The Lais of Marie de France (Study Guide)

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The Lais of Marie de France Study Guide (12th Century) Source: The Lays of Marie de France. London: Penguin. The introduction to this volume discusses mostly scholarly matters which will be of little interest to first-time readers, but pp. 23-34 provide much useful information. Beginning on p. 126 there are very scanty notes to three stories, having to do with issues of translation. The most important point to note is that the medieval French lai bore roughly the same relationship to the longer, multi-episode romance as the modern short story does to the novel. They often incorporate magic and other marvels, and usually aim at entertaining rather than edifying their audience. Keep in mind that these lais were originally told in verse (see the sample original, p. 136), but that it is so much more difficult to write short rhyming lines in English than in Old French that prose is almost necessary. Guigemar The opening is a rather vague rebuttal to some critics of Marie about whom we know nothing. The word Breton could be equally applied to the inhabitants of Brittany in northwestern France or to Britons of England. Marie makes no clear distinction between the two. The lais are generally known as Breton lais. Her most likely source was Anglo-Saxon, still spoken by many commoners in the 12th Century, with many of the tales probably having even earlier sources in Old Welsh, the language in which the earliest Arthurian legends were told. Medieval lords often placed their sons in ...

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