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362 Study Questions: Marie de France, "Equitan"

Vocabulary: Norman French, Breton lai, octosyllabic couplets, fin amour, feudalism, courtly love, knight, chivalry, locus amoenus

Identification: Equitan, the Seneschal, the Seneschal's Wife

Lecture Notes:

Introduction Questions:

Reading Questions:

  • What region does Equitan rule?
  • What is King Equitan's favorite (but sinful!) pastime or hobby?
  • What is the Seneschal like? How does Marie describe his character and his activities?
  • Marie compares love to what sort of injury? What is the source for this imagery in classical mythology?
  • How does the Seneschal's wife react to the king's advances?
  • We find out the King does not wish to marry. Why is this a "subject to be discussed" at great length in the kingdom? (I.e., why would the commoners care about this?) Why do you suppose the King doesn't want to marry?
  • What violent "solution" does the Seneschal's wife offer to the love-triangle?
  • How does Equitan die?
  • How does the Seneschal's wife die?
  • How are those two death's symbolically appropriate?


A: "Lord," she said, "please come hunting in the forest in the region where I live. Stay in my husband's castle, be bled there, and take a bath on the third day. My husband will be bled and take a bath with you. Make sure you tell him to keep you company. I shall have the baths heated and the two tubs brought in. The water in his bath will be so boiling hot that no mortal man could escape scalding or destruction."

B. The king looked up and saw him approaching. To conceal his wickedness he jumped feeet first into the tub, completely naked. He paid no heed to the danger involved and was scalded to death. His evil plan had rebounded on him, whereas the seneschal was safe and sound. He saw what had just happened to the king. Seizing his wife immediately, he tossed her head first into the bath.



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