Reputation, Reputation, Reputation. Reputation is a huge theme in all the medieval Breton Lais it seems. Lanval’s reputation is slighted when he doesn’t receive a gift from his lord King Arthur. Again his reputation is sullied when Guinevere lies and says he tried to sleep with her. We see the importance of reputation in Eliduc, when he has given his word to his wife that he will be faithful. Reputation is huge in Milun because the girl has gotten pregnant without being married. Almost the entire first part of Milun, a love story, focuses on her reputation and the worry she has if anyone finds out about the baby. The love part of the story takes a backseat. In fact love takes a backseat to reputation more often then I would have guessed. Milun and Eliduc are two lais in which this happens so I wanted to explore the agency of reputation in some of the lais we’ve read.
First off reputation in the romantic court is quite possibly the most important aspect of a knight. Every deed, action, adventure a knight does is done for his reputation. The same can be said of the woman in the court; they can’t have their reputations sullied. The society of the time of these lais stress reputation beyond anything. Reputation travels throughout the land. In Eliduc and Milun the love interests hear of Eliduc and Milun before they have ever laid eyes on them. The reputation of the two knights is what draws the knights and woman to each other. I think I can say that the woman fall in love with the knights’ reputation.
Reputation drives the society. The livelihood of the knights is dependent on reputation. When Eliduc’s reputation is slighted by the lies told to the King, he is kicked out of the King’s service and goes over seas to find a lord. The power of reputation to me is above even the power of love. Reputation has a higher relevance than religion or God in these lais. Reputation, Reputation, Reputation.