Ideal Perfect Medieval Woman
The word perfection, can best be defined as the condition, state, or quality of being free or free as possible from all flaws or defects. In Medieval times, women always fought to obtain the title as the perfect woman. The significance of a perfect woman is seen throughout Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, through the Green Knights wife, and in many of Marie De France’s Lais, such as Lanval, Eliduc, and Equitan.
But in the end, the same question remains: What truly defines, the ideal perfect woman? “By reason of the heat her raiment was unfastened for a little, and her throat and the rondure of her bosom showed whiter and more untouched than Hawthorne in May” (Lanval, description of the Maiden) In the quotation above, Marie De France is describing the maiden, who was seen as perfect to all of the men, in the story Lanval. In medieval history, Woman played a special role in society. They had to possess certain qualities in order to be deemed the perfect woman. Qualities such as knowing their place in society, respecting their husband and other men around her with authority,and she must posses such great beauty that even Aphrodite herself would cry out in jealousy. Based on these qualities of the perfect ideal medieval woman, there is only one question left: Do any of the women present in the stories listed above fit any of these qualities, and if so, could they be defined as the perfect ideal medieval woman? In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Gawain encounters a woman, who happens to be the Lord of the castles wife. “She was the fairest in feature, in flesh and complexion, and in compass and colour and ways, of all others, and fairer than Guinevere, as the knight thought.
” (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Part II, description of the Lord’s wife) In the quotation above, the author is describing the appearance of the Lord’s wife, from Sir Gawain’s point of view. Based on the description, the Lord’s wife appears to fit the quality of beauty that the ideal perfect woman was supposed to posses. But does she possess any of the other qualities? The main plot of the story, did not necessarily encompass around the Lord’s wife, butshe did play a major role in Sir Gawain’s journey. In part II, stanza 45,Gawain and the Lord of the castle make an agreement. ” ‘And further,’ quoth the Lord, ‘a bargain we’ll make: whatsoever I win in the wood is worthily yours; and whatever here you achieve, exchange me for it.” (Part II, The bargain) The quotation above displays the agreement made between Gawain and the Lord.
While the Lord was off hunting, he left Gawain alone with his wife. In three days time, she made three advances, including sexual, towards Gawain, but he declined all three times. In the end, he ended up accepting the green girdle she gave him. Throughout these advances, the Lord’s wife displayed all three qualities seen in the ideal perfect medieval woman. But does that mean she fits the title? In many of Marie De France’s lais, women played a prominent role. In the Lais of Lanval, Lanval is faced with two different women.
One of the women being Guinevere, King Arthur’s wife, and the other being the maiden he met in the meadow. “By reason of the heat her raiment was unfastened for a little, and her throat and the rondure of her bosom showed whiter and more untouched than Hawthorne in May” (Lanval, description of the Maiden) This quote, also seen above in an earlier paragraph, perfectly defines the beauty that the maiden Lanval encounters, possessed. When Lanval saw her, he instantly fell in love and betrothed his entire life to her. All she asked from him was that he keep their relationship a secret. After their meeting, Lanval returns to Arthur’s kingdom, where Guinevere was there, waiting for him, begging him to love her, and make sexual contact with her. Lanval, respecting his Lord,and his lover, declines, and sends Guinevere on a wrath filled with fury from the fiery depths of hell.
” ‘Lady, ‘ said he. I am not that guild of which you speak. Neither am I despiser of woman, since I love and am loved, of one who would bear the prize from all the ladies in the land. Dame, know now and be persuaded, that she, whom I serve, is so rich in state, that the very meanest of her maidens, excels you, Lady Queen, as much in clerkly skill and goodness, as in sweetness of body and face, and in every virtue.” (Lanval, Maidens secret revealed) In the quotation above, Lanval was fighting with the queen, telling her, the beauty she possesses is far more inferior to his lover. These words were almost the very death of Lanval, if his maiden would not have returned, because the queen set out to have him killed, by telling Arthur that Lanval had disrespected her andthat Lanval insisted she should sleep with him, which he never said.
At the end of the Lais, Guinevere and Lanval’s maiden were put up against each other to see who had the right to be deemed the perfect woman. By every man’s vote in the court, Lanval’s maiden by far exceeded the qualities of the ideal perfect woman, better than Guinevere. In the story of Eliduc, which is another one of Marie De France’s Lais, Eliduc is faced with the issue of choosing between two women. One of the women being his wife, and the other being the daughter of the king he worked for. ” He took ten knights with him, and his wife said goodbye to him; She was deeply grieved at being parted from her husband, but he promised her that he would be faithful to her.
Then he left her.” In the quotation above, Marie De France is describing Eliduc’s departure. The reason for Eliduc’s departure was because no one in his country respected him nor showed honor for the things that he has done for their kingdom. He rides off into distance searching for another place to live.When he finds another kingdom to make his home, he made his peace and proved his worthiness to the king.
Eventually, the kings daughter and Eliduc gets a chance to meet, and fall instantly in love. “She kept looking at him, and his face, his body and his whole appearance; She said to herself that there was no flaw in him, and she esteemed greatly in her heart. Love sent a message to her inciting her to love him; love made her grow pale and sigh, but she was unwilling to speak to him about it, for fear he might think badly of her. He remained there a long while, then took his leave and departed.” In the quotation above, Marie De France is describing the love building up for Eliduc within the kings daughter Guilliadun. Throughout the story, Eliduc is conflicted in his feelings for his wife and the kings daughter.
He convinces her to run away with him and elope. During the journey, Guilliadun dies, and Eliduc is deeply saddened. He returns home to his wife, while he keeps his mistress’s lifeless corpse in the old home of a hermit that he once knew. Everyday, at a certain time, Eliduc would leave his home, to visit the love of his life. His wife, growing suspicious, has one of her servants follow Eliduc to see what has him in disarray and deeply saddened.
” The servant obeyed her command. He set off into the forest and followed behind him, so that his master did not notice him. He watched carefully and saw how he went into the chapel. He heard the noise of his lamenting. Before Eliduc came out, he returned to his mistress. He told her everything he had heard, the noise of grief and the cries of his Lord within the hermitage.
Her heart was entirely changed by this.” (Eliduc, Eliduc’s secret discovered) In the quote above, Eliduc’s wife discovers his secret and has a change of heart. The next day, the wife and the servant set out and find out the rest of Eliduc’s secret. ” ‘Do you see this woman?’ She asked him, ‘ This jewel of beauty? This is my husband’s beloved, for whom he is mourningso deeply.” In the quote above, Eliduc’s wife sees her husband’s lover for the first time. She feels sorry for her husband and finds a way to revive her back to life again.
In the end, she allows Eliduc to marry his mistress if he promised to buy her land so that she can begin a nunnery.Eliduc ‘s wife and his mistress both posses the qualities of the ideal perfect woman, but in the end, Guilliadun wins the title. In Marie De France’s Lais entitled Equitan, Equitan is encountered with a beautiful woman, who was the wife of his seneschal. “The seneschal had taken a bride Who later brought evil to the countryside. She was terribly beautiful,Well-bred and respectable, With a nice body, a good figure.
She was a masterwork of Nature: Grey eyes in a lovely face, Lovely mouth, nose in the right place.” (Equitan, Description of the Seneschal’s wife) In the quotation above, Marie De France is describing the seneschal’s wife from the point of view of Equitan. When he first lays his eyes on the beauty of the exotic mistress, he instantaneously falls in love with her. The two begin to have an affair, and their forbidden love went on for a while. “Where I live, in that land.
In the castle of my husband Stay awhile; be bled there; say You’ll have a bath on the third day. My lord will have blood drawn, too, And take his bath along with you; Don’t let him off–tell him that he Must do it, keep you company!” (Eliduc, plan to slaughter the Seneschal) In the quotation above, Eliduc and his mistress are devising a plan to kill the seneschal so that they can be together forever and continue their sick, twisted love affair. On the day of the supposed murder of the seneschal,Eliduc’s mistress had both baths prepared for the seneschal and her forbidden lover.While the Seneschal steps away for a little while, Eliduc and the mistress continue having sexual relations in the seneschal’s bed, while a young girl stood watch. Minutes later, the seneschal bursted through the door, catching Eliduc and his wife in the act of adultery. In embarrassment, Eliduc hops into the boiling hot water meant for the seneschal and cooks to death.
The seneschal comes to his senses and realizes what Eliduc and his wife plotted to do to him. In anger and in fury, he tosses his wife, head first into the same tub where her sick lover met his untimely death. In the end, there was only one woman present as the main focus of the plot. The only quality of the medieval ideal perfect woman, that she possessed was beauty. But she can never truly earn the title as the ideal perfect woman.
There are many women throughout the medieval time period who fought to obtain the title of being the ideal perfect woman. Like some of the women listed above, the ideal perfect medieval woman would have to possess qualities such as knowing her place in society, respecting her husband and other men of authority, and possessing such great beauty that even the blind would be able to see her perfection. If she does not truly possess all of these qualities, then she can never, truly be entitled as the ideal perfect medieval woman.