Marie de France’s Lanval and Laustic

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Popular culture depicts Medieval chivalry as a glamorous and high time for women, with knights bending their knees in worship to them in Pre-Raphaelite paintings, and the fairness and virtue of women being celebrated in literature. Chivalry is often understood as the elevation of the lady fair, with men taking upon themselves the task of protecting and defending women. In fact, though, this was not an elevation of women but a limitation of their freedom and an undermining even of their intelligence and strength of will. Medieval chivalry, in essence, subordinated women to men while claiming to elevate women. In Lanval and Laustic, women are shown to have a subordinate status to men in three ways: being painted as temptresses, being subject to protection from men, and being subservient to orders from men. One way in which Medieval women were undermined and subjugated to men was by being painted as untrustworthy temptresses, and the lady in Laustic, the unnamed lover in Lanval, and the Queen in Lanval are all portrayed as temptresses. For instance, the lady in Laustic spends all night looking over at her lover. She cannot go to the castle next door to see her lover, so instead, all night “The lady, at her window, higher,/Speaks, and looks, only desire.” From this passage we can see the sexual undertones of the story, with lady looking with desire at her lover. Elsewhere it explains that “They had all they wanted, at their leisure,/Except coming together alone, you know,/And going as far as they'd like to go,” clearly indicating the overt sexual nature of the woman’s desire for her lover and his for her. Lanval’s unnamed lover is even more overtly sexual, appearing scantily clad. The first time we meet her, the story tells, “In just ... ... middle of paper ... ...’s Lanval and Laustic, were subservient to men in three different ways: by being considered temptresses, by needing men’s protection, and by obeying men’s orders. The lady of Laustic conforms to all these types, and the Queen in Lanval as well, with the exception that as the Queen she has some power. Lanval’s lover breaks some of these trends, but we later learn that she is a lady of Avalon, the mythical land where King Arthur is buried and whence he will come again, and therefore it is not surprising that she does not conform to the standard status of women. gabriel Works Cited De France, Marie. Lanval. Trans. Judith P. Shoaf. N.p.: n.p., 2005. Web. 4 Dec. 2013. . De France, Marie. Laustic. Trans. Judith P. Shoaf. N.p.: n.p., 1991. Web. 4 Dec. 2013. .

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