Marie de France’s Lai “Bisclavret”
“Bisclavret” is unique among Marie’s lays because it is the only one of the twelve lays that concerns itself with a husband and wife falling out of love. This lay takes place during the Middle Ages in Brittany. One day after a wife notices her husband missing three days per week-multiple times, she builds up the courage to ask him the reason for that. The husband very unsure, confesses to her that he turns into a werewolf three days a week and the only thing that turns him back into a human are his clothes; which are hidden in a safe place in the forest.
The wife begs to know where the clothes are hidden and for the love that they share as a couple, the husband tells her. After the husband confesses his secret, his wife begins to grow fear. She decides to take his clothes away and then decides to run away with a long lost lover; leaving her husband transformed into a werewolf- now named Bisclavret. thought the lai Marie describes the institution of Feudalism in Brittany that plays part between Bisclavret and the King’s relationship which takes the story into deeper controversy.
One day while hunting the King’s dogs found Bisclavret in the forest. Bisclavret sees the king and begins to “Plea for Mercy” (147) showing the King his good intentions. The King takes him in and considers him as “a creature of great wonder and held him very dear” (168-169). Until one day Bisclavret’s wife decides to pay a visit to the King after hearing about the werewolf the he had found. The werewolf recognized her and with anger attacked her and tears her nose off her face. The King and his knights question Bisclavret’s behavior because he had never behave that way.
The King concludes that the woman did something to make Bisclavret mad and questions her women by torturing her until she confessed everything. After the King heard the lack of faithfulness and loyalty to her long lost husband she gets punished. The purpose of the present lai is to demonstrate how Marie, in progressive and incremental ways, builds the wife into a contemptible traitor, a loathsome violator of the institution of marriage who is deserving of her punishment, after she fail to be trustworthy to her husband and betraying him with his secret.
At the beginning of the lai, Bisclavret and his wife seemed madly in love with each other. The wife was very worried about the reason why he would leave home three days out of the week without any warning. Nobody could ever find him. She was afraid to ask him the reason why and afraid of the answer because she thought that she was loosing his love. For a moment she thought that he had a “lover” on the side. The wife begged and pleaded him to explain the reason why he wouldn’t return for days. He assure her that he loved her but couldn’t possibly tell her the reason why he would leave. The wife would not settle with that answer and insisted.
After Bisclavret told her his secret she change her attitude towards him. She was afraid of him and she couldn’t even bare to sleep by him. Even though he had assure her that his love was strong for her she decided to be selfish and not only leave him for another knight but also left him transformed as a werewolf. That kind of judgement is wreck-less. if she had the heart to leave the person she loved helplessly broken she deserved punished without pity. The lack of faithfulness to her husband makes her earn her punishment. This woman betrays her husband by leaving him transformed as a werewolf.
She shows selfishness and lack of commitment to her husband who loved her dearly enough to tell her his big secret. A woman that cheats is cursed in a town, even eligible to be hung and killed, but what his woman did was the only the same thing but undercover. This shows the type of her character she is. She’s being portrayed as a selfish human being in this lai. Others might have said that it wasn’t fair for her to live with a person like that, but in the rereading Marie describes bisclavret as a caring lovable husband who cared about his wife but had a curse that he couldn’t control.
She had no right to leave him cursed and nevertheless for another man and for that she deserved her punishment. Bisclavret was left heartbroken and hopeless. He had every right to bite his wife’s nose off. After all she lied, betrayed and was unfaithful to him. Couples are suppose to stay together thru thick and thin and trust each other, but her selfishness took over her and she made a wrong decision. This type of behavior is looked down upon women. If she should have never betrayed he husband she would have never been punished. I think Bisclavret’s wife deserved the punishment she got.