Jan 26: Eliduc

This lai addresses an aspect of love that we have not seen as strongly represented in Marie’s other works- the religious themes of the work play a large role in the plot. The ending in particular was an interesting resolution to the main conflict regarding romantic love. What does this say about how Marie viewed religious love versus romantic love? What does it say about the role of women in each?

8 thoughts on “Jan 26: Eliduc

  1. As a modern reader, I was incredibly surprised by the ending. Though I’m not shocked it ended this way– religiousness and piety was a theme in this story– I could not have predicted that the wife would vow to become a nun. At first, it did not seem like a logical conclusion to the problem to me.

    On closer inspection, I realize that in Yonec and Eliduc bringing religion and love together is a huge theme in both stories. With Yonec, the wife tests the hawk-lover-knight-king by enacting a whole scheme to get him the religious rights to prove his devout nature. Eliduc knows he can’t marry Guilliadun because taking another wife would be seen as blasphemy in the Christian religion. His sailors even curse him for the storm that hits the ship, citing Eliduc’s external affair as God damning them.

    Religion is an incredibly important part of the lais that Maire de France write. So, in context, it makes sense that the first wife Guildeluec would become a nun/ She saved Guilliadun with the weasel’s mysterious herb, thus proving herself a pious woman worthy of living in God’s house. As a virtuous woman, she would sacrifice her own mortal love for Eliduc’s and Guilliadun’s happiness. Thus, the best thing she could do in her situation would be to turn to God as her “new husband”, pledging herself to Christianity in every aspect. She was more “worthy” of God than the other two.

  2. The integration of religion in this story was surprising because it revolves around this adulterous relationship. Eliduc himself admits that Christianity forbids their relationship (602-603), and yet he knowingly continues. Despite the religious element, there is no damnation for the lovers. Their voyage across the sea is dangerous, but ultimately the only person that dies does so because he insults Guiliadun (831-864). The ending, in which all three of the protagonists spend their days serving God, tells us that Marie values a love for God over romantic love. The lais tells us that Eliduc and Guiliadun are separated, as he serves in the church and she in the convent (1161-1180). Marie has just laid out this tale in which two people were desperately trying to be together, and in the end even though they can be together they choose instead to serve God.

  3. Nature has the power to purify humans. Similar to being born-again in the Christian faith but instead of being performed through the aid of water it is perform through the aid of nature. After Guilliandun is awoken by nature she lives or leads a new life, a life with Eliduc. What’s noticeable about this scene is that the lady of Eludic praises the lord when Guilliandun awakes. “’God I have slept for so long!’ she spoke./ She spoke, and when the lady heard,/ most gratefully she thanked Our Lord” (1066-68). This draws in the Christian narrative of rebirth but this being a rebirth through nature.

  4. Marie De France took a different approach in this lai because each character is likable. It can’t be said that Eliduc is an unlikeable character because he does feel guilt for falling for another woman and honestly, no one ends up heartbroken or unhappy. The only thing is that Eliduc is not exactly concerned with the emotions of his first wife but only with the sanctity of marriage itself. He does not want to lose his faith over love which seems to illustrate how important religion was to the people of this time in Brittany. Another example of the importance of religious love is that at this time divorce was not a common or possibly even heard of act but his first wife, rather than killing herself or divorcing him, devotes her life to the church as a nun. She takes the love she had for Eliduc and channels it constructively into her faith, especially after using the Weasel herb to revive her husband’s mistress. This shows that even after being a cuckquean, her religion was still her most important focus and probably outlet. This lai makes women appear dispensable. It seems as though when a man got a better offer, he would just take it and cast the other woman aside as last month’s news.

    I can’t necessarily say there was a theme of religious love in Laustic’s story. But one thing that can be said about some of these medieval women is that they cause more issues for men by having an affair than men causing issues for the women other than fainting or suicide when their husbands have affairs. I think that creates a double standard by which it was less concerning for the women to be cheated on than the men, because men fight each other or lock the woman away but as for Eliduc’s first wife, she just becomes a nun after being the victim of an affair.

  5. I found it really hard to sympathize with Eliduc and Guilliadun during much of the poem. After he meets her, Eliduc, though he seems burdened by the possibility of betraying his wife, nonetheless doesn’t feel this burden (or the love and promise it represents) is a strong enough reason not to go ahead and betray Guildeluëc. I understand the fact that courtly love was seen to be closely tied to infidelity in the Middle Ages, but as far as I’m aware there isn’t usually that element of guilt. In my view, even within the story I think that changes the entire moral dynamic.

    Guildeluëc is the only one who I think acted honorably throughout the whole story, and she, I think, is the only one who shows what could be called “religious love”, in the sense of selfless and unconditional love. When she finds out the truth, though she’s undoubtedly hurt in a way the poem makes very little effort to express, her thought is of Eliduc’s happiness, not her own. It’s not surprising, then, that she becomes a nun. (From what I have read, this is a common avenue for women to take when they left their husbands).

    What’s interesting is that Eliduc and Guilliadun follow in her footsteps. After everything they’ve gone through together, all the perils and hardships endured to be together, they make the choice to take religious vows as well. Is it out of guilt? We never learn why, just that they “turned to God” [1152]. Medieval views of love often make it seem like love is something so powerful it cannot be resisted, that it can be fatal in its intensity if not requited. Fine. But if this is the case, it’s very strange that both of them choose to act counter to it at the end of the poem.

  6. Marie de France incorporated religion, specifically what seemed to be Christian values, very deeply into her lais. Even though Eliduc is religious and acknowledges that he should not be involved with Guilliandun. He decides to go forth with his pursuit anyways and causes pain to Guilliandun and himself later. I feel like because of this Marie is saying that religious love is safe whereas romantic love causes much pain and suffering that isn’t needed and cannot inflicted upon by God.

  7. I found the ending of Eliduc troubling because the wife was so ready and willing to become a nun after so much tension building. It seemed like the events leading up to the cheating extended for such a long time compared to the resolution scenes. I think Marie switches to the description of Eliduc and his ex-wfie’s piety quickly because she is trying to emphasize the belief that loving God trumps earthly love. Eliduc’s remarriage causes the characters to strive more fervently to please God, and therefore, their actions are justified.

  8. I felt as though the ending was attempting to make up for a love that could be considered immoral. Eliduc essentially takes a mistress in the form of Guilliadun, betraying the love of his first wife. However, I was surprised that Guildeluec’s response to her husband’s adultery was to become a nun and allow him to marry his mistress. The fact that each, “turn to God” in the end is a form of penance, relieving them of the burden of having been in a less-than-religiously-ideal relationship. Marie seems to suggest that a devotion to God is the highest form of love, powerful enough to redeem a love considered inappropriate.

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