Marie de France

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Her Politics


Marie had strong feelings about society. She used her work to criticize contemporary social and political conditions, with particular concern for the lower classes, women and the stability of the commonwealth. Her fables are critical of society as a whole and the responsibilities of the individual in a social, rather than religious, context. Scholars have recognized the satire of society in Marie's fables. Her fables, one-hundred and three in total, make comments on society, not the individual, and animals stand in for both men and women of all levels of society. Harriet Spiegel states, "One of Marie's contributions may well have been that of compiling the earliest extented collection of fables in the vernacular of western Europe."

Marie was particularily careful to portray women without the prevalent misogyny found in similar works of her time and adapted her tales and morals to critique men and women. The people she most often critiqued were her audience, the men and women of nobility.

In her works, Marie challenges the male hierarchy and gender roles of the 12th century but at the same time accepts the idea that it is men who must be in the position of power; her criticisms are focused upon those who cannot work in a community. The fables are reminders of the social responsibilities of each member of society, whether peasant or king; her social agenda revolves more around the proper exercise of one's position in society than around advocating changes in the hierarchical social order of her day (Harriet Spiegel).

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