A study of some aspects of marriage as presented in selected ostosyllabic French romances of the 12th & 13th centuries
It is often assumed that love in Old french romances derives from Provençal fin'amors, in which love and marriage are incompatible. Yet in at least half the surviving octosyllabic romances written before 1300, love leads to marriage. The present thesis studies these "marital" romances. Part I discusses modern critics' views on the importance of Provençal influence, later sections look at marriage as it affects heroes and heroines of romances. Love and marriage are very closely associated for these protagonists, who normally reject both marriage without love, and love without marriage. However, the idea of marriage for love conflicts with the feudal concept of marriage for profit or political advantage. These problems are generally solved by the combination of both concepts in the wedding of hero and heroine. Since the heroine is generally an heiress, while the hero is of lower rank, and may be poor, marriage to the heroine brings him wealth and status, as well as fulfilment in love. After his wedding, the hero acts as a good feudal lord, arranging rich marriages for his followers. Such heroes embody the aspirations of landless knights of the period, performing military service in the hope of being rewarded by a wife and lands. However, the difference in rank creates problems for both partners; these are studied, as are the problem of the couple's decision on pre-marital chastity, and the position of the heroine forced into an unwelcome match. A separate section describes the developing canon law of marriage at the period. This enables comparisons to be made between the romances and contemporary Church doctrine. Although the romances reflect some aspects of canon law, in many cases they reflect instead the matrimonial customs of the feudal aristocracy, which frequently conflicted with the pattern the Church was currently seeking to impose.