Marie de France’s Le Fresne was definitely my favorite reading this week. The story flowed very well and was beautiful to read but I did have several problems with it as a whole.
My first problem was with the punishment of the mother who had foolishly misjudged her neighbor and had to pay for her spiteful slander when she gave birth to her own set of twins. The mother was not a likeable character to me and I wish she had been more appropriately punished. Marie de France really never revealed whether or not the mother grieved over the child she abandoned. She slandered her neighbor, contemplated murdering her child, and then abandoned it, instead, yet she walks off into the sunrise with a happy ending and a forgiving husband. All of this seems a bit too unrealistic to me.
I also battled with the hefty importance that was placed on being born of a noble blood line. I realize that this was an accepted notion of the time period but it is still hard for me to grasp. Fresne was depicted as a beautiful woman with a kind heart but her marriage to Gurun still couldn’t be accepted simply because she couldn’t prove noble birth. I absolutely hated this idea as well as the idea that Fresne was born with “noble” blood that allowed her to conduct herself in the manner in which she did. Noble blood obviously did not help her mother when it came to being cruel to her neighbors.
Another problem I encountered was with the nuns whom we hear very little out of. I wondered why exactly they allowed Fresne to run off with a man she wasn’t married to. Gurun was generous enough to donate them money, but they shouldn’t allow their morals to simply be bought. I thought that maybe they had no say so in what Fresne did but how can that be true when women weren’t allowed to make any decisions without the permission of their father, brother, or the next male of closest kin in their family?
The final problem I will harp on is the character of Fresne’s father. He just seems entirely too good to be true. He allows his wife to slander the wife of his dear friend and then he forgives her for casting his daughter out as an infant. Really? He reminds me of the clueless dad from a sitcom.