The Lais of Marie de France

by

Marie de France

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The Indecisive Lady Character Analysis

In “Chaitivel,” the indecisive lady lives in the city of Nantes in Brittany. She is so beautiful and charming that she’s irresistible to knights. In fact, four knights woo her, and instead of settling on just one lover, the lady courts all four of them. Accordingly, all four knights fight and perform their hardest in hopes of outdoing rivals. But at a tournament at Nantes, all four knights encounter fierce fighting, and only one of them survives. She takes in the wounded knight to convalesce in her home. After this catastrophe, the lady declares she can never be happy again. She later composes a lay to commemorate the four fallen knights, titling it “The Unhappy One” at the wounded knight’s suggestion.

The Indecisive Lady Quotes in The Lais of Marie de France

The The Lais of Marie de France quotes below are all either spoken by The Indecisive Lady or refer to The Indecisive Lady . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Love and Suffering Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of The Lais of Marie de France published in 1986.
X. Chaitivel Quotes

It would be less dangerous for a man to court every lady in an entire land than for a lady to remove a single besotted lover from her skirts, for he will immediately attempt to strike back. […] Yet, even if a lady has no wish to listen to their pleas, she should not speak insultingly to her suitors: rather should she honour and cherish them, serve them appropriately and be grateful to them.

Related Characters: Marie de France (speaker), The Indecisive Lady
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:

“My lady, compose the new lay, but call it The Unhappy One. I shall explain why it should have this title. The others have long since ended their days and used up their span of life. What great anguish they suffered on account of the love they bore for you! But I who have escaped alive, bewildered and forlorn, constantly see the woman I love more than anything on earth, coming and going; she speaks to me morning and evening, yet I cannot experience the joy of a kiss or an embrace or of any pleasure other than conversation. You cause me to suffer a hundred such ills and death would be preferable for me.”

Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Indecisive Lady Character Timeline in The Lais of Marie de France

The timeline below shows where the character The Indecisive Lady appears in The Lais of Marie de France. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
X. Chaitivel
Love and Suffering Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Class Status Theme Icon
...whose names Marie doesn’t know—handsome, brave, and courtly knights. All four of these men love the indecisive lady and try to outdo one another in wooing her. The lady considers these suitors carefully,... (full context)
Love and Suffering Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Class Status Theme Icon
...The fighting is so violent that all four men are unhorsed. Undaunted, they keep fighting. The indecisive lady watches all this from her tower and, impressed with them all, she doesn’t know who... (full context)
Love and Suffering Theme Icon
Virtue, Vice, and Justice Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Class Status Theme Icon
...on their shields and carried into the city to the lady who loves them. When the indecisive lady sees what’s happened, she swoons from grief. When she revives, she mourns the fallen men,... (full context)
Love and Suffering Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Class Status Theme Icon
One summer day, the indecisive lady is talking with the wounded knight, whom she visits often while he’s convalescing in her... (full context)