Essay, Research Paper
Christine de Pisan’s book, The Treasure of the City of Ladies, explains in detail the various aspects of women’s lives during the late Medieval and Renaissance culture. She addresses all women of this time from those with power and authority to the poorest peasant women. Christine de Pisan focuses on three main areas of a women’s life during this time period. First she discusses the role of knowledge and education in the lives of the various women. Then she offers her advice to all the different women of varied backgrounds and social standards. She relates how all of these women are in fact connected due to common concerns. Finally, she depicts how men and women interact with one another. By describing the way in which women are treated by the men during this time, she portrays the typical relationship between men and women during Renaissance times. Women were expected to lead a very specific life, focusing on the men of their society.
Throughout Christine de Pisan’s book, she refers to the three ladies of Virtue: Reason, Rectitude, and Justice. These ladies are the foundations of her teachings. She uses them to explain the relationship between men and women and how they view one another.
The lady Prudence teaches all the women of that society about the “rules” they should follow in order to be good Renaissance women, specifically in their relations with men. “Now we would like to advance for their edification seven principal teachings, which according to Prudence are necessary to those who desire to live wisely and wish to have honour” (62). These teachings say that the women should love their husbands; they should live in peace with men. If they fail to do that they will “…Have already discovered the torments of Hell” (62). By failing to live at peace with their men, they will cause turmoil and thus be disobeying the unwritten “law” of womanly conduct.
The women must also “…Behave towards her lord, be he old or young, in all the ways that good faith and true love command” (62). This means that women must obey everything the men say and not voice their opinion even if they disagree with the men’s comments. Women must also show their love by being attentive to things that would affect their husbands both physically and mentally. Renaissance women were told to say whatever was needed to keep the men in their lives happy. If one of the women’s husband dies, she was expected to pray for him and his soul for an extended amount of time.
In return, according to Christine de Pisan, men treated their women very well. This quote expresses the men’s feelings: “She was for this reason so loved and honoured by her lord that he denied her nothing that she desired” (63). Men were grateful to have such wonderful women to serve them and to comply with their every command. They realized how blessed they were to have women who would obey them, love them, respect them, help them in their time of need, and oversee their land when they were called away for war. The men’s way of returning the women’s devotion was to supply the women with anything they needed.
In addition to serving their husbands and the other men of the society, the Renaissance women were expected to love and serve God by leading either a contemplative life or an active life. “Your duty to be good and devout towards God goes without saying” (145-146). The contemplative life required that the women focus entirely on serving God. They constantly thought of God, eventually forgetting everyone else such as their father, mother, children, and themselves. On the other hand, the active life contributed more to the society as a whole. The women that followed the active life went to the hospitals to visit the sick and poor, always attempted to do good, and carried all injuries and problems patiently for the love of God.
Christine de Pisan seemed to accept the women’s role in the late Medieval society. She did not seem angry about the fact that women were treated as semi-inferior to men. But, there was one aspect of female behavior that she wanted to change. She addressed the women who were prostitutes and told them this: “We say this to you: you miserable women so indecently given to sin, open your eyes with recognition” (171). The author’s advice to the prostitutes was to change their ways now, while they still had the chance to lead a respectable life according to the “rules” of the ladies of Virtue.
In the late Medieval and Renaissance time period, women had a strict standard to live up to. They should love their husbands, respect them, and obey their commands. The men in return fulfilled the women’s needs by supplying them with whatever they needed. The men and women lived with a mutual respect between themselves.