The Lais of Marie de France

by

Marie de France

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The seneschal’s wife falls in love with Equitan, whom her husband, the seneschal, works for. Like most noblewomen in the Lais, she is described as being beautiful, intelligent, and delightful company. She is also more cautious than her would-be lover. She argues that it isn’t possible for a king like Equitan to have a truly equal relationship with her, his vassal’s wife. However, she finally accepts Equitan’s pleas, though she continues to feel insecure about the possibility that Equitan will eventually abandon her and marry a princess instead. So, she comes up with a plan to kill off her husband the seneschal in a boiling bathtub, allowing her and Equitan to marry. However, when the seneschal unexpectedly thwarts the plan, he throws his wife into the bath intended for him, killing her along with Equitan.

The Seneschal’s Wife Quotes in The Lais of Marie de France

The The Lais of Marie de France quotes below are all either spoken by The Seneschal’s Wife or refer to The Seneschal’s Wife. 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
).
II. Equitan Quotes

Because you are a powerful king and my husband is your vassal, you would expect, as I see it, to be the lord and master in love as well. Love is not honourable, unless it is based on equality. A poor man, if he is loyal and possesses wisdom and merit, is of greater worth and his love more joyful than that of a prince or king who lacks loyalty. If anyone places his love higher than is appropriate for his own station in life, he must fear all manner of things.

Related Characters: The Seneschal’s Wife (speaker), Equitan, The Seneschal, Marie de France
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:

His evil plan rebounded on him, whereas the seneschal was safe and sound. […] Seizing his wife immediately, [the seneschal] tossed her head first into the bath. Thus they died together, the king first, then the woman with him. Anyone willing to listen to reason could profit from this cautionary tale. Evil can easily rebound on him who seeks another’s misfortune.

Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Seneschal’s Wife Character Timeline in The Lais of Marie de France

The timeline below shows where the character The Seneschal’s Wife appears in The Lais of Marie de France. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
II. Equitan
Love and Suffering Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Class Status Theme Icon
The seneschal’s wife is beautiful but will one day bring misfortune on the kingdom. Hearing of her beauty,... (full context)
Love and Suffering Theme Icon
Virtue, Vice, and Justice Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Class Status Theme Icon
...with grief, staying up all night berating himself for falling in love with his faithful seneschal’s wife . Yet it seems to him that if the seneschal’s wife had no lover, that... (full context)
Love and Suffering Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Class Status Theme Icon
...cheer up their ailing guest. Equitan takes this opportunity to confess his feelings to the seneschal’s wife and explain that he’s dying because of her. The lady replies that she needs time... (full context)
Love and Suffering Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Class Status Theme Icon
The seneschal’s wife thinks that if Equitan “had [his] way” with her, he’d soon abandon her—and even if... (full context)
Love and Suffering Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Class Status Theme Icon
...a rich prince, even if she lacks material riches herself. Equitan offers himself to the seneschal’s wife , telling her to regard him as her vassal and promising to do whatever she... (full context)
Love and Suffering Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Class Status Theme Icon
...out court business, but other courtiers gossip about the king’s unwillingness to marry, and the seneschal’s wife worries that their affair is doomed. One day, while visiting the king, the lady weeps... (full context)
Love and Suffering Theme Icon
Virtue, Vice, and Justice Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Class Status Theme Icon
Comforted by this, the seneschal’s wife says that if Equitan promises not to abandon her and will give her his aid,... (full context)
Love and Suffering Theme Icon
Virtue, Vice, and Justice Theme Icon
...a precaution against illness. The seneschal agrees to join the king for a bath. The seneschal’s wife has two tubs brought in, with boiling water for the seneschal’s bath. Before the seneschal... (full context)