The Lais Of Marie De France Essay, Research Paper
Romantic Love In Dante s Inferno and The Lais of Marie De France
It is fascinating to take the time out to examine in similarities and differences in the way authors Dante Aligheri and Marie De France impart to their readers their views on romantic love. It can almost be said that the two perspectives are similarly different.
Marie De France, like Dante, has a distinctive literary form. Her narrative twists and female perspective, differentiate her vastly from Dante. She focuses on stories from women’s points of view, she involves her female characters much more actively than Dante. For example, note that Francesca is the only female in hell who has a speaking part. In total, there are only sixteen women even mentioned in Dante s subterranean journey. Nine of them are in Limbo, and out of the remaining seven, five reside in Francesca’s circle in Hell. Throughout the Comedy, Dante appears to view women as the center of some sort of tragic love triangle, while throughout the Lais Marie s women are shown to have character and grace.
Canto V of Dante s Divine Comedy Inferno, takes the reader to the first compartment of true hell, residence for those whose sins have earned them eternal damnation. Dante s cranes symbolize lovers of the highest order, lovers who have died in the name of and for the very essence of love. These characters are of high social standing, as he stresses the importance of social hierarchy, and how it is affected by that which man calls love.
Dante uses symbolism, characters and literary illustration, to impart his central message that the ultimate form of betrayal which stems from love (or, to the author, misguided romantic notion) is adultery. His Francesca is married to Gianciotto Malatesta, who is portrayed to be a crude and to some, a deformed man. According to some interpretations, Francesca was really courted and wed by Gianciotto’s proxy, his handsome younger brother, Paolo. Justified or not, Francesca and Paolo become lovers, and are both slain by the jealous husband and brother.
The central message found in the Lais, is the ability to love. It is the most frequently used character virtue, appearing in all of the twelve lays. The ability to love properly, is paramount in Marie’s ideal knight. This is shown most clearly in Guigemar. The reader sees the title character attain the status of the ideal knight, by overcoming his inability to love.
Dante and Marie both condemn adulterous liaisons between a man and a woman, though their latitude as to what constitutes this type of relationship is very different. Dante often references mythical or ancient stories of tragic lovers, as if to reinforce the message that they who don t remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.
She is Semiramis of whom we read that she succeeded Ninus and was his spouse:
she held the land which now the Sultan rules.
The other is she who, loving, slew herself
and broke faith with the ashes of Sichaeus.
Next is lustful Cleopatra.
See Helen, for whom so much wicked
time was spent, and see the great Achilles
who at the end fought with love.
Francesca and Paolo are shown reading the tale of Lancelot and Guinevere. As Galahalt was the go-between for the two ill-fated lovers, with Paolo and Francesca, Dante gives this function to the book and its author. Some feel that the poet implies inherent dangers in reading inflammatory (romantic) literature, as such a love story was considered to be. Francesca is often likened to Guinevere, as a shallow user of courtly love. Dante uses the reading about Guinevere and Lancelot, to bring Francesca and Paolo to a self prophecy fulfillment of sorts. They read of the demise of these two ill-fated lovers, yet continued with their own adulterous affair, to ultimately meet a similar fate. Where Dante does not do so directly, Francesca does. She is seen placing blame for her demise not upon her own weakness, but upon a book and its subversive author.
Marie terms adultery as being “foolishness, wickedness and debauchery,” to take lovers wherever one goes, then boast of the sexual deeds. Although similar to Francesca and Paolo s love in many ways, Marie s interpretation of love in Guigemar is quite different from Dante s. After wounded while hunting, Guigemar is taken in by the Lady of the Lord of the city he manages to reach. He learns that the Lord has been keeping his wife shut away in a tower. Guigemar falls in love with the Lady, and she with him. He is healed of his wound, and finds the ability to love. Guigemar is faithful to his lady, as is both symbolized and actualized in the lovers exchange, before being discovered by the lady’s husband. Though the love is technically adulterous, in Marie’s eyes the marriage is a sham. The Lady in her portrayal is not shallow in courtly love, but a prisoner to be rescued. She is not a wife, since the Lord does not properly love her.
Though he regards all adultery as improper love and with scornful damnation, Dante leaves room hope in a love that is fit for the heavens, not simply acceptable in Earthly realms. The line This one who never will be parted from me again, has been cited as indicative of wavering on the part of Dante regarding his lovers fate. Some have said that the line is spoken with satisfaction. Others say it s with remorse. The eternal togetherness of the pair in hell, has been interpreted as both punishment and joy. In the final analysis, it is unlikely that Dante feels that love triumphs over all, even eternal damnation. Interpretation of this line differs from romantic to moralist. Dante, the moralist has the last word in the end, with his lovers in hell. However, his rendition of Francesca’s words of woe, leaves the pilgrim (Dante) sympathetic.
Dante s idea of women is virtually one dimensional. She is the original temptress Eve, extending her romance like the apple, for man to consume and ultimately be destroyed by. Dante does not give his female characters flaws, but rather flawed character. To him, the notion of romance that embodies women, leads not only to her sin and damnation, but that of the powerful man that she drags down with her.
Marie s male characters are far more multi-dimensional as are her ideas of the male gender. Ideal knight is ideal man, and she gives each knight at least one flaw to their character. Guigemar had all the qualities of the perfect knight, with exception of an interest in love. He was considered to be a “lost cause by friend and stranger alike, despite being described as the best knight in the realm. This shows the great emphasis Marie puts on the ability of a man to love properly. Social standing is also a fundamental part of the ideal knight (man), as it is not left out from any of the knights portrayals. Guigemar is the son of a “Barun”. Other male characters are portrayed as having a selfish and possessive love of their ladies. The Lord in Guigemar treats his lady like chattel to be controlled, not as a human being to be adored and cherished. Man should be faithful and devoted in his love for his lady. By portraying the antagonist in Guigemar so negatively, Marie demonstrates her dislike of men who treat women in this manner.
Infidelity, or the perception of such, drives men to violent means in the works of both authors. Francesca and Paolo are slain in a jealous rage, while in Guigemar, the Lord lets emotion from the fear of his wife being unfaithful, rule his actions as well. While the enraged man is treated as victim by Dante and villain by Marie, disdain for adultery remains as one commonality of two widely different perspectives of romantic love.