This site is my personal tribute to Marie de France, the first female French poet who wrote for the Norman-ruled British court in the 12th Century.
Little is known of Marie de France. She was a twelfth-century poet, who wrote approximately from 1160 to 1215. She was of French birth but wrote for the court in England (because of the Norman Conquest, the English court was French speaking at that time). She left her name in three works generally attributed to her: the Lais, the Fables, and the Espurgatoire Saint Patriz, and in a possible fourth work, La Vie Seinte Audree (Mickel 13-16). A contemporary writer, Denis Piramus, author of La Vie Seint Edmund le rei, wrote his praises for a writer of lais named Marie. From his praise we learn that she was very well received in aristocratic circles (15). That she was highly educated is shown not only by her writing abilities, but also from the fact that she knew Latin well enough to translate the Espurgatoire, and Middle English well enough to translate the Fables.
Marie wrote for an aristocratic audience that had rediscovered love as a literary theme, for her century saw a revival in intellectual and artistic achievement, the “Renaissance of the Twelfth Century” (Hanning 1). The flourishing courts of France and England were not only interested in love as a literary theme, but also in didactic works. Her works reflect these interests, and her Lais especially.
Marie de France. The Lais of Marie de France. Trans. Robert Hanning, Joan Ferrante. Durham: The Labyrinth Press, 1982.
Mickel, Emanuel, Jr. Marie de France. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1974.