The Lais of Marie de France

by

Marie de France

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The Lady of Caerwent Character Analysis

The lady of Caerwent is married to the wealthy lord of Caerwent. She’s much younger than him and very beautiful, so he keeps her locked up in a tower. After seven years of confinement, she loses her beauty and despairingly wishes for a knight to discover and rescue her. Immediately, Muldumarec appears in her window. She agrees to have an affair with him, as long as he proves that he’s a devout Christian, which Muldumarec does by taking on her appearance and receiving the Eucharist. Muldumarec also cautions the lady to observe moderation so that their affair isn’t found out. However, she’s an affectionate woman, and she can’t help it when her appearance transforms from happiness—arousing the lord’s suspicion further and prompting him to spy on her. After Muldumarec is fatally injured from a trap the lord sets, she learns she’s pregnant with Yonec, who will someday avenge both his parents. Before he dies, Muldumarec gives her a ring that will make her husband forget everything that’s happened, and a sword for Yonec after he’s knighted someday. After Yonec grows up and learns the story of his paternity and Muldumarec’s death, his mother hands over the sword and immediately dies, her duty fulfilled.

The Lady of Caerwent Quotes in The Lais of Marie de France

The The Lais of Marie de France quotes below are all either spoken by The Lady of Caerwent or refer to The Lady of Caerwent. 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.
VII. Yonec Quotes

The lady, now assured, uncovered her head and spoke. She answered the knight, saying that she would make him her lover, provided he believed in God, which would make their love possible. […] ‘Lady,’ he said, ‘you are right. I would not on any account want guilt, distrust or suspicion to attach to me. I do believe in the Creator who set us free from the sorrow in which our ancestor Adam put us by biting the bitter apple. He is, will be and always has been life and light to sinners.’

Related Symbols: Animals
Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:

“Fair son, you have heard how God has brought us here! It is your father who lies here, whom this old man unjustly killed. Now I commend and hand over to you his sword, for I have kept it long enough.” For all to hear, she revealed to him that this was his father and he his son, how he used to come to her and how her husband had betrayed him. She told him the truth, fell into a faint on the tomb, and, while unconscious, died. She never spoke again, but when her son saw she was dead, he struck off his stepfather’s head, and thus with his father’s sword avenged his mother’s grief.

Related Characters: The Lady of Caerwent (speaker), Muldumarec , The Lord of Caerwent, Yonec
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Lady of Caerwent Character Timeline in The Lais of Marie de France

The timeline below shows where the character The Lady of Caerwent appears in The Lais of Marie de France. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
VII. Yonec
Gender Roles and Class Status Theme Icon
...intends to tell the story of Yonec and how his father, Muldumarec, met his mother, the lady of Caerwent . In Britain, there was once a rich lord of Caerwent who, when he was... (full context)
Love and Suffering Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Class Status Theme Icon
Magic and Storytelling Theme Icon
After seven years trapped in the tower, the lady of Caerwent is so depressed that she has lost her beauty. One spring day, the lord of... (full context)
Just then, the lady of Caerwent notices the shadow of a large bird through the window, and then the bird flies... (full context)
Love and Suffering Theme Icon
Virtue, Vice, and Justice Theme Icon
Magic and Storytelling Theme Icon
The lady of Caerwent agrees that Muldumarec can be her lover—as long as he believes in God. The knight... (full context)
Love and Suffering Theme Icon
Virtue, Vice, and Justice Theme Icon
After the chaplain and the old woman have left, the lady of Caerwent and Muldumarec lie next to each other, flirting and sharing secrets. When the knight has... (full context)
Love and Suffering Theme Icon
Virtue, Vice, and Justice Theme Icon
Magic and Storytelling Theme Icon
Three days later, the old woman hides behind a curtain while the lady of Caerwent thinks she’s alone in her room. When Muldumarec comes, the old woman is alarmed, since... (full context)
Finally, the knight has to go, because he’s bleeding copiously. The lady of Caerwent jumps out a window, miraculously surviving the 20-foot drop, and follows Muldumarec’s trail of blood... (full context)
Love and Suffering Theme Icon
Virtue, Vice, and Justice Theme Icon
...cuts off his stepfather’s head to avenge both his parents. The people of Caerleon bury the lady of Caerwent with honor and make Yonec their lord. (full context)