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July 25, 2014

Equitan- The Lais of Marie de France- Summary

Equitan- The Lais of Marie de France- Summary

Equitan was well loved throughout his land. He enjoyed pleasure and bouts of love. He had a seneschal to govern his land; so that Equitan could devote himself to pleasurable activities. It was only, in time of war that Equitan took on a leadership role.

There was a very beautiful and noble lady, whom Equitan had heard a lot about. It was said that she had no equal in the entire kingdom. Even though they had never met, Equitan fell madly in love with her. He wanted to speak to her and tell her of his desire; so he devised a plan to do so. He went hunting in the region of where she lived, at night he sought lodging at the castle were she lived. He had the many opportunities to speak with her while he was there, and he spoke to her about all of his good qualities. The one thing that he overlooked in all of this was the fact that she was the seneschal's wife.

He went to bed that night and couldn't sleep; he kept thinking about her and the desire that he felt for her. He reprimanded himself for loving the seneschal's wife. He thought to himself that every courtly lady should know how it feels to be loved, which was his justification for pursing her. He was willing to share her with her husband. He spent the whole night obsessing about this, even though he did not know how she felt about him.

The next morning, Equitan went off on his hunt, but returned claiming that he felt sick. The seneschal had his wife go and comfort Equitan. Equitan told her of his feelings, and that he was dying from the love that he was feeling for her. He told her that his life was in her hands. She told him that she was unsure about loving him. She was afraid that she was not noble enough for him and he would leave her. She also told him that their love would not be equal; she was afraid that since he was the king, he would want "to be the lord and master in love as well. Love is not honourable, unless it is based on equality" (58). Equitan told her that he would surrender himself completely to her; he would be her vassal. Eventually, after much discussion, the lady gave herself to him. They exchanged rings and vows. Their relationship remained undetected for a long time; whenever they wanted to meet up, Equitan would say that he wanted to be bled in private.

Equitan's courtiers were very angry, because he refused to marry. The senechal's wife heard about this and it grieved her. She was afraid that Equitan would leave her for another woman, but he reassured her that he would not. He told her that he would make her his queen if the seneschal was dead. The lady told him that she would kill her husband, and she came up with a plan. Equitan was to go hunting in their region and take up lodging with them. On the third day of his visit, Equitan and the seneschal would bathe together. The seneschal's tub would be filled with very hot water that would kill him as soon as he got in.

Within three months Equitan returned to his lady's castle and their plan went as devised. Equitan told the seneschal that they would bathe together and the seneschal agreed. While the baths were being readied, the seneschal went out for some relaxation. Equitan and the lady made love while the seneschal was out. When the seneschal came back he found the door closed; with one good blow, the door flew open. He saw the king and the lady together. The king jumped into the bath tub to hide what they had been doing, and was scalded to death. The seneschal tossed his wife in the bath tub with the king, and she died with her beloved.


The Lais of Marie de France. Trans. Glyn S. Burgess. New York: Penguin, 1999.