The Princess of Cleves was first published in 1678 and is often believed to be the first significant French novel. Marie de La Fayette paved the way for future novelists with her work. The significance and impact of her work goes far beyond the actual text. She combines original and classic concepts throughout her story. Her figurative language is still prevalent and widely used in modern literature. De La Fayette’s innovative ideas contributed to one of the most important time periods, the Enlightenment, and continues to inspire today.
The Princess of Cleves focuses on the forbidden love shared between Madame de Cleves and Monsieur de Nemours. The princess yearns for Monsieur de Nemours, but forces herself to remain faithful to her husband even after his death. Madame de Cleves often fakes illness, throughout the story, to avoid the temptation of acting on her feelings for Nemours. Madame de Cleves pretends “to be ill, in order to have a good excuse for not going, because real reasons would not be approved and should not be suspected” (De La Fayette 89). Nemours, similarly, forgoes French Court events, under the pretense of sickness to remove himself from Madame de Cleves’ presence. Lovesickness is often featured in the plots of movies and novels. The term lovesickness can be described as the anguish one feels in the absence of a loved one. Both Nemours and Madame de Cleves fake sickness to remain virtuous, but in doing so, they sacrifice a chance of true happiness with one another. The absence from each other’s lives brings them only sorrow. The Princess of Cleves was one of the first of many novels to contain the concept of lovesickness. Contemporary authors seem to have modeled their storylines after The Princess of Cleves....
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...ame De La Fayette’s The Princess of Cleves is a timeless piece that has the same impact on readers as it did back in 1678. Her use of figurative language, throughout the story, address social issues and convey strong morals; many of which still apply today. Before The Princess of Cleves, the focus for many was on the significance of reputation and status. De La Fayette defies the social standards of her time and teaches the importance of humility, reasoning and introspection, and virtue. De La Fayette powerful analogies and metaphors will continue to influence writers and remain relevant to audiences worldwide.
De La Fayette, Madame. The Princess of Cleves. The Norton Anthology of Western Literature. Ed. Sarah Lawall. 8th ed. Vol. 2. New York: Norton, 2006. 70-159. Print.
Holy Bible, New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984. Print.