Course Materials Meet a Medieval Source Videos

The “Lais” of Marie de France, by Kathy Krause

Kathy Krause, University of Missouri Kansas City

Editions and Translations


Scholarly edition and translation into modern French (most recent of several available):

Nathalie Koble, Mireille Séguy ed & trans., Lais bretons (XIIe-XIIIe siècles): Marie de France et ses contemporains (Paris: Éditions Honoré Champion, 2018).

There are two excellent English translations (not freely available on-line, but with many inexpensive used copies available via on-line booksellers):

  • Gly Burgess and Keith Busby, trans. The Lais of Marie De France With Two Further Lais in the Original Old French (New York: Penguin Books, 2011) (ebook and paperback).
  • Robert W. Hanning and Joan M. Ferrante, trans., The Lais of Marie de France, (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1995) (paperback).

Digitized manuscripts of the Lais:

The only manuscript with the prologue and all twelve of the (known) lais:

There are four other manuscripts with one or more lais (two with Marie’s collection of fables, known as the Ysopet (i.e. Aesop)):

Discussion Questions for specific lais:


1. One way to understand the construction of the lai is to examine the situation of the protagonist, Lanval.  What is Lanval’s problem at the beginning of the lai ?  in the middle ?  at the end?

2. What does the lai tell us about Lanval (e.g. descriptions by the narrator or by other characters)? How does the text show Lanval behaving?  Does he behave like his description?  (Be able to point to elements in the text to defend your answer.)

3. Analyze the scene where Lanval meets the fée (fairy).  Where does it occur?  How is the fée described?  How does Lanval react?  Etc.

4. How is the queen described/presented?  (What is she doing at the beginning of the episode?  How does she react when she sees him?  How does she interact with Lanval?)

5. What are the “stages” of Lanval’s trial?  What exactly is he accused of doing?  Do you know any (famous) similar stories?


A. Background:

1. How were marriages decided in the Middle Ages (for the wealthy)? Who chose the husband/wife? with what criteria ? What kinds of results might you expect (for either spouse) under such a system?

B. You and the characters

1. How do you react to each of the characters? Is your reaction positive, negative, ambivalent? 

2. For each character, make a list of the qualities and actions that explain your reaction.

3. For each character, explain how the narrator characterizes them (what expressions are used in the text). For whom does the narrator have sympathy? In other words, who does the narrator portray positively? negatively?  Try to distinguish between a reaction based on your moral system, your ideas about what is right or correct, and how the story actually presents each of the characters.

C. Medieval literature often uses symbols to suggest feelings and ideas (modern literature does too, of course). What symbolic value does each of the objects take on in the lai?

  • 1. the wall
  • 2. springtime
  • 3. the nightingale’s song
  • 4. the bloodstain
  • 5. the “tiny vessal” (Shoaf) or “coffret” (Mason)

Power Point of this talk

Downloadable PDF

To Cite this Page

Krause, Kathy. “The Lais of Marie de France,” Middle Ages for Educators, April 10, 2020. Accessed[date].

Meet a Medieval Source Videos

Digital Chronique Anonyme Universelle, by Lisa Fagin Davis

Access the resource here:

Questions for Discussion

  • What are the implications of this ostensible “world” chronicle, only actually recording history in Northwest Europe?
  • What roles do women play in this text?
  • Why is this formatted as a scroll rather than a codex?
  • How might this Chronique have been used by its fifteenth-century readers?

Further Reading

Davis, Lisa Fagin. La Chronique Anonyme Universelle : Reading and Writing History in Fifteenth-century France. Studies in Medieval and Early Renaissance Art History ; 61. London: Harvey Miller Publishers, 2014.

To Cite this Page

Davis, Lisa Fagin. “Digital Chronique Anonyme Universelle,” Middle Ages for Educators, April 4, 2020. Accessed [date].

For feedback, please tweet to @lisafdavis and @digitalmappa