The Portrayal of Women in The Story of Bisclavret



The Portrayal of Women in The Story of Bisclavret


Something that has always been an interesting topic for me is the overall representation of women throughout 12th-century literature. When deciding what topic to use for my essay, it seemed fitting to choose something about the portrayal of women and women in relationships. A text that stood out to me through this brainstorming process was one of the stories from The Lais of Marie de France, particularly a story called Bisclavret. The text is based on a married couple enduring tension in their relationship. The husband has been disappearing for up to three days at a time, with no communication to his wife about where he is going and why he is leaving so sporadically. One day, his wife questions him about where he keeps running off to and the husband eventually tells her his deepest, darkest secret, that he is a werewolf, and he goes off to transform in the forest. The wife ends up betraying her husband, hiring a knight to steal the husband's clothing when he transforms to a werewolf, as this prevents him from being able to change back as she moves on to be in a relationship with the knight. This portrayal of women in 12th-century medieval literature is extremely rare, as oftentimes, women were not given positions of power as they were not deemed capable. In this story, the wife betrays her husband and takes complete control of their relationship, possibly out of anger that he kept this secret from her or because she was disgusted that he was a werewolf. Marie de France was also one of the first feminist 12th-century writers, so it makes sense why this story was written with such a female power lead.


Samantha Emery