The Lais of Marie de France
Text and Translation
  • Publication Date: February 15, 2018
  • ISBN: 9781554810826 / 1554810825
  • 432 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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The Lais of Marie de France

Text and Translation

  • Publication Date: February 15, 2018
  • ISBN: 9781554810826 / 1554810825
  • 432 pages; 5½" x 8½"

The Broadview British Bookshelf: A Digital Library. Get this edition and 330+ others for $45

Composed in French in twelfth-century England, these twelve brief verse narratives center on the joys, sorrows, and complications of love affairs in a context that blends the courtly culture of tournaments and hunting and otherworldly elements such as self-steering boats, shape-shifting lovers, and talking animals. Popular with readers across countries and languages since their composition, the Lais have made their author, Marie, one of the most famous women writers of the Middle Ages, renowned for her brilliant use of language and cultural allusion as well as her keen eye for human behavior.

This new edition provides a complete facing-page edition with the original text alongside a new modern English translation. A single manuscript, Harley 978, is used as the copy text. Appendices include contemporary literature on love, animals, and courtly life, as well as a list of textual variants in other manuscripts.


“Given the changes that have taken place in the discipline over the past 15 years, Claire M. Waters’s new facing-text edition of the lais of Marie de France—the first of its kind—is sure to become a standard for both classroom and research. Waters has made the sound and important decision to base her text on a single manuscript (British Library MS Harley 978), offering more direct access to a canonical medieval text as it was produced and read, rather than as it has been speculatively recreated by modern editors. The translation is fluid and faithful, while the introductory materials lucidly contextualize Marie’s Lais both in their own cultural moment and in contemporary scholarship. This edition complements the lais that Waters translated for the Broadview Anthology of British Literature and extends the ways in which they can be taught in graduate and undergraduate classrooms.” — Geoff Rector, University of Ottawa

“Innovative and elegant, this edition links textual transcription and translation to a digitized manuscript of Marie’s oeuvre, British Library MS Harley 978. Students can use this edition in tandem with the online codex to add historical authenticity to their reading. Claire Waters enriches the medieval context of her lucid translations by including informative appendices ranging from courtly love and society, to animal fables, to historical background, and important literary analogues.” — Stephen G. Nichols, Johns Hopkins University

“The usefulness of this book to classrooms both undergraduate and graduate, and to any reader who desires closer acquaintance with Marie’s poetry, will be very great indeed…. Waters’s translations, some of which have already appeared in the Broadview Anthology of British Literature, are exactly what is wished for in a dual-language edition: a line-by-line rendition into plain, unpretentious prose—though it is a little difficult to designate as ‘prose’ a translation that captures Marie’s phrasing and wit as expertly as this one does…. Waters, in her edition, translation, and apparatus, is devoted, in turn, not to ‘supplying the rest’ through her own understanding—great though it is—but to making that connection possible for us…. Experienced instructors will have a carefully edited and compiled and eminently teachable (not to mention inexpensive) record of Marie’s Lais and their tradition; and any readers getting their first introduction to Marie through this edition will indeed be on the right path.” — Thomas H. Crofts, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching

The Life and Times of Marie de France: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

The Lais of Marie de France

  • Prologue
  • Guigemar
  • Equitan
  • Le Fresne
  • Bisclavret
  • Lanval
  • Deus Amanz
  • Yonec
  • Laüstic
  • Milun
  • Le Chaitivel, ou Quatre Dols
  • Chevrefoil
  • Guildelüec et Guilliadun, ou Eliduc

Appendix A: Speaking Animals

  1. From the Anonymous Lai Melion (late twelfth/early thirteenth century)
  2. From Gerald of Wales, The Topography of Ireland (late twelfth century)
  3. Peire d’Alvernhe, Poems (late twelfth century)
    1. “Nightingale, you will go for me”
    2. “The bird has held a straight path”

Appendix B: Love Relationships

  1. From the Roman d’Eneas (c. 1160)
  2. From The Life of St. Alexis (mid-eleventh century)
  3. From Marie de France, Fables (c. 1180s)
    1. “The Wife and Her Lover”
    2. “Another Wife and Her Lover”
  4. From Béroul, Tristan et Iseut (mid-twelfth century)

Appendix C: Prologues and Epilogues

  1. From Marie de France, Fables (c. 1180s)
  2. From Marie de France, Saint Patrick’s Purgatory (c. 1190)
  3. From Marie de France, Life of St. Audrey (c. 1200)
  4. From Chrétien de Troyes, Cliges (1170s–80s)
  5. From Wace, Roman de Rou (1160s)
  6. Prologue of Denis Piramus, Life of St. Edmund (1190–93)
  7. Prologue to the Old Norse Translation of the Lais (midthirteenth century)

Appendix D: Historical and Legendary Accounts of Britain and the Normans

  1. From Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain (c. 1138)
  2. From an Anonymous Anglo-Norman Verse Chronicle (twelfth/thirteenth century)

Appendix E: Courtly Life and Pursuits

  1. From Wace, Roman de Brut (c. 1155)
  2. From The Life of William Marshal (thirteenth century)
  3. From an Anglo-French Hawking Manual (later thirteenth century)

Appendix F: Textual Variants

Works Cited and Select Bibliography

Permissions Acknowledgements

Claire M. Waters is Professor of English at the University of California, Davis.