The Lais of Marie de France

France, Marie de (fl.1160–1215), translated by Kline, A. S. (contact-email)

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Marie de France, active between 1160 and 1215, was a pioneering French poet. She is best known for her ‘Lais’, a collection of twelve narrative poems drawing from oral Breton tales. Her work hints at noble birth, with proficiency in French, Latin, and likely Breton. Marie dedicated her ’Lais’ to King Henry II of England, suggesting her main residence was in England despite French origins. Her linguistic style combines Francien dialect with traces of Anglo-Norman, possibly reflecting her time in England or the influence of her scribes. While her precise identity is unclear beyond her own allusions, Marie’s significant literary output includes translations of Aesop’s fables and religious texts. Her legacy is evidenced by the survival of manuscripts, notably in the British Library, and her role in popularising themes of love characteristic of the period, paralleling the works of Ovid and contemporaries like Chrétien de Troyes.

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Kline, A. S.

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