The High Middle Ages

In the High Middle Ages, the question of romantic (and courtly) love and the role of women was central to the “refinement of manners” in the West.

Imagine and create a dialogue between Marie (a fictional figure very much like Marie de France) and Francesca da Rimini in Inferno, canto 5. The general topic of their dialogue is love. Special topics could be: Should love be a rule-governed activity? Do the lovers in Marie’s lai “Yonec” follow the proper behavior of lovers? How should society deal with the problems caused by love, especially to marriage? Is the fate of Francesca and her lover proper? Invent your own topics as the dialogue progresses in order to discuss the tale from their point of view. Consider the position of various characters in the lais as well as female characters in Dante.

All examples must come from the two lais by Marie de France and Dante’s Inferno or other appropriate ancient or medieval literature (i.e., Aeneid). Dante may have read Marie, but not the reverse.

The dialogue must be based on reasoning (logos) with plenty of principles (maxims) laid down, and examples given. It should be a polite discussion, suitable to ladies in a civilized environment. Good conversation is based on the pattern: “Yes, but…” Or, I agree with you up to a point, but I think you have overlooked this…” Without using these phrases, keep a good conversation going, plucking ideas from the writings of the conversationalists. Strike a balance between everyday speech and formal conversation.

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