The Lays of Marie de France: Equitan and Fresne

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1. The symptoms of Equitan’s lovesickness somewhat resemble those of Guigemar. However, there are important distinctions between the two situations (and the two men): what are they? Guigemar was in the predicament of lovesickness due to the white hind that rebound his arrow and gave him the wound in the thigh, not because he sought out love. He came upon a lady and her maiden, who embody the traditional motif of healing women. Through their care, he fall in love with the gentle lady, and suffer because he could not be with her. Equitan’s symptoms of lovesickness were brought upon his desire to seek out the wife of his vassal. He knew the wrong of coveting his seneschal’s wife, but he felt no wrong when his logic brought him to believe that he could share the woman. Equitan suffered from lovesickness when he fell in love at first sight of the lady, and “through the lady Love caught him unawares.” 2. What is a seneschal? In the French feudal system, the seneschal is considered a royal officer that represents the king when he is indisposed or away. The seneschal also presides over judicial functions in the court, and must uphold justice. As seen in “Equitan,” the king began his affair with the seneschal’s wife and became incapable of ruling his country well, so “the seneschal presided over the court, hearing the pleas and accusations.” Through context clues, the role of the seneschal was deemed a very important position, since he took care of the king’s “entire territory, governing it, and administering its justice.” Although he was barely mentioned, when he was, it disclosed more about his job and loyalty. 3. Comment upon the lady’s reaction to Equitan’s profession of love. The lady did not replied in the customary way of a married woman. She should have refused his love, because she is loyal to her husband, not that she needed more time to

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