Marie de France – Life & Works

Marie de France was the earliest known French poet who was born in France and lived in England during the late 12th century. She is the creator of verse narratives on romantic and magical themes. Nothing is known about her life. Her name and location can only be found in the manuscripts.

She wrote in Francien with an influence of Anglo-Norman. She is proficient in Latin, English, and Breton.  Marie was the one who educated illiterate people since clerics and educated scholars were mostly men. She was the only woman who achieved such an education. Marie was the author of Lais of Marie de France. She also translated Aesop’s Fables from Middle English to Anglo-Norman French. She also authored Espurgatoire seint Partiz, (Legend of the Purgatory of St. Patrick). She was identified as the author of a saint’s life, and that was The Life of Saint Audrey.

Breton Lais

Breton Lais, also called Lai Breton in Middle English, is composed of two types of forms which are in medieval French and English romance literature. Lais is short and is composed of 600-1000 lines. It is a short, rhymed romance that recounts a love story and includes supernatural elements. Mythology is also transformed during medieval chivalry. It is derived from the French lais of Marie de France in the late 12th century and translated into English in the late 13th century which became very popular.  Some of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales are obtained from Breton Lays.


Fables are short stories that are based on the fables of Aesop, a Greek storyteller. She translated the work for Count William from the English translation made by King Alfred.


Love is usually connected with suffering and adulterous relationship, and this is mostly found in Marie de France’s Lais. Marie’s lovers are normally secluded and unconcerned with anything that has to do with distress. It may be jealousy or envy. Marie focuses on the uniqueness and individuality of her characters and is not worried about their unification in society. The lovers die or abandon the society if it does not appreciate them, and society is penurious.

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