevrefoil.” The Lais of Marie de France.

Trans. Glen Burgess and Keith Bugsby. NY:

PC, 2007. 109-110.

Marie de France. “Yonec.” The Lais of Marie de France.

Trans. Glen Burgess and Keith Bugsby. NY:

PC, 2007. 86-90.
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