Courtly Love Leading to Isolation in Marie’s Guigemar and Lanval
In the Lais of Marie de France places her characters in a variety of circumstances covering the fundamental issue of love in human relationships. Although, Marie refrains from analysis or outright judgment, presenting an assortment of conflicts with unpredictable resolutions. Many of Marie's characters live in a hostile world, trapped literally by a jealous husband or figuratively by social or familial obligations. This courtly love causes much isolation, which, in turn, leads the characters to long for a true love. Some critics conclude that Marie presents marital love as the ideal, while others surmise that she treats adultery as a more dangerous and, therefore, stronger expression of passion. A love that is loyal, generous and pure results in success for the lovers, regardless of marital ties, while a love that is selfish or impure ends in tragedy or punishment.
In her lais, Marie explores not only issues of courtly behavior and love relationships, but the conflict between an individual’s struggle to fulfill personal desires and cultural expectations. Throughout the Lais of Marie de France the central idea of courtly love resulting in isolation is rather apparent. This theme plays an integral role in the stories of Guigemar and Lanval. The reader sees isolation as one of the leading vehicles of the plot. Isolation is represented on several different occasions, each time having a direct impact on the outcome. These instances of isolation may be seen at times to be similar in nature and consequence.
In general, isolation seems to be harmful to both of the stories’ protagonists. Isolation being harmful is apparent from the very beginning of Guigemar’s tale, “They gathered in pursuit of a large stag / The dogs were unleased / The hunters ran ahead / While the young man lingered behind” (33). Guigemar can only see the mysterious, transgender doe when he is alone and crossing...