Bisclavret's The Wedding Of Marie De France

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The saying goes, “Behind every great man is a great woman,” and, in some medieval romances, that great woman is scheming for her own benefit (and either for or contrary to that of the man’s). Feminine honor is tied to being a good wife, which means being sexually faithful to and obeying. In Bisclavret by Marie de France, Bisclavret’s wife betrays him both by taking away his humanity and by taking a lover, and for that, she is disfigured as her punishment. The inverse occurs in The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle: Ragnelle, disfigured by her stepmother, manipulates both Arthur and Gawain to secure her marriage with Gawain, and she is rewarded with beauty. These women are ultimately judged not by their manipulative actions but how…show more content…
Her initial manipulation attempts are unsuccessful, but Marie continues: “She harassed and bedeviled him so, / that he had no choice but to tell her” (lines 87-88). The use of “harassed and bedeviled” instantly casts his wife’s insistence as suspicious and malicious. Marie confirms the suspicions when the wife schemes with a knight who loved her to get rid of Bisclavret. Even though “she’d never loved [the knight] at all,” the wife offers herself to him in return for stealing Bisclavret’s clothes (line 107). “So Bisclavret was betrayed, / ruined by his own wife” (line 125-126, emphasis added). The addition of “own” emphasizes the [wrongness] of what his wife did not just because she did it but because she did it as his wife. Wives should be faithful to their husbands, and while Bisclavret’s wife did not have to stay with him (because he is, after all, a monster), she has promised herself to another man and stripped Bisclavret of his title, his lands, his humanity, his…show more content…
The poet describes her as so ugly that “Ther is no tung may telle, securly; / Of lothynesse inowghe she had” (lines 244-245). What description he provides is monstrous, including “borys tuskes” which also give her a beastly connotation (line 550). Her appearance, as described in the poem, is not consistent either. Early on, the poet writes that, “Her nek long and therto great,” while later he writes that, “Nek forsothe on her was none iseen” (line 239, line 556). The reader can imagine her as constantly-shifting in appearance, which adds to the horror of her looks. Both Arthur and Guinevere attempt to convince Ragnelle to hold the wedding privately to preserve both Gawain and Ragnelle’s honor, as other courtiers will no doubt ridicule them for the odd couple they make. Arthur’s knights are meant to be the best in England, with the most beautiful, noble wives. Certainly, Ragnelle is not the bride Gawain would have picked, given a real
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