Marie de France, the earliest French woman poet, did not have
a biographer and much of what we know of her today are assumptions scholars have made based on her works. There is no record
of her last name and her first name is known only because of a line from one of her works: "Marie ai num, si sui de France"
(Fables Epilog 4) - "My name is Marie, and I am from (of) France."
Scholarly dating of Marie’s work is based mainly on historical
and textual and references. Her Laisare estimated anywhere between 1160 and 1199; the Fables between 1160 and 1190;
and the Espurgatoire after 1189 and as late as 1208-15. The cornerstone assumption is that Marie was a French native writing
in England, and that she was a resident of, and wrote for, the court of Henry II.
Identifying Marie's language is often debated by scholars and
there is evidence that she knew Breton, Old English, Middle English, Latin, and Anglo-Norman and a number of other Old French
dialects. It is interesting to note, some of the oldest and most significant works in the French vernacular survived in their
earliest form in Anglo-Norman manuscripts as literary works were valued by this culture.
Marie's audience was probably aristocratic, judging from her
level of education and sophistication, as well as an oft-quoted reference to her by a fellow poet, Denis Piramus, who recounts
her popularity among "counts, barons, and knights"