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].

Asynchronous Digital Activities Meet a Medieval Source Videos

Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich, by Jennifer N. Brown

Jennifer N. Brown, English and World Literatures, Marymount Manhattan College

Primary Sources

The TEAMS text of The Book of Margery Kempe, edited by Lynn Staley. This edition, like all of the TEAMS editions, is extremely student friendly. It contains a glossary, a bibliography, and footnotes that explain the Middle English making it easy for a student to navigate as they learn the language.

The TEAMS text of The Shewings of Julian of Norwich, edited by Georgia Ronan Crampton. As with the Kempe edition, it is a student friendly edition of the text.

Other useful tools for teaching and research

For images and to teach some book history, the British Library has images online of Additional MS 33790, the “short text” of the Julian of Norwich’s Revelations; Stowe MS 42, the “long text” of Julian’s work; and Additional MS 61823, which has The Book of Margery Kempe.

A facing page facsimile of Margery Kempe’s book and its transcription are available here through the Kempe Project. This is great if you are teaching some paleography.

You can get a sense of medieval Norwich here through The Medieval Churches of Norwich Project, including the location of Julian’s church. The website has lots of useful links to images and maps.

The Middle English Dictionary, to not only look up Middle English words, but also see where else they appear in Middle English texts through the Compendium

The Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible, through which you can search a word in English or Latin, as well as having facing page translations of the two languages.

Discussion Questions

Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe are two women writing at the same time and more or less the same place (indeed, we know they met one another from an episode recounted in The Book of Margery Kempe). However, their styles and content are extremely different. How does Julian’s position as an anchoress and Margery’s as a wife, traveler, and layperson shape what they say and how they say it? What differences do you detect in the fact Julian wrote her text and Margery dictated hers?

In what ways do each of these texts challenge your views of what women did and said in medieval England? Are there ways in which the texts support what you already thought about medieval women?

Creative exercise

We know so little about the encounter between Julian and Margery. How do you imagine it went? Can you construct a dialogue using their respective texts as a basis?

Further Reading

To Cite this Page

Brown, Jennifer N. “Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich,” Middle Ages for Educators, April 6, 2020. Accessed [date].