By Maggie Kelley
In the Middle Ages, when Bisclavret and The Canterbury Tales were written, society became fascinated by love and the thought of courtly love. The ideology of courtly love changed previous literature completely and created a new genre of writing altogether. Bisclavret (“The Werewolf”), written in the 12th century by Marie de France, and “The Wife of Bath’s Tale”, written in the 14th century by Geoffrey Chaucer are no exception and both accurately portray the act of courtly love. Courtly love was believed to originate in France in the 12th century, which eventually spread to other countries in Europe, influencing many authors along the way. There are many different ways in which courtly love could be defined. Typically, courtly love is the idea of noble chivalry expressing love and admiration to another person regardless of one’s marital status. In the Middle Ages, marriages had little to do with true love, therefore usually courtly love was a forbidden affair mostly associated with knights. Bisclavret and The Wife of Bath’s Tale both reveal courtly love in different ways, helping shape our beliefs today.
Marie de France is notably credited for being the first female poet in France, and also debatably the most important female writer of the Middle Ages. Most of her writings focus on the personal desires of her female characters, and Bisclavret is no exception. When it comes to courtly love, having a good character makes any man worthy of love and Bisclavret has all of those qualities. He is a handsome, well-liked baron who is married to a wonderful woman and they are deeply in love. When Bisclavret begins disappearing for three whole days every week, his wife begins questioning his whereabouts and becoming sick with worry. When Bisclavret begins disappearing weekly, his wife begins questioning his whereabouts:
Lord, I am so anxious
On those days when you leave me,
I have such great sorrow in my heart
And such fear...