The Lais of Marie de France Characters

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Marieappears in All Chapters

Marie is the attributed author of the thirteen lays included in the collection. Her role is to present each lay to its courtly audience and provide context for the events described. She acts primarily as the narrator in each lai, but also appears as herself at the beginning and end of each story to introduce the characters and afterwards to provide a moral or historical note.

Marie also appears within the stories at times, making an aside to the audience about an event of special significance, or to emphasize the truth of a plot point, especially if it is one that might seem unbelievable. Originally, these passages addressing the audience directly were written in the same meter and rhyme scheme as the rest of the story and sung along, meshing seamlessly with the rest of the story.

Marie is courtly and formal when she speaks directly, a style suitable to the original audience, which would have been gentlemen and ladies at court. She is not shy, however, about addressing the less seemly aspects of love and romance.

Guigemarappears in Guigemar

Guigemar is a brave knight whose only flaw is that he does not show any interest in romance. This changes when he meets the lady who lives in the ancient city. These events are prophesied by the beautiful talking deer that Guigemar mortally wounds, and his life continues to be influenced by supernatural events. In the end, however, Guigemar must resort to force to regain the woman he loves.

The Lady of the Ancient Cityappears in Guigemar

The wife of a jealous lord, the lady of the ancient city is kept locked away from the rest of the world. She is attended by her sympathetic niece and watched over by a feeble priest, so it is not difficult at first for her to conceal Guigemar in her quarters. Like many of the female characters in Marie's lays, she is trapped by a man she does not love.

Meriaducappears in Guigemar

A wealthy lord who takes in the lady of the ancient city after her escape. Meriaduc falls in love with her, but she does not return his feelings. He challenges Guigemar to take her from him, which Guigemar does.

Equitanappears in Equitan

A king who falls in love with the wife of one of his subjects. He schemes with her to kill her husband, but is finally himself killed when the plot backfires.

Equitan's Seneschalappears in Equitan

The governor of Equitan's lands and the person who administers his kingdom. The king begins an affair with the seneschal's wife, and he narrowly escapes being killed by them when he discovers them together in bed. After the king dies in the trap he had set for the seneschal, the seneschal drowns his own wife in retribution.

The Seneschal's Wifeappears in Equitan

The king's lover and the source of the scheme to murder her husband. She is drowned by her husband when her plot is revealed.

Le Fresneappears in Le Fresne

One of a set of twin girls who is abandoned by her mother outside an abbey. She is raised by the abbess and later attracts the love of the nobleman Gurun, who takes her to live with him but not to marry. She is loyal to Gurun, and her loyalty pays off when he becomes engaged to marry Le Fresne's sister. When her mother realizes who she is, she reveals Le Fresne's noble background, making her a suitable wife for Gurun. Le Fresne means "ash tree", and she is named so because she was discovered in an ash tree as a baby.

Le Fresne's Motherappears in Le Fresne

A petty and vicious woman at the beginning of the story, Le Fresne's mother redeems herself at the end by recognizing her daughter whom she abandoned as an infant, confessing her deed, and restoring Le Fresne to the man she loves.

Gurunappears in Le Fresne

A nobleman who falls in love with Le Fresne, but relents to become engaged to another woman who is of noble birth, who is coincidentally Le Fresne's lost twin sister.

Le Codreappears in Le Fresne

Le Fresne's twin sister, from whom she is separated at birth by their mother. Le Codre marries Gurun, but when Le Fresne's true identity is discovered, her marriage is annulled. She is later married to another wealthy nobleman. By coincidence, she is also named for a tree. Le Codre means "hazelnut tree".

Bisclavretappears in Bisclavret

A worthy nobleman who turns into a werewolf for three days out of every week. Trapped in his werewolf form by his wife, he becomes a favorite pet of the king, who uncovers his true identity and forces Bisclavret's wife to allow him to change back into a man.

Bisclavret's Wifeappears in Bisclavret

Bisclavret's wife no longer loves Bisclavret once she learns he is a werewolf and schemes to get rid of him. She conspires with a knight to trap Bisclavret in his werewolf form and then marry the knight. Her treachery is discovered by the king and she is banished after Bisclavret has attacked her and torn off her nose.

Bislcavret's Wife's Loverappears in Bisclavret

The knight who agrees to go along with the scheme of Bisclavret's wife to trap him. He later marries the woman, but is banished along with her for his misdeed.

The Kingappears in Bisclavret

The king discovers Bisclavret in the forest in his werewolf form, and is impressed by the beast's apparent intelligence. He takes him into his court, where Bisclavret is much admired as gentle and intelligent. The king eventually roots out Bisclavret's true identity and punishes the woman and knight who have trapped the man as a werewolf.

Lanvalappears in Lanval

A worthy knight in the service of King Arthur. Lanval loyally does not complain when the king accidentally passes over him when rewarding his knights. He is also loyal to his fairy lover when the queen makes an advance to him, but he lets his temper flare when she insults him, which is almost his undoing. The fairy lover redeems him from his mistake, however, and takes him away to live with her.

The Lady in the Tentappears in Lanval

A fairy woman of astounding beauty. She loves Lanval and makes him wealthy and popular. Although she forbids him to reveal her existence and disappears when he does, she eventually returns to save her love from being wrongfully punished by Arthur.

King Arthurappears in Lanval

The legendary king of the knights of the round table. Arthur is a fair king, but apparently not always attentive as he forgets to reward the worthy knight Lanval.

Arthur's Queenappears in Lanval

Queen Guinivere, also a legendary character from the tales of King Arthur. The queen makes an advance toward Lanval, but is spurned. She then tells Arthur that it was Lanval who made the advance to her, then insulted her when she refused. It is Guinivere's deception that sets up the main conflict in the story.

The Handmaidensappears in Lanval

The beautiful servants of the fairy lady in the tent, each of which is more beautiful than the queen, as Lanval states.

Sir Gawainappears in Lanval

A famous knight of the round table and friend to Lanval.

The King of Pitresappears in Les Deus Amanz

A king who, out of a desire to keep his daughter for himself, decrees that no man shall marry her unless he can carry her to the top of a high mountain. The king lives to regret his jealousy when his daughter dies from grief.

The King's Daughterappears in Les Deus Amanz

A very beautiful maiden who conspires with her lover to help him pass the king's challenge. When her lover collapses in the attempt, she dies from grief.

The Worthy Knightappears in Les Deus Amanz

The prideful knight who refuses to drink the strength potion he has obtained to help him win the hand of his love. His desire to win the challenge fairly, along with his pride, results in his death.

Muldumarecappears in Yonec

A magical lord who can change into the form of a hawk and read the mind of his lover, who is locked away in a tower. Muldumarec can also see into the future, and prophesies the birth of Yonec and his avenging of his death. Muldumarec dies after being injured in a trap set by his lover's jealous husband.

The Lord of Caerwentappears in Yonec

The jealous husband of Muldumarec's lover. He keeps her locked away, and when he discovers she is being visited by the hawk-knight, he sets a trap that mortally injures the knight. He is later killed by Yonec in revenge.

The Lady of Caerwentappears in Yonec

The unnamed lover of Muldumarec and the mother of Yonec. Once beautiful, her beauty fades after years of being locked away by her husband. When she discovers love again, her beauty returns, betraying her affair. She becomes pregnant by the knight, and gives birth to Yonec. Later, she reveals the story of his father to her son, spurring Yonec to kill her husband in revenge.

Yonecappears in Yonec

The son of the lady of Caerwent and Muldumarec. He has grown into a valiant knight by the end of the story when he exacts revenge on the lord of Caerwent for killing his father. Yonec assumes the lordship over Muldumarec's kingdom.

The Lady of St. Maloappears in Laustic

The wife of a knight who falls in love with the knight in the adjacent house, and who stands at her window every night to gaze at him.

The Lady of St. Malo's Husbandappears in Laustic

The jealous husband of the lady in love with her neighbor. He is suspicious of her, and kills the nightingale she claims keeps her awake and at her window all night. She sends the body of the bird to her love in explanation.

The Lady of St. Malo's Loverappears in Laustic

The knight who lives next to his lover, and who returns her gazes through their opposite windows. He treats the body of the nightingale his lover sends him with reverence, having a special case made to carry it with him always.

Milunappears in Milun

A brave knight who fathers a child with a noble damsel, and then helps her hide the child and send it to be raised by her sister, before leaving to go to battle. Milun is later reunited with his child, a son who has grown to be a valiant knight, and with his love when her husband dies.

The Noble Damselappears in Milun

The young girl who loves Milun and gives birth to a child with him. After Milun leaves, she unwillingly marries another man. When her husband dies, she is able to reunite with MIlun.

The Damsel's Husbandappears in Milun

The unnamed husband of the noble damsel who is in love with Milun.

The Peerless Oneappears in Milun

The son of Milun and the noble damsel. He is given the title "Peerless One" for his great prowess in battle.

The Lady of Nantesappears in Chaitivel

A noble woman who has four suitors, but cannot choose among them. She arranges for the four to battle in a tournament for her love.

The Three Suitorsappears in Chaitivel

The unfortunate three suitors to the lady of Nantes who are killed in a battle before the tournament for her hand.

The Fourth Suitorappears in Chaitivel

The sole suitor who survives the battle for the lady of Nantes, but who is rendered sexually impotent from his wound.

Tristramappears in Chevrefoil

The lover of Queen Isolde, the queen of King Mark. Tristram is banished for his love, but sneaks back into the kingdom to meet her in the forest.

King Mark's Queenappears in Chevrefoil

Queen Isolde, the lover of Tristram. The queen meets with Tristram in the forest and tries to convince him to reconcile with the king.

Eliducappears in Eliduc

A noble knight who leaves his wife behind to become a mercenary in another kingdom, where he falls in love with a fair maiden. Eliduc tries to bring his mistress home with him, but his wife discovers her. Eliduc's wife allows him to stay with his mistress while she becomes a nun. Eventually, his mistress also becomes a nun and Eliduc himself joins the church.

Guilliadunappears in Eliduc

The fair maiden who captures the heart of Eliduc. Unaware that he is married, she faints as if dead when she discovers he is. She is later revived by Eliduc's wife, who is so taken by her beauty that she becomes a nun and allows Eliduc to keep his mistress.

The King of Brittanyappears in Eliduc

The king whom Eliduc serves, but who is too quick to believe false rumors about his brave knight. Based on these false rumors, he banishes Eliduc. He has cause to regret his actions, however, and asks for Eliduc to return.

The Nobleman of Exeterappears in Eliduc

The father of Guilliadun, and the lord of Eliduc after he leaves the service of the King of Brittany.

Guildeleucappears in Eliduc

Eliduc's wife, who is greatly wronged, but nonetheless makes a sacrifice for the happiness of her husband by becoming a nun and allowing him to stay with Guilliadun.

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