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451 Study Questions: "Lanval" [Poetic Translation]

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

Identification: Lanval, the fairy lover, Gawain, King Arthur, Queen Gwenevere

Lecture Notes:

Introduction Questions: What is the mystery surrounding Marie de France's identity?

Reading Questions:

  • Our story begins during what spring religious festival? Why is that appropriate?
  • What problem does Lanval have with everyone's attitude toward him at court?
  • Who does King Arthur leave out when he distributes his largess?
  • What does Lanval do with all his personal wealth?
  • What appears before Lanval after he takes a post-riding nap?
  • How are the two damoiselles dressed?
  • When the damoiselles take Lanval to their mistress, how is their mistress dressed?
  • The fairy lover warns Lanval never to do what? If he breaks this taboo, what will happen?
  • The second part of the story commences in line 214 with what religious feast? Why is this appropriate for the upcoming events?
  • Who sees Lanval's "makeover" and finds herself attracted to him? Why is this dangerous for Lanval?
  • When Lanval spurns the adulterous affections, what does Gwenevere accuse him of being?
  • What boast does Lanval make that insults Gwenevere's pride?
  • What does Arthur demand for Lanval's life to be spared? (i.e., what must he produce before the court?)
  • When the two maidens show up at Lanval's execution, what does the court assume about their identity? (i.e., they think one of these maidens must be whom?)
  • What do these two maidens ride?
  • Who shows up next on a milk-white horse accompanied by falcons and greyhounds?
  • Where does Lanval and his fairy lover ride away to a the end of the tale?
  • Lecture Question: What does this ending symbolize?

Identifications: (Poetic Translation)

A: Inside the tent the maiden was:
Not rose nor lily could surpass
Her beauty when they bloom in May.
The sumptuous bed on which she lay
Was beautiful when they bloom in May.
The sumptuous bed on which she lay
Was beautiful. The drapes and tassal
Sheets and pillows were worth a castle.

B: "Ami," she said, "please understand,
I warn and pray you and command:
You must never tell anyone
About the love that you ahve won
The consequences I shall declare:
Should people learn of of this affair,
You shall never again see me,
Nor have my body in your fee."

C: . . . . "It's evident
That to such pleasures you have no bent.
Often I have heard men aver
That women are not what you prefer.
But you have many pretty boys
With whom you like to take your joys
Faithless coward of low degree,
My lord was badly served when he
Suffered your person to come near."


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