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

Availability: Worldwide

The Lais of Marie de France

Text and Translation

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

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.


“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. Nicholls, John Hopkins University

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 La vie de saint Alexis (mid-eleventh century)
  3. From Marie de France, Fables (c. 1180s)
  4. From Béroul, Tristan et Iseut (mid-twelfth century)

Appendix C: Prologues and Epilogues

  1. From Marie de France, Fables (c. 1180s)
    1. “The Wife and Her Lover”
    2. “Another Wife and Her Lover”
  2. From Marie de France, Saint Patrick’s Purgatory
  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 (mid-thirteenth 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 (eleventh/twelfth 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

Appendix F: Textual Variants

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