The Lays of Marie de France Poems Analysis

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The Lays of Marie de France (or The Lais of Marie de France) is a prime example of late 12th-century poetry. The twelve romantic poems were initially written in Anglo-Norman, and it is available to the modern reader only in the translated format. However, this does not diminish its significance since the presence of many translations allows for studying this sample of history in detail and reflecting on its content. Like most lais, the works of Marie de France speak of individuality and manifestations of love. After reading these poems, I discovered several relevant ideas for myself today. Although these stories describe a completely different society, from my perspective, one can still find principles necessary for the modern world. This response paper aims to prove this thesis through text analysis and personal reflection.

First of all, I want to note the history of the creation of this collection, which the author herself shares in the prologue. Marie de France (2010) celebrates a learning process that can enable a person to avoid suffering. She argues that one who has knowledge or talent should develop and demonstrate it, thereby increasing goodwill. This factor prompted her to translate and record mainly oral histories in written form for preservation and transmission to their descendants (Marie de France, 2010). From my perspective, this act simultaneously demonstrates several crucial points relevant to the modern world. It can be noted that, most likely, Marie de France had very few rights and privileges compared to modern women due to the position of women at the end of the 11th century. However, this did not prevent her from pursuing literature, developing herself, and encouraging others to do the same. Thus, Marie de France, in some way, shows feminist ambitions applicable to the modern world, defending the need for education and following her ideals.

In addition, the very advocacy of the need for education is a laudable aspiration. According to Marie de France (2010), this tradition belonged to ancient civilizations but is still essential today. When people fully realize their potential, they leave a mark on the world, improving their life and society through good deeds. This passage from the author’s text especially resonates with me since I strive to fulfill myself as well. Finally, this collection demonstrates to the reader the features of such a vivid feeling as love. Although this sentiment in the context of these poems corresponds more to a romantic and chivalrous view of the world, the author’s message lies behind it.

The entire collection can be divided into two contrasting parts, describing both love’s positive and negative consequences. Thus, the author demonstrates that love directed towards others leads to universal happiness, while narcissism and selfishness lead to misfortune (Marie de France, 2010). From my perspective, this is a fundamental concept that is especially relevant in today’s individualistic world. Previously, I did not think about how love can change a person’s life. However, Marie de France’s work demonstrates both sides of attraction, leaving descendants with an important lesson.

Thus, the collection lais, written at the end of the 12th century, contains many relevant thoughts and images, the study of which can make the life of modern people more complete. Firstly, the prologue to these poems demonstrates the necessity and correctness of the individual’s self-development. Marie de France herself exemplifies this while displaying some feminist traits as a female writer in medieval England. Finally, the very content of her poems is a lesson about love and its consequences that remains relevant despite a wholly changed society. After reading and analyzing this book, I have established myself in some of my thoughts and picked up many new ideas. Therefore, studying even such ancient sources can be helpful for the modern society and its development. The Lays of Marie de France is a perfect example for anyone with an interest in love and the Middle Ages.


Marie de France. (2010). The lays of Marie de France. (E. J. Gallagher, Trans.). Hackett Publishing Company.