Jan 19: Guigemar

The lovers in Guigemar certainly make choices and take action of one sort or another in the course of the story, but they also depend upon other agents to produce their love story. Without the ship, the stag, the shirt, the belt, their story would necessarily be quite different. Choose one of these nonhuman figures and investigate, then describe, its influence on the course of love that is clearly at the center of the narrative.

8 thoughts on “Jan 19: Guigemar

  1. The boat struck me as the most influential object in the story because of it’s complete anonymity and strangeness. Upon first seeing the boat, it is stated that “he’d never, heard from any talk, this was a place where ships could dock” (9) this immediately makes the boat strange and draws attention to it. While the Stag is the ‘official’ magical creature of this story, it is still doing it’s expected part and in a forest where it is supposed to be. The boat to me has the most ‘agency’ and influence of any of the objects because of it’s strange placement and it’s complete independence from anything human or natural. This independence allows the Boat to be the connecting factor and the catalyst of the love between Guigemar and the dame. Boats are meant to cross great distances, and here it crosses a distance both figurative and literal in bringing the two lovers together.

  2. The encounter that Guigemar has with the white stag is notable because it is the driving force of the events that occur in the story of “Guigemar.” If Guigemar didn’t shoot the white stag with an arrow he wouldn’t of been wounded. He wouldn’t of came across the mystical ship. Most importantly, he wouldn’t have had a reason for the dame to help him, which is the kindling for their flames of passion. The mystical ship is an extension of the white stag’s mystical powers; white animals are associated with the supernatural. After Guigemar has shot the white stag it prophesizes Guigemar’s destiny (106-122).

  3. I found the concept of the belt particularly interesting, as I feel there are several symbolic layers underneath perhaps the most obvious – it acts as a way to link the two of them, to hold them together, the way a belt often does. However, aside from that, I found it interesting that the belt is a way for Guigemar to both protect her – as in the instance of Meriadu’s attempted assualt – “The belt he tried to undo/but the prize was not for Meriadu” — but also for him to ensure her purity/fidelity, something which was a very important part of romantic love in that time period (740).

  4. The belt struck me as one of the most prominent objects in the story. It symbolized constancy of love between the pair and also protected the lady from others who sought to possess her. Belts like the one in the story are often seen as restrictive and place the blame of sexual immorality at the woman’s door. Women are the ones that need to be contained, and a man (either father or lover) would use the belt to protect the woman’s virginity and effectively stop sexual acts that could lead to pregnancy. Interestingly, this belt is utilized in the story as sort of a pact between the lovers, much like a wedding ring symbolizes a constancy of love and faithfulness. The belt also protects the lady from the man who wishes to possess her, as it can only be untied by the one she loves.

  5. Marie de France’s use of a white stag as a supernatural symbol is not uncommon for the literary era. However, by placing the stag in an archetypal role of “quest-giver”, de France is making a larger statement about nature’s ability to guide and influence lives in monumental ways. Without the hind’s curse in lines 106-122, there would be no love story at all; it can be inferred that Guigemar would carry on as he had, never looking for love or companionship. The role of the hind, of nature itself, has an impact that completely alters the lives of Guigemar, the dame, and countless others who are affected by their love. The white hind is the essential spark that alights the love story and launches the tale of Guigemar.

  6. The object that stood out the most to me was the belt that the dame wore when she and Guigemar were parted. Although it could be referred to as a chastity belt of some sort, the importance placed on the belt by the two lovers made it a symbol of their love and devotion to each other. The belt protected the dame from the advances of “every chevalier who dwelt in that land” (741-742), and the similar stories of the belt and Guigemar’s shirt are what finally brought Guigemar and the dame back together. If Meriadu had not heard of Guigemar’s shirt, he never would have summoned Guigemar, and Guigemar and the dame might never have found each other.

  7. The object I found most interesting was that of the chastity belt like structure the lady was forced to wear. Guigemar is sort of claiming a sort of ownership over her sexuality as Marie writes that, “He who undid the belt. . . him she must love,” (19). He is preventing being “cuckolded” in this way. Yet, the lady was originally the wife of a lord who locked her away for fear of being cuckolded. It is validating or perpetuating the phobia of her infidelity by allowing the heroic character to get away with claiming dominance, even if the lady’s original husband fall short.

  8. I think that Guigemar’s shirt plays a really interesting role in the lovers’ story, one that has great influence on the story’s trajectory. When it first appears, the knot in the shirt acts as a kind of insurance, a “surety,” to reassure the Lady that—regardless of where Guigemar might go, he will remain true (18). And as the story goes on and Guigemar returns home, the shirt does exactly this: it ensures that Guigemar takes no other lover. Further, when the Lady finds herself in Meriadu’s care, the shirt takes on a different role. Meriadu’s desperation for the Lady manifests in a plot to reveal the two lovers, and draw Guigemar into war. Thus, the shirt (in conjunction with belt) and the Lady’s ability to undo the knot function to propel the plot forward. It proves to Meriadu that Guigemar is indeed the Lady’s love; it proves to Guigemar that the Lady is, despite the improbablilty, actually his Lady; it proves to the Lady that Guigemar has remained true. Thus, in this narrative the shirt both drives the plot forward and grounds it in truth, despite circumstances that seem unbelievable—a physical element that grounds sentiment in the natural world.

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