The Lais of Marie de France

The Lais of Marie de France


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780140447590
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/01/1999
Series: Penguin Classics Series
Edition description: 2nd
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 260,816
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.39(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Glyn S. Burgess is currently Professor of French and Head of Department at the University of Liverpool. He has translated 'The Song of Roland' for Penguin Classics and he has published widely on 12th-century courtly literature. Keith Busby is George Lynn Cross Research Professor of French and Director of the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

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The Lais of Marie de France 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
anthonywillard on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This is a collection of twelve short tales about the sad or happy love affairs of knights in shining armor and ladies in castles. They were written in poetry in Anglo-Norman (a dialect of Old French) in the mid-twelfth century by a woman called Marie of France. Marie as it turns out is a significant figure in the literature of Medieval England, one of the best poets before Chaucer. She was very well known in the literary world of her day, which revolved around the court of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine. She herself was of aristocratic background, born and brought up in northern France. She is thought to have moved to England as a result of her husband's job, so to speak, which was being a feudal lord. She was remarkably well educated and, in an age when court culture was almost exclusively French-speaking, took the trouble to learn the language of the people of her adopted country, Old English, well enough to translate a book of fables from it into Anglo-Norman verse. The Lais constitute one of her three major works, the others being the afore-mentioned collection of fables, and an account translated from Latin having something or other to do with St. Patrick and Purgatory. Marie claims the Lais were based on Breton stories, though we do not have a corresponding collection in Breton, so it is hard to know how much she translated and how much she made up. But many of the themes are familiar. I generally find this type of literature tedious, but in Marie's case the brevity of each Lai forces the story to move along briskly, so they sustain interest. Also, Marie does not use the same plot twice. Each lay presents a different situation and different characters, motivations, emotions. She rings all the changes on her chosen genre to a fascinating degree. Some end happily, some sadly. Some of the protagonists are heroic or admirable, some not. Some include magical devices, some are totally naturalistic. In some the woman takes the lead, in some the man. So each tale is distinct and individual. The style is bright, crisp, and clean, with a fresh kind of observation of the world. There is refreshingly little moralizing. Though many of the affairs are illicit, she never blames or criticizes the participants, except sometimes for lack of loyalty. The characters are human, not symbolic stand-ins for abstract virtues or concepts. However, there is no character analysis, just observation and reporting. She takes her characters as she finds them. The translation is in prose, elegant, clear, and simple. Three of the lais are given in an appendix in the original Anglo-Norman. They are written in short lines, rhyming in couplets. There is a scholarly introduction, which one would do well to skip or to postpone reading until after one has read the poems. Much of it would be incomprehensible without prior acquaintance with the lais. Also, though it is not as dry as dust, it is on the dry side. But it will answer any questions you might have about the poet, the origin and interpretation of the poetry, and other background.This book presents a window on a medieval view of the world. It is the view of a privileged participant, and even so is somewhat a view of a storybook world. I found it intriguing and charming, and enjoyed the collection greatly. Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in medieval culture or in important but neglected woman authors.
ed.pendragon on LibraryThing 11 months ago
The editor and translator of Marie's lais, leading scholars in the field of medieval French literature, have in the best tradition of Penguin Classics aimed to make their subject accessible to the general public. Translating a foreign text, especially a poetic text, is always full of difficulties, but luckily Marie's poems, simple in expression and apparently without artifice, speak as well in translation as in the original. For convenience the 1999 edition prints two of Marie's shorter lais in their original French, and anybody with even just a smattering of the language can follow the gist of the tales and see how accessible the translator has made them. A comparison with the pseudo-medieval version served up by Eugene Mason in the early 20th century is revealing for not only how tastes have changed but how many liberties were taken then with the text.The editor has provided an introduction which contains pretty much all you need to know (and pretty much all anybody knows) about who Marie might have been, the historical background, the literary context and so on. For such a slim volume there is much to engage the reader, whether their interest is in a genuine female voice of the 12th century, Arthurian legend, human psychology, folk tales or just good stories succinctly told.
baswood on LibraryThing 11 months ago
The lais were short story poems written in old French, probably around 1170. They have been translated in this penguin edition by Glynn S Burgess and keith Busby into modern English prose.There are twelve short tales here based on chivalry and courtly love and they are utterly charming. Bisclavret was my favourite story and possibly one of the earliest tales featuring a werewolfLittle is known about the author other than Marie was probably female and she wrote these stories for the English Court, which were all based on Breton (North West France) tales or troubadour songs.
ifjuly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
read this over the course of a quiet evening alone with a glass of wine. wonderful. i love sensualists, even if they get religious. reminds me of that one pessoa heteronym, i forget his name, who spends all his poems singing out about how knowing what a blade of grass or a rock IS has nothing to do with words or meaning or anything but just being, and its being being near his own. people who sing about that are essential for me...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago