Narratives By Marie De France

Is a 12th century poet who wrote the two lais titled, The Lay of Honeysuckle and The Lay of Nightingale. These two lais share similarities but are able to distinguish themselves from one another by telling different narratives. They share the same theme of a love triangle. However, the narrative told in each lay are from different perspectives. In the Lay of Honeysuckle, the protagonist, Queen Isolde, is married to King Mark. King Mark has a nephew named Tristan who is in love with the queen.

This angered King Mark and banished him from his kingdom.

However, Tristan was determined to see his love again that he was willing to risk death for the opportunity. When he got word that Queen Isolde was traveling through some secluded woods, he planned to see her in secret. He carved his name on a hazel branch covered in honeysuckle knowing the queen will recognize it. His plan is successful, and they were able to share a warm embrace in the privacy of the forest.

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Similarly, the Lay of Nightingale explored some common themes. In this lay, two knights lived near each other. One of the knights was married to a fair lady while the other was a bachelor. The bachelor falls in love with the fair lady and the love is reciprocated. Every night the fair lady would sneak out of bed just to be close to her lover.

Eventually, the husband became upset from the constant absence in bed and confronted his wife.

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The fair lady explained “there is no dearer joy in this world, than to hear the nightingale sing”. The husband would capture the nightingale and kill it. Therefore, the fair lady no longer had an excuse to see her love. The two narratives share some similarities in narratives. The two lais tell the story of a love triangle where the wife of one man falls in love with another. However, they are unable to express their love openly out of fear of retaliation from their husband. Therefore, the couple in both stories plan to meet in secrecy. That is where the second theme of private love is explored.

The settings in each narrative plays a role in concealing their love. In the Lay of Honeysuckle, the deep woods served its purpose of creating privacy for Tristan and the Queen, so they may share a warm embrace. In the Lay of Nightingale, the setting took place primarily at night. The dark unknown of night time served the same purpose of private love. In the two lais, the husbands are the antagonist as they attempt to drive a wedge between the two lovers. King Mark banishes Tristan, so the queen will no longer be able to see him. Meanwhile, the knight kills the nightingale, so the fair lady no longer has an excuse to see her lover. This creates conflict in both narratives where the two lovers must fight to be able to see each other.

The two lais are able to distinguish themselves by exploring other themes within the narrative. Primarily, the symbolic meaning in both titles, honeysuckle and nightingale, is what sets the two lais apart. The Honeysuckle symbolizes their undying love as it is stated in the text, “From Isolde’s grave a rose tree grew, and from Tristan’s came a vine that wrapped itself around the tree. Every time the vine was cut, it grew again” (Advameg, 2018). Tristan and Queen Isolde would meet their demise in the end, but the honeysuckle symbolized the fact the two lovers could not be parted even in death. The symbolism in the Nightingale is quite different however. The nightingale became a symbol for the private love shared between the wife and her neighbor. When the husband became successful in his attempt to kill the nightingale, it symbolized their love being doomed to die.

This symbolism can be interpreted in this way because unlike the honeysuckle, the nightingale stayed dead. The honeysuckle had the vines grow back every time they were cut off. That is the different narratives being told in these two lais. While one love story ended with undying love after death, the other had their love doomed to fail. Marie de France was the poet of The Lay of Honeysuckle and The Lay of Nightingale. These two lais share similarities and themes. They tell the narrative of a love triangle where the wife falls in love with another man outside of her relationship. They explore the theme of private love in order to continue seeing each other. However, they are distinguished as one story ends with undying love and the other is doomed to fail.

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Narratives By Marie De France. (2022, Jan 02). Retrieved from

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