I found myself captivated by the tales of courtly love in Marie de France’s Lanval and Laustic. “These are stories in which love serves as an alternative to an uncaring or unjust society (1316).” Within her writings, France explores love in many different forms. These courtly lays about knights and their lady loves show the complexities of love. As seen in both stories, love is not always easy and can even be impossible at times. Though the outcomes of both stories differ greatly, it is clear that Marie’s central focus for the characters is love.
First, there is the enduring power of love seen in Lanval. Lanval sets out into the world to make a name for himself as a knight; on his journey, he falls in love with a fairy queen. He is captivated by her beauty and easily falls deeply in love with her. The only problem being that he is unable to express his love to the world. She tells him that if anyone knows of their love that he will never see her ...view middle of the document...
What pains him most is that he has revealed her existence and will never see her again. Even faced with death, Lanval refuses to relent the beauty of his lady. Before he is put to death, she appears and being that he is found to be truthful in his words, he is set free. He leaves with his fairy queen, never to be seen again. “Here love seems to conquer all, but its triumph is possible only in the fantasy world of fiction (1317).”
Laustic is a powerful story of adulterous love and its consequences. According to Norton, unhappy wives are often the subjects of Marie’s lays (1317). Laustic is the story of two knights and one woman, the classic love triangle. They were neighbors, and both knights had reputable images within their town. The wife and the other knight fell in love with each other. Like most love affairs, it just happened. They never have a physical relationship; they spend hours at night talking to each other through the window. The husband soon becomes aware of his wife leaving their bed at night. When questioned about it she says it is because the song of the nightingale wakes her and she enjoys listening to it. Being an intelligent man, the knight employs his servants with the task of capturing the bird. Once caught, he breaks its neck and throws it at his wife. This sheds light into the character of her husband and her possible motives for seeking a relationship outside of their marriage. It is with this act, that any sympathy felt for the faithful husband disappears. Now, the adulterous wife emerges as the victim. She is humiliated and heartbroken as her husband throws the bloody carcass of the bird at her. Not only will she never be able to see her true love again, she will never hear the sound of the nightingale that brings joy to her heart.
Marie de France is able to reveal to different aspects of love in these brief stories.
In Lanval, though he betrayed his love’s request, she forgives him and they are presumed to live happily ever after. In Laustic, there is a larger price to pay for betrayal and a disappointing end to their love story. Love is a powerful emotion. When it works, it can be beautiful; when it does not, the consequences are heartbreaking. In the end, one has to decide if they are willing to take that chance.