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					Dirc Potter,
Philippe de Mézières
and the virtue of marriage
           Exemplary literature within the
           late medieval political network

Masterthesis, August 31st 2009

Cécile de Morrée
Student no. 0301396
RMA Medieval Studies
Utrecht University
Dr. K. Lavéant
Dr. D.E. van der Poel
Prof.dr. P.W.M. Wackers
Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 4

I CONTEXT AND SOURCES -------------------------------------------------------------------------- 6
1 THE DIPLOMAT-POETS ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- 7
    1.1 PHILIPPE DE MÉZIÈRES: BIOGRAPHY AND WORKS ------------------------------------------------- 7
    1.2 DIRC POTTER: BIOGRAPHY AND WORKS ------------------------------------------------------------ 9
2 METHOD ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 12
    2.1 A COMPARISON --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 12
    2.2 THE STRUCTURE OF THIS THESIS -------------------------------------------------------------------- 13
3 SOURCES ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 14
    3.1 PRIMARY SOURCES: THE RELEVANT WORKS ------------------------------------------------------ 14
       3.1.1 Le Livre de la vertu ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- 14
       3.1.2 Der Minnen loep ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 19
    3.2 HISTORICAL CONTEXT: MISSIONS, MEETINGS AND MANUSCRIPTS ------------------------------ 22
       3.2.1 A diplomatic journey -------------------------------------------------------------------------- 22
       3.2.2 Le Livre: the manuscript and its possessors ----------------------------------------------- 24
       3.2.3 A play: L‟Estoire de Griseldis --------------------------------------------------------------- 25
       3.2.4 Griseldis and Melibée -------------------------------------------------------------------------- 27
    3.3 SOME CONCLUDING REMARKS ---------------------------------------------------------------------- 30

II MARRIAGE AND THE IDEAL HUSBAND AND WIFE ------------------------------------ 32
1 THE THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK OF LE LIVRE --------------------------------------- 33
    1.1 GENERAL THEORIES ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 33
       1.1.1 Marriage and matrimonial laws ------------------------------------------------------------- 33
       1.1.2 Complexions, illnesses and cures ------------------------------------------------------------ 35
    1.2 THE IDEAL HUSBAND AND WIFE -------------------------------------------------------------------- 36
       1.2.1 The ideal wife ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 36
       1.2.2 The ideal husband ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- 39
    2.1 GENERAL THEORIES ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 40
       2.1.1 The value of marriage ------------------------------------------------------------------------- 40
    2.2 THE IDEAL HUSBAND AND WIFE -------------------------------------------------------------------- 41
       2.2.1 The ideal wife ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 42
       2.2.2 The ideal husband ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- 43
3 THE EXEMPLA: A COMPARISON -------------------------------------------------------------- 44
    3.1   THE DEFINITION OF AN EXEMPLUM----------------------------------------------------------------- 44
    3.2   SOURCES OF THE EXEMPLA-------------------------------------------------------------------------- 45
    3.3   SOCIAL BACKGROUND ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 46
    3.4   EXEMPLARY WOMEN --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 48
    3.5   THE MORALISING TENOR ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- 50

III EXEMPLARY NARRATIVES ------------------------------------------------------------------- 56
1 EXISTING TRADITIONS --------------------------------------------------------------------------- 56
2 USE AND FUNCTION OF EXEMPLA ----------------------------------------------------------- 60
3 AUTHOR AND AUDIENCE ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 63
  3.1 THE NARRATOR AND THE AUTHOR ---------------------------------------------------------------- 63
  3.2 THE ADDRESSED AUDIENCE ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 65
4 CONCLUSION: A COMPARISON REGARDING THE FORM --------------------------- 67

IV GRISELDIS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 69
1 A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS-------------------------------------------------------------------- 69
  1.1 STORIES ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 69
  1.2 NARRATIVE TECHNIQUES --------------------------------------------------------------------------- 73
  1.3 GRISELDIS AS THE IDEAL WIFE --------------------------------------------------------------------- 75
2: TRACES OF INFLUENCE -------------------------------------------------------------------------- 81

V CONCLUSION ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 83

RESUMÉ EN FRANÇAIS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 88

BIBLIOGRAPHY ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 96
  PRIMARY SOURCES ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 96
  SECONDARY SOURCES ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 96

APPENDICES --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 101
  APPENDIX I: LIST OF MANUSCRIPTS -------------------------------------------------------------------- 101
  APPENDIX IV: GRISELDIS. FULL TEXTS ---------------------------------------------------------------- 106


In the Middle Ages the countries as we know them nowadays, did not exist. The land was there,
as were the people, but there existed no national boundaries. The only borders were linguistic
ones, and even those were shady. Yet people travelled, as nowadays, regionally or through
Europe, for private or professional motives. They met different cultures, habits, food, music,
literature. And they took with them what they could use or liked most, sometimes crossing the
linguistic borders.
       Someone who likewise took part in medieval cultural exchange, was Dirc Potter
(ca.1385-1428). Being a diplomat, author and moralist at the same time, he shows a great interest
in languages, literature, and ethics. Potter has known an exceptional career, making a huge
progress in short time, and his literary works present him as a critical and self-conscious person,
not afraid to state his opinions, sometimes sharp, yet personal and almost intimate when
required. His works show several clear influences of foreign literature, some of which have
already been subject to research. Taking into account that Potter has made diplomatic journeys
across Europe more than once, it seems relevant to pose the question if it were not on these
occasions that he came across the foreign literature that inspired him.
       From this point of view I will compare Potter‟s work to another, contemporary
diplomat‟s. Philippe de Mézières (ca.1327-1405) was one of the most influential diplomats of the
fourteenth century Mediterranean, and at the same time created a large literary oeuvre, in which
he made use of literary elements that he acquired during his political journeys, as will be shown
later on. Both authors show a number of similarities: they had the same profession, they travelled
regularly for political reasons and on those journeys they moved around in the same social and
cultural (court) circles. And, they shared a passion for literature. A focus on one of De Mézières‟
works – Le Livre de la vertu du sacrement de mariage – shows some interesting aspects. First
there is Le Livre‟s theme, marriage; second its form, a moralising text making use of short
exemplary tales. Interestingly, Dirc Potter wrote a work that at first glance appears to be quite
similar, entitled Der Minnen loep. It is also a moralising text on marriage, making use of
       In addition we find that De Mézières has composed the first French translation of the tale
of the patient Griseldis. This story was originally composed in Italian by Boccaccio, and
integrated in his famous Decameron. It narrates how the poor yet virtuous Griseldis was married
by the Marquis Gautier, who put her through a series of trials to test her obedience and loyalty
towards him. Griseldis endures all tribulations calm and patiently, and eventually gets rewarded
by Gautier‟s eternal love and mutual dedication. De Mézières used a Latin translation by his

close friend Petrarch as his source. Switching to Potter again, the tale of Griseldis is to be found
in his Der Minnen loep as well, though in an adapted version. This is worth noticing, because
other Middle Dutch rhymed Griseldis-versions known, are all of later date.
       All this provides fertile grounds for a comparison, that I aim to carry out in this thesis. I
wish to thank foremost my supervisors, Dieuwke van der Poel and Katell Lavéant, who
encouraged me to undertake and continue this ambitious project. Furthermore I owe them for
their support of my participation at the specialists‟ conference on De Mézières, organised by the
University of Cyprus in Nicosia, 9-14th of June 2009. For financial support in this matter I must
also thank Marco Mostert. I would also like to thank all international scientists I met on this
conference for their attention and enthusiasm regarding my research work, but in particular
Michael Hanly (Washington State University, USA) and Anna Loba (University of Poznan,
Poland), who have been most friendly and helpful. Last, I have benefit much from the flexible
attitude of my colleagues at Uitgeverij Verloren, Hilversum, who enabled me to write this thesis
besides a part-time employment.

I Context and sources

As pointed out in the brief Introduction, there are fertile grounds for a comparison of Le Livre de
la vertu and Der Minnen loep. This first part of this thesis will examine these grounds in detail. It
will become clear that both authors show similar profiles: around 1400 they were serving their
courts as travelling diplomats, and at the same time they took a great interest in literature. They
wrote several moralising works of length and shared at least one subject: the importance of a
stable and virtuous marriage and the duties of both husband and wife therein. Yet, Dirc Potter
and Philippe de Mézières have not been subject to one single research, and no former studies
have related these authors to each other. This lacuna will fortunately be fulfilled by this thesis.
           In the present comparative research the emphasis lies on the shared cultural circles and
similar profiles of the authors. The social circles around them were closely related to one
another; as will be indicated below, some of the key figures even belonged to the same family.
The study of the connections between such court groups has proved a network of literary
exchange at the end of the Middle Ages,1 to which I hope to contribute by examining the
functioning of the diplomats and poets Potter and De Mézières as actual agents of exchange.
           These elements and findings will be clarified below by an overview of both author‟s lives
and works (chapter 1). Next, an overview of this thesis‟ aims and methods is presented in chapter
2. Chapter 3 will explore the historical context of the topic, and describes the relevant sources.
Hence, this first part is indispensable for the continuation of the research: the comparison of
Potter‟s Der Minnen loep and De Mézières‟ Livre de la vertu, regarding both content and form.
           It is not the main aim to prove that Le Livre de la vertu has been a source for Der Minnen
loep, although De Mézières‟ work may have influenced Potter‟s to some extent. A comparison is
useful, even if no direct influence has taken place. Potter and De Mézières did not serve the same
Lord and they never met, but they moved around in the same circles. A comparison of their
works could therefore reveal new information on the views of marriage in French and Dutch
aristocratic circles around 1400 and, most interestingly, on the functioning of medieval
diplomatic journeys as a way of cultural and artistic transmission.

    See Hanly 1997a and chapter I, 2 of this thesis.

1 The diplomat-poets

1.1 Philippe de Mézières: biography and works

Philippe de Mézières was born in 1327 in Picardy, in the surroundings of Amiens, in a big family
of the poorer nobility.2 He left France in 1345, to serve Lucchino Visconti, Lord of Milan. He
was then also presented in Naples at the Angevin court of the assassinated king Andrew. In 1346
De Mézières went on a military mission to Smyrna (nowadays known as Izmir, Turkey) and to
Cyprus. There he made the acquaintance of the Lusignan-family, rulers of Cyprus and claimants
to the throne of Jerusalem. It was in this period that he first thought of the idea of a crusade to
reconquer the Holy Land, a theme that would become of central importance in his further
political career and literary works. Later that year he returned to France, where he has probably
studied at the Paris University between 1349 and 1354.3 He served at Avignon and at several
minor courts until his return to Cyprus in 1359. He then became Chancellor of Cyprus under
Pierre de Lusignan and spent the next years travelling through Europe with his Lord to gain
support for the cause of Western crusade against the Saracens. This resulted in a battle that
conquered Alexandria in 1365, but the campaign ended in looting and disorder. At this time De
Mézières first wrote down the regulations for his Order of the Passion of Jesus Christ. This
chivalric society was dedicated to the conquest of the pagan through a united Christendom, and
many of its members belonged to the highest nobility.4
        During this period De Mézières made frequent missions to Venice, promoting the
crusade. It was probably during one of these visits that he made the acquaintance of Petrarch, to
whom he refers as his dear friend in the prologue of his Griseldis-translation, inserted in Le Livre
de la vertu.5 This connection is a strong link in the international network of literary exchange
through the political routes existing in the end of the 14th century. A conserved letter from
Petrarch to De Mézières confirms their friendship,6 and thus suggests an explanation for De
Mézières‟ early acquisition of the Griseldis-material.7 After De Lusignan‟s death in 1369 had
ended his Cyprian career, De Mézières spent two years in Venice as well.8
        In 1373 he returned to France, asking Charles V for help in mounting another crusade.
Although this request was refused, Charles did appoint him to the royal council, awarded him a
pension and made him tutor of his son, the later Charles VI. De Mézières became one of the

  Jorga 1896:9-14; Williamson 1985:394-395.
  Caudron 1983:36.
  Hanly 1997b:274-276 ; Williamson 1985:395-396. See also De Mézières, Nova religio passionis (1367-1368).
  „maistre Fransoys Patrarc, jadis mon especial ami‟ (fol. 165v, p. 358).
  November 1369, Seniles (Epistolae rerum senilium), 13.2. See Hanly 1997a:309.
  Hanly 1997a:309-310.
  Hanly 1997b:277.

king‟s most trusted personal advisors and enjoyed this patronage while serving the court of
France on diplomatic missions for the next seven years.9 Charles V died in 1380 and De
Mézières, then fifty-three, withdrew to the convent of the Celestine order in Paris. He did
however never take the monastery vow, and remained influential at the French court as the tutor
and advisor of the young Charles VI and his brother Louis, later to be the Duke of Orléans and a
close friend of the author. As such De Mézières‟ main concern was proclaiming a peace between
France and England, preceding any future crusade. This peace was realised in 1388. With the
madness of Charles VI that began to show in 1392 and continued sporadically until his death in
1322, De Mézières‟ influence diminished and a long struggle over power between the royal
dukes of Orléans, Burgundy, Berry and Bourbon started.10
        However, De Mézières continued to press for peace, which resulted in the marriage of the
English king Richard II to Charles VI‟s seven-year-old daughter Isabelle in 1396.11 He continued
to proclaim crusade as well, and in the same year a Christian army marched on Turkey. Under
the inexperienced leadership of John Without Fear, son of Philip of Burgundy, the French got
defeated at Nicopolis. The final crusade in 1399 dissolved into looting and disorder, like the first
one undertaken by De Lusignan in 1365. With this last failure, De Mézières abandoned his hopes
and retired to the convent at last. During the final years of his life the only contact with the court
consisted of the frequent visits of Louis d‟Orléans, who shared many of his ideas. He died in
1405 and was buried in the convent‟s chapel according to a will that he wrote in 1392 and of
which the original autographed document has been preserved.12
        During his Cypriot political career De Mézières had written Nova religio passionis
(1367-1368), in which he set out a first outline of his Order of the Passion, and a description of
the life of Peter Thomas, Vita S. Petri Thomasii (1366-1367), by which miraculous biography he
was aiming to get his late friend canonized as a saint. Yet most of De Mézières‟ writings came
about after his withdrawal to the Celestine Convent. The Contemplatio horae mortis and the
Soliloquium peccatoris (1386-1387) were two devotional treatises. Between 1385 and 1389 the
work central to this thesis, Le Livre de la vertu du sacrement de mariage, came about. It is an
allegorical treatise on marriage, aiming to comfort unhappy married ladies by narrating
exemplary tales, including the story of the patient Griseldis. This Griseldis-version is the oldest
French translation known. In 1389 he wrote Le songe du vieil pélérin, an elaborate allegorical
voyage, describing the customs of Europe and the near East and propagating peace with England
and the pursuit of the Crusade. The largely autobiographical Oratio tragedica pursued similar

  Williamson 1985:394-395.
   Hanly 1997a:311, Hanly 1997b:277-279.
   See also Cropp&Hanham 2007.
   Hanly 1997b:282-283; Jorga 1973:511.

aims. In 1395 De Mézières addressed to King Richard II of England an Épistre, advising in favor
of a marriage with young Isabelle of France. His last work, L’Épistre lamentable et consolatoire
(1397), was inspired by the disaster of Nicopolis on the 28th of September 1396, describing the
principles of the Order as a remedy against future disasters. The author dedicated it to Phillip,
Duke of Burgundy.13
        According to his biographer Nicolas Jorga, after his death De Mézières got portrayed
rather negatively by the Burgundian party, which was aroused by his intimate association with
the Duke of Orléans. He was called a false monk, a sorcerer responsible for Charles VI‟s
madness and blamed for the death of his former Cyprian patron, Pierre de Lusignan.14 These
rumours are sure to have had their influence on the French political climate at the beginning of
the 15th century, around the time when Dirc Potter first arrived in France.

1.2 Dirc Potter: biography and works

The earliest source on the life of Dirc Potter is the financial administration of the Court of
Holland, situated in The Hague. In 1385 Potter is mentioned as a clerk at the Tresorie (financial
department). He then was probably about 16 years old. In the same year the royal houses of
Bavaria and Burgundy got joined by a double marriage: William – the future William VI – and
Margaret of Bavaria (son and daughter of Albrecht, Lord of Holland, Zealand and Hainault) got
joined in matrimony to Margaret of Burgundy and John Without Fear (daughter and son of
Phillip, Duke of Burgundy). The purpose of the alliance was to avoid English influence on both
families‟ positions and possessions.15
        From November 1398 on, Potter carried out multiple missions in the Court‟s service. He
represented the Count of Holland and intermediated in his name between struggling parties in
juridical conflicts. In this position he regularly travelled to other cities in the Low Countries, like
Dordrecht, Utrecht and Maastricht. Surprisingly, a conviction of Potter himself in 1400, due to
being party to manslaughter, does not seem to have had any negative influence on his career.
Potter was charged with a fine and sent on pilgrimage, and he kept his position at Court.16
        From January 1403 Potter was allowed to sign official letters on behalf of the Count,
bearing the title of secretarius (secretary), and on the 29th of August he got promoted bailiff of
The Hague. He remained in this high juridical function until the 4th of September 1416. At the
same time he remained diplomat and secretary in the Court‟s service, thus being involved in both

   Jorga 1896:443-499. See also Cropp&Hanham 2007.
   Jorga 1896:426; Hanly 1997b:282-283.
   Corbellini 2000:55.
   Van Buuren 1993:92-96.

the national and international politics around the Court of Holland. He was closely involved in
the War of Arkel – a long-time struggle between the Court of Holland and the Lords of Arkel,
Gelre (1401-1412) –, representing the Count and reporting on the events and negotiations.
During this period he left the Low Countries at least twice; first for a diplomatic journey to
France (1409), to which I‟ll get back below, and later for a secret mission to Rome (1411-1412).
Afterwards he accomplished two more international missions; he was in charge of a delegacy
sent to England to negotiate on a conflict on the hijack of Dutch ships (1413) and in 1416 and
1418 he made two short trips to the north of France, once to meet Emperor Sigismund and the
Bishop of Reims in Calais.17
         Potter remained at the Court of Holland all of his life, and served several Lords (and one
Lady): Albrecht Duke of Bavaria, William VI of Bavaria Count of Holland and Hainault, Jacoba
of Bavaria, John of Bavaria, John III of Brabant and last Phillip of Burgundy (after 1425). As a
reward for his long and exceptional service he was rewarded the loan of the mansion Ter Loo on
the 25th of march 1415. From this event on until his death on the 30th of April 1428, he called
himself Dirc Potter Vander Loo, which without doubt had more class.18
         Three works of literature have been attributed to Potter. He has made a Dutch adaptation
of the Italian treatise Fiore di virtue – entitled Bloeme der Deughden – and a very faithful Dutch
translation of the French Livre de Melibée et Prudence by Renaud de Louhans – entitled Van
Mellibeus ende sijnre vrouwe Prudentia. Both these texts were written between 1415 and 1428,
and they are transmitted in one single manuscript (ca.1450), joined together by one
acrostichon.19 His first work, Der Minnen loep (The various ways of Love), is of central
importance to this thesis. It was written in the years 1411-1412 and is a long didactical poem on
the different courses love may take, narrating short tales of famous couples from history and
ancient literature.20 It contains a great variation of stories from different sources, some of which
were commonly known at the time and place, and others seem to have been rather uncommon,
like the tale of Griseldis.
         Only four early Middle Dutch prose versions of the tale of Griseldis have come down to
us. Although very little research has been done on this matter, three of these prose-versions came
about in the eastern regions, and can be dated roughly between 1400 and 1450. The only early

   Van Buuren 1993:92-96, Corbellini 2000:53-80.
   Van Buuren 1993:92-96.
   When the first letters of the chapters of Bloeme der Deughden and Mellibeus are put together, they form the
GHEBENEDYIT VAN ALS AMEN‟. The caesura between the two texts lies between the chapters starting with
respectively the S and the I, that together form the word „SI‟. Overmaat has shown that the letters I and Y in the
grammatically incorrect words „ENDI GHEBENEDYIT‟ are the consequences of scribal mistakes. The intended
words were „ENDE GHEBENEDIIT‟, which are correct Middle Dutch forms. Overmaat 1950:12-15; see also
Corbellini 2000:81-83.
   Corbellini 2000; Van Buuren 1979.

Dutch version in verse, is Potter's, dating from 1411-1412. Hence, this is one of the eldest
(maybe even the eldest), the only one in verse, it was composed in the western region of
Holland, and in this version the characters have different names than in the other versions.21
Potter's version as such does not seem to be connected to another version transmitted in the
medieval Low Countries. However, the tradition and dispersion of Griseldis in the Middle Dutch
area has not yet been researched as a whole, and the relations between those five Middle Dutch
versions of the tale remain unknown.22
        Although Petrarch had visited the southern Low Countries in June 1333, his Latin
Griseldis-translation – written in 1377 – was probably not widely spread in these regions at the
early beginning of the fifteenth century.23 Potter may have acquired the material for the story in
Rome, where he wrote Der Minnen loep and where he could have read an Italian manuscript of
the Decameron. But before that, he had already been to France, where he had had the
opportunity to acquaint the story effortless, as will be shown below. The acquisition of a
Decameron-manuscript would surely have demanded much more effort. Besides, since it is
known that he did have access to a Melibée-manuscript – the example he used for his Dutch
translation Van Mellibeus –, the French route was definitively the shortest to Griseldis.
        The Court of Holland is known to have been the centre of a rich cultural circle, including
all kinds of music and literature.24 Potter probably attended Latin school for a basic education; he
was able to read and write Latin and could also read Italian and French. In addition to strong
self-willed opinions and a lot of creative storytelling, Potters work clearly contains influences of
foreign literature. He had a remarkable career but what makes him even more interesting is that
from none of his works any dedication or patronage can be derived. Potter seems to be the first
independent leisure author in the Dutch linguistic area: he had his job at Court and besides that,
in his spare time, he used to read and write, for no patron on whom he depended for support, but
for his own pleasure, and to a probably fairly limited audience of family and friends.25

   No explanation of the characters‟ different names has been found so far. See also Van Buuren 1979:243;
Laserstein 1926:40.
   See Dempster 1932:925. According to Dempster, the Latin text of Petrarch probably never reached any of these
Dutch prose-translators. The earliest Dutch translation of Boccaccio's Decameron was not made until 1564, by Dirc
Coornhert: Vijftigh Lustighe Historien of Nieuwicheden Johannis Boccatii. On the earliest Dutch prose-translations,
see Gallé 1884, Verdam 1898, Veerdeghem 1899, Daniëls 1900. Daniëls has shown that there are not that many
similarities between the Middle Dutch prose versions and the Italian and Latin versions. Verdam and Van
Veerdeghem suggest that rather some French adaptations served as sources. The source of Potter's Griseldis has not
been studied in detail before.
   Tournoy 2005; Kristeller 1962; Dempster 1932.
   Janse 2001; Van Oostrom 1986; Van Oostrom 1987, especially p.225-268.
   Van Buuren 1993:92-93; Van Buuren 1979:13.

2 Method
2.1 A Comparison

The relations between Potter, De Mézières, their works and networks are multiple. Both authors
are interested in the themes of love and marriage, husband and wife, and carry out strong
opinions on the matter. They both use exemplary tales in their narrative technique, with which
they aim to persuade and educate their audiences. One of these, the tale of Griseldis, is by both
authors embodied in a vernacular text in a remarkably early stage.
        The similarities in their biographies are striking. Here we are looking at a decisive type of
(medieval) author that I would like to call the „diplomat-poet‟. This term is not a new invention,
but borrowed from the American medievalist Michael Hanly.26 A diplomat-poet is defined as a
courtier with an important diplomatic function. In the service of his court‟s Lord he is sent on
foreign missions and therefore travels between the main courts of the later Middle Ages, in this
case western Europe around 1400. Besides this political function, the diplomat-poet is a literary
author (not necessarily in the service of a mecenas), whose work can withhold a variation in
styles and themes. Diplomat-poets may have played an important role in the spread of literary
elements and traditions across Europe. On their journeys, often undertaken for political reasons,
these authors came across new literature, new material, new influences, that they brought home
with them. This may have contributed to the spread of manuscripts and must certainly have
contributed to the spread of culture.
        Both De Mézières and Potter fit the profile of the diplomat-poet. They both moved
around in social circles around western European courts. Former research has shown that around
such courts often existed a lively cultural circle as well, in which in the court functioned as the
centre of literary and musical production.27 By travelling from one court to the other for political
reasons, these diplomat-poets inevitably travelled from one cultural environment to the other as
well, meanwhile acting as actual agents of cultural exchange. A research after the historical
context of Potter and De Mézières, their political missions and encounters, can shed new light on
the functioning of medieval diplomatic journeys as ways of literary exchange. More precisely, it
investigates the chain between Paris and The Hague (or: the court of France and the court of
Holland) in the dispersion of literature in late medieval western Europe.
        On the other hand a comparison of their works, particularly the thematic-related Le Livre
de la vertu and Der Minnen loep, can teach us how the same topic – marriage – has been viewed
   In his article in Viator (1997) Hanly proposes an international network of diplomat-poets, within which cultural
exchange has taken place. He mentions amongst others Geoffrey Chaucer, Honorat Bovet and Philippe de Mézières
as actual agents of exchange in this network. I would like to add Dirc Potter to this shortlist of cultural agents,
expanding the network proposed by Hanly. See Hanly 1997a.
   Van Oostrom 1987.

in different places, and in different – yet related – circles, around the same time. Of special
interest therein are the reflections on the ideal wife and on the domestic relations between both
spouses. Last, it may be interesting to explore how these two authors, both in their own way,
make use of brief exemplary tales in their moralising compositions.
       A comparison of Philippe de Mézières‟ Livre and Dirc Potter‟s Der Minnen loep thus
serves a bilateral goal. In this thesis I aim to carry out this comparison, to formulate a
preliminary answer to the following questions: May Dirc Potter have acquired new, literary
influences on his diplomatic journey to France – like the tale of Griseldis –, possibly descended
from Philippe de Mézières, his works or the cultural circle around him? Could Potter in this
manner, as a diplomat-poet, have contributed to the dispersion of literary elements from the
Middle French into the Middle Dutch linguistic area?

2.2 The structure of this thesis

To answer the questions mentioned above, I will focus on the shared features of both medieval
authors. First I will examine the primary texts, Le Livre de la vertu and Der Minnen loep, by
giving an overview of these text‟s contents (part I, chapter 3.1). The other component of the
sources exists of the historical context. I will start by investigating the backgrounds of Potter‟s
diplomatic journey to France in 1409, the nature of his mission and the social circles he moved
around in. There may be overlap between these circles and the social circle around De Mézières.
Furthermore I will examine the dispersion of De Mézières‟ Le Livre de la vertu, its manuscript(s)
and those persons who may have had access to it. Next, I will examine two other possible ways
in which Potter may be influenced by De Mézières‟ work, especially on this one remarkable
similarity: the tale of Griseldis. These paths are the contemporary French play L’Estoire de
Griseldis, composed after De Mézières‟ translation of the tale, and the dispersion of that other
French text used by Potter: Melibée et Prudence. All this is found in chapter 3.2 of part I.
       I will restrict the further comparative research to those parts of the texts that are mainly
concerned with the marriage between man and woman: book III of Le Livre de la vertu and book
IV of Der Minnen loep. The second part of this thesis is dedicated to the contents of these texts,
starting with an exploration of both author‟s ideas and theories on marriage and the duties of
both husband and wife therein (part II, chapters 1 and 2). Investigating the exemplary tales
narrated may throw light on what is considered a good or a bad quality of the spouses, and on the
moralising tenors added. Some attention will be paid to the stories‟ sources. Yet, I will not
elaborate, since a detailed comparison of the sources and the adaptations made is not of direct
importance to this thesis‟ main concern and could well be the topic of a separate thesis. Last, an

inventory of the exemplary women‟s social background may reveal something about the
intended audience of the text. The exemplary tales will be considered in chapter 3 of part II.
         The third part will focus on the works‟ form, since this is another aspect on which the
texts appear to be similar. The authors make use of different traditions of exemplary narrations
and moralising literature (part III, chapter 1). The functions of the incorporated tales will be
examined (chapter 2), as well as the way the author manifests himself in the text and the way in
which he addresses his audience (chapter 3).
         In the fourth part the interesting case of Griseldis will be examined more closely by a
comparative analysis of both Potter‟s and De Mézières‟ version. This may serve as a case study,
possibly confirming, denying or shading all former findings more delicately.

3 Sources
3.1 Primary sources: the relevant works

3.1.1 Le Livre de la vertu

Le Livre de la vertu du sacrement de mariage espirituel et reconfort des dames mariees et de
tout bon crestien par un devot example de la Passion de Jhesucrist et du miroir des dames
mariees, la noble marquis de Saluce28 is the complete title of the text of this thesis‟ concern. Le
Livre, as I will call it from now on, has been written between July 17th 1385 and June 18th
1389.29 Its author, Philippe de Mézières, composed it for the French noble Baron Pierre de Craon
(born 1345, third son of Guillaume de Craon, chamberlain of the King, and of Marguerite of
Flanders) and in particular for his spouse Jehanne de Chastillon (daughter of Gaucher de
Chastillon and of Marie de Coucy). Although the subject of Le Livre is marriage, and although it
is dedicated to a married couple, the text was not intended as a marital gift, for Jehanne and
Pierre had married long before De Mézières finished his work. Their wedding was probably
already in May 1364, but the birth of their son Antoine in 1369 clearly shows that they were
already married by that year. That the couple had probably been married for a while, is also
indicated by several text passages.30
         In the text De Mézières does not mention a particular reason for his donation. However,
in a later manuscript (ca.1390-1395) we find a vow of Pierre to donate „deux cents livres de

   Philippe de Mézières, Le Livre de la vertu. Ed. Williamson (1993), based on MS Paris BN fr. 1175. The title can
be found on f.4, p.47. This is the only edition available of the whole text. I have based my research on this edition
and all quotes of Le Livre de la vertu in this thesis are taken from this edition.
   Williamson 1984:447. For more information on the manuscript source see paragraph 3.2.2 below.
   „en gardant a lectre le sacrement de son marriage et a son seigneur et mary non pas fainte mais vraye obeissance‟
(f.2, p.45); „en gardant sainctement a la letter le loyen et sacrement de son marriage dont elle est vraiment honoree‟
(f.4v, p.49).

rente‟ to De Mézières‟ beloved Order of the Passion.31 It is therefore possible that Pierre had
already offered financial help before such was administrated in an official list, which yields a
compelling argument that De Mézières wrote a book that lauds the Baron‟s virtues. In the text
Pierre is praised highly for his wealth, beauty and personal qualities.32
         History however shows another impression. On June 13th 1392 Pierre attempted to
murder Olivier de Clisson (the first commander of the royal army), attacking the victim with a
group of armed men once he left the King after supper. With this attack he tried to serve the
King of Bretagne, although a personal hate was of influence as well. Afterwards Pierre fled to
Bretagne himself, while Charles VI confiscated his belongings (among which the manuscript of
Le Livre), attributing them to Louis, Duke of Orléans, who was also a close friend of De
Mézières. By means of fleeing, Pierre left his wife Jehanne with nothing but problems and
poverty, and dependant on the king for financial aid.
         Even before the composition of the manuscript, Pierre was not known to be virtuous. In
1379 Pierre surprised and killed Badouin de Velu in his bath. He hated his brother but killed
Badouin just because of encountering the wrong person. Furthermore he was accused of stealing
money from the Duke of Anjou, who sent him to gather 100.000 ducats altogether from Barnabé
Visconti, Galéas and Regnault des Ursins. The money was intended to finance a battle, but never
delivered by its carrier.33
         Nevertheless it is not surprising that De Mézières concealed Pierre‟s reputation of a
murderer, a coward and a thief. Writing an impartial biography at the time was impossible, since
the author depended strongly on his patron(s). Although there are no indications that Pierre
mistreated his wife or that he trespassed the laws of marriage, he surely did trespass the social
laws of morality. The bonding to such a badly reputed husband must have had consequences for
Jehanne‟s life, even before he took off to leave her in misery.
         Like Griseldis, whose life story forms the climax of Le Livre de la vertu, Jehanne de
Chastillon must have had a great deal to suffer. Throughout the book De Mézières maintains the
opinion that one should not despair because of his or her marriage. This is stressed by the
examples of Griseldis, to whom I shall come back later on, and Rosamond, who was forced by
her husband to drink from a cup he had made from her father‟s skull.34 Even in such an extreme
situation, De Mézières explicitly advises not to despair, for God commands to love one‟s enemy,

   MS. Paris Arsenal 2251, f.114. See Williamson 1984:450; Jorga 1896:491.
   „aourné non pas petitement des biens da nature, de fortune et des biens de grace, riche des biens mondain et de la
grace de Dieu, bel, sage et eloquent entre cent, doubtant et amant Dieu en son cuer et aveuc le saint Job departant
soy du mal‟ (f.2, p.45).
   Williamson 1984:450-453; Williamson 1985:389.
   F.100v-102, p.238-239.

and He never commands the impossible. It is a tempting idea that Jehanne also needed these
lessons in order to keep heart.35
         The author himself however does not make any insinuations in this direction. He explains
that his intended audience exists of married ladies first of all. Second, also virgins, widows and
those who live in abstinence are spoken to. Last, even married men are intended to need De
Mézières‟ advises, for no earthly marriage can exist without both a woman and a man. Finally
the author stresses that his work is intended for all good Christians.36
         It seems odd that such a moral treatise on marriage was written by a man who never got
married himself.37 Moreover, Joan Williamson has shown that his work, although dedicated to a
lady, contains several anti-feminine and uncourtly elements.38 Nevertheless, De Mézières assures
his audience that he is not writing about the problems marriage may cause to defame the wives,
but only to correct the great evils that afflict the bond of marriage, and as such to contribute to
the couple‟s happiness.39 According to him a wife will be cured of her marital maladies when
sincerely looking at the example of the Passion of Christ and at the mirror for married ladies that
is the tale of Griseldis.40

In the prologue to Le Livre De Mézières compares the structure of his book to a four-sided
mirror. Each side is represented by a part of the book, and hence Le Livre consists of four parts.
The content of each part (or the meaning of each side of the square mirror) is described in this
main prologue.41 Furthermore, the manuscript makes use of rubricated titles that indicate the
content of each chapter that is to follow. In the beginning of the manuscript an overview of all
these titles is presented, as a table of contents. These means make the book quite well-structured.

Book 1
The first book treats the marriage between the fine Ruby and the fine Diamond. These precious
stones are allegorical symbols of God and the Reasonable Soul, and equally of the Son of God
and Humanity, for they share the same virtues.42 This spiritual marriage is demonstrated by
baptism. Next the author focuses on the love of Christ for Humanity and the loving alliance or
marriage between Christ and the Church of God, the latter being represented as the mother

   Williamson 1985:401-402.
   F.4, p.47; f.138-138v, p.308.
   F.90v, p.217.
   Williamson 1985, elaborating on this argument. However, Rosalind Brown-Grant states that De Mézières „avoids
drawing misogynistic conclusions‟: Brown 2002:53. Unfortunately, this thesis does not provide the appropriate
space to examine the argument more thoroughly.
   F.97v, p.230-231.
   F.79, p.119.
   F.3-3v, p.46-47.
   Williamson 1994a:110-111.

church by the Virgin Mary. This alliance is demonstrated by the bitter passion of Christ, whose
crucifixion is depicted as the climax of the wedding festivities. Last it treats the marvellous fruits
this spiritual marriage of the Ruby and the Diamond brought to humanity and the power and
beauty of the church that came thereof.

Book 2
The second book describes the wedding feast of queen Mary – who is considered both mother
and wife of the great king of this wedding, being Christ, the Son of God – and both the great joy
and sorrow she experienced from this wedding. Joy, because the alliance assured the human
redemption, and sorrow because her sweet son and spiritual husband had to die for it. The book
also treats her virtuousness (which is compared to and explained by the virtues of the fine
diamond), her birth and holy life and how she was chosen and prepared to be the mother and
wife to God‟s Son.

Book 3
The third book is concerned with the spiritual marriage between man and woman, illustrated and
explained by examples and symbols. Here, the author becomes a physician, treating seven
diseases that may affect ladies who do not live after the sacrament of their marriage, either to
Christ their immortal spouse or to their mortal husband. Each disease can be related to one of the
seven sins. He also presents the cures and remedies for these illnesses.43 The book is finalised
with fifteen lessons for married ladies and their husbands, and to all good Christians, on how to
remain happy in marriage.

Book 4
The fourth book treats the spiritual marriage between God and the Reasonable Soul, the virtues
of this alliance and the causes that oblige every Christian soul to love God perfectly. This
explanation is composed after Hugo of Saint Victor‟s book De l’amour de Dieu et de l’arre de
l’ame. Next the book offers a mirror for married ladies: the history of the noble Marquise de
Saluce and her love and obedience to her husband. This history is the well-known tale of the
peasant girl Griseldis, who was married to a noble Marquis who tested her virtuousness heavily
by several cruel trials. The text finishes with the author‟s regret concerning the grief, harshness
and insufficiency of the four-sided mirror he proposed in the prologue. He closes the book with a
miracle of the heavenly queen and a prayer to the Virgin Mary, filled with recommendations to
all married ladies, their husbands and all good Christians.

     Williamson 1994b:77-78.

In all this exalted matter, the author remains modest. At several points in the texts he humbly
apologizes that he writes prolix about the Passion, and that he is not worthy to treat such a high
subject as the wedding of the queen of heaven. It is clear that the author thinks along with his
audience. One of the final chapters of the second book, for example, has been given the
illustrative title „A question that some could pose: why would this book not better be titled De la
Passion de Jhesu Christ than Du sacrement de mariage, and the answer of the author to this‟.44
           The passion is of great importance to the author indeed. As can be derived from the
model of the four-sided mirror and of the content of the book as given above, Le Livre
distinguishes four kinds of sacraments of marriage, also called spiritual alliances. Those are:

          The alliance between God and the Reasonable soul, confirmed by creation;
          The alliance between Christ and Humanity, confirmed by His Incarnation;
          The alliance between Christ and the Holy Church/ the Virgin Mary, confirmed by His
          The alliance between mortal husband and wife; confirmed by the sacrament of marriage.

As the author points out in book II, chapter XX, he passes the first two kinds of alliance rather
quickly compared to the fourth and especially the third kind. His reason for this is that those
alliances consist of difficult and exalted material, that cannot be comprised by lay people unless
by faith. About the alliance between Christ and the Church on the contrary, one cannot write
enough. As physicians often tell elaborately about the subject and circumstances of the bitter
medicine that is necessary to regain their patient‟s health, likewise laymen should be educated
elaborately on the bitter medicine with which Christ has brought health to us all. In all
circumstances, whether said, done or written, one must remember the Passion. No-one should be
amazed by this, according to De Mézières, for presenting the virtue and the bond of the alliance
of the Holy Passion, will awaken all married ladies and all good Christians. This is because if it
were not for the glorious Passion, none of the parties, bound by no matter what kind of
sacrament of marriage, would have been able to benefit of the Redemption of their souls.45 In his
theorising, De Mézières frequently cites theological authorities, such as Hugo of Saint Victor,
Saint Augustin, Saint Gregory, Saint Ambrose, Saint Jerome, Bonaventura, Anselmus and the
Holy Apostles.

     Book II, chapter XX.
     Book II, chapters XX and XXIV.

        Within this theoretical framework the tale of Griseldis combines all four sides of the
mirror, or all four kinds of alliance. She has a Reasonable Soul, and thus is obliged to love God,
her immortal spouse, in perfect faith and dedication. Next she is human, which makes her
naturally related to the incarnated Christ. Clearly she is also a mortal wife, bound to a mortal
husband in obedience and loyalty. Because her husband, whom she is obliged to love and obey
by the sacrament of marriage, makes her undergo several trials from which she suffers heavily,
Griseldis can be compared to the suffering Christ as well. These considerations are further
analysed in part IV of this thesis.

3.1.2 Der Minnen loep

Der Minnen loep was, if we may rely on the work‟s prologue, written in Rome while Dirc Potter
stayed there for about a year for a secret diplomatic mission (I, vs.80-83). His mission to Rome
is known from other sources as well, like the court of Holland‟s financial administration, but his
precise occupations on the journey remain unknown.46 In the prologue to Der Minnen loep the
author also narrates where and when he was inspired to start writing this particular work.47
        During his stay in Rome every once in a while he used to take a pleasurable walk along
the flowing river, to keep himself from melancholy. One day it happened that during this walk he
got a vision. A pretty damsel was floating in the air, introducing herself as Lady Venus, the
ancient goddess of love. She asked Potter to do her a favour: „Du moets my doen een bede cleyn‟
(I, vs.105). He must narrate many stories the great poets have written on love. Venus would
bring them to his mind, so he could tell them to women, knights and youngsters who do not
know what love is.48 Thus Venus commands him to write a poem, describing all he knows about
love, how love evolves and processes, how tight she can tie the knot between two people, what
her effects and results have been in the past, and about lovers‟ fates; all to teach those lovers the
true nature of love:

        Bescrijft in dijn ghedichte voert
        Wat du van minne hebs ghehoert,
        Hoedanich is der minnen loep
        Ende hoe vaste si bindet den knoep,
        Wat sy voertijts heeft ghedaen
        Ende hoet den menighen is vergaen:
        Op datsi leren moghen dair by,

   Corbellini 2000:53-80.
   Van Buuren 1979:78-83.
   „Nym die poeten in dijn memori / Ende besich menigherconne histori, / Die si van minnen hebben bescreven. / Ic
wilse di inden sinne gheven‟ (I, vs.119-122).

         Wat liefte is ende wat minne sy. (I, vs.127-134)

Whether the story of the vision is true or not, Potter has followed Venus‟ instructions precisely.
Der Minnen loep is a moralising composition of exemplary tales on famous couples from history
and literature in a theoretical framework. About half of the text consists of stories; the remaining
part consists of theory.49 This theoretical framework is reflected by the structure of the work.
Potter distinguishes four kinds of love and thus the work is divided into four books, each
corresponding to one of the types.

Book 1
The first book treats the gecke minne; crazy love. This is love that evolves to hastily, and as such
gets lovers into trouble. Especially young people should beware of this. They should take their
time to get to know the other person, and to inquire whether or not their desired partner is
actually single. Falling in love to quickly makes lovers blind, leading them to dangerous
situations that even may be fatal. This kind of love should therefore be avoided. Some of the
exemplary tales that are narrated in this section are the stories of Jason and Medea, Helena and
Paris, Dido and Aeneas, Theseus and Ariadne.

Book 2
The second book is dedicated to the goederreynre minne; good love. This is the kind of love that
is praiseworthy and valuable, and recommended to all lovers. This book describes love in the
early stages, from first acquaintance to engagement. The process of love knows four grades. First
the lovers meet each other in the company of others, exchanging meaningful looks. Next they
speak to each other in private, getting to know each other better. In this stage they may exchange
a kiss. The third grade is that of cuddling and caressing, yet it is explicitly stated that the couple
must stay on top of the sheets of the bed, and not go underneath them. Although they should not
get undressed entirely, the breasts may be touched if the clothing allows it.50 The fourth grade,
when the actual sexual intercourse takes place, may not be experienced until matrimony, which
is described in the fourth book. Exemplary couples of good love are Hero and Leander, Pyramus
and Thisbe, Daniel and Susanna.

  Gerritsen 2009:52.
  „Die borstkijns machmen wel an stoten / Sijn sy niet te vast besloten / ende byeden hem gueden dach‟, II, vs.1311-

Book 3
The third book describes the ongheoirlofde minne; love that is not permitted. Whereas the gecke
minne of book 1 was only characterised as dangerous and insensible, the ongheoirlofde minne is
sinful and to be avoided at all time. Five types are mentioned: bestiality, incest, rape,
homosexuality and the love for Jews and pagans. However love for blood relatives (incest) may
be tolerated, under the strict condition that the couple does not exceed the third grade – that is: as
long as they do not practice sexual intercourse. Couples who practised any of these types of love
all came to regret it, like Caumis and Biblides, Semyramis and her stepson, Tamar and Amon.

Book 4
The fourth book is dedicated to the gheoerlofder minne: permitted love. This book is thus
entirely dedicated to marriage. As such it is the continuation of the second book, that finishes
after the third grade of good love. This good love is continued in marriage, when the lovers may
always be together, are freed of bad rumours, and when sexual intercourse is permitted.
Exemplary couples cited here are Hester and Ahasverus, Penelope and Ulysses, Hermione and
Arestis, Orphaen and Lympiose. This last couple concerns the tale of Gautier and Griseldis,
although the characters bear different names.

The composition of Der Minnen loep took place during the years 1411-1412, when according to
archival sources Potter stayed in Rome. This is also stated by the author in one of his later works,
Bloeme der Deughden, when he refers to Der Minnen loep as a text he wrote during his younger
years in Rome. It is preserved in two, later manuscripts. One dates from ca.1480 (MS The Hague
KB 128E6) and comprises also a collection of poems by Willem van Hildegaersberch, one of
Potter‟s contemporaries who performed regularly at the court of Holland. The other manuscript
dates from ca.1486 (MS Leiden UB LTK 205) but is of poorer quality.51 The only complete
edition available, is published by Leendertz in 1845-1847, based on The Hague KB 128E6.52
         Potter has not dedicated his work to any patron(ess) and seems to have been writing for a
fairly small circle of family and friends. Although the vivid cultural life at the court of Holland
could have offered him the possibility for (financial and artistic) patronage, Potter – probably of
middleclass descent himself – apparently cared for his independence. There is not much known

  Van Buuren 1979:28-33.
  The edition by P. Leendertz (Leiden, 1845-1847) is also consultable online at dbnl.nl. All quotes in this thesis are
taken from this edition. In 1983 an edition of only the third book of Der Minnen loep was realised by a group of
Dutch students and scientists of the university of Utrecht: Dirc Potter, Der minnen loep. Derde boek. Wil Bisschops,
Fons van Buuren a.o. (eds.). Utrecht (1983).

about his own love life. He had a son, Gerrit Potter vander Loo, but there are no sources
indicating marriage.53

3.2 Historical context: missions, meetings and manuscripts

3.2.1 A diplomatic journey

In order to know more about the possible connections between De Mézières and his works on the
one hand and Dirc Potter and his works on the other, it is essential to investigate the historical
situations in which acquaintance or influence could have taken place. In this, Potter‟s diplomatic
journey to France is of central importance, for it provides a chain in the international network of
diplomat-poets that has not been researched before.
        Potter made his first diplomatic journey to France in 1409. De Mézières had already died
in 1405, in Paris. Since the latter has never travelled to the Low Countries it is fairly certain that
these two men never met each other in real life. Still, Potter could have encountered De
Mézières‟ work during his stay abroad.
        The exact place and length of Potter‟s stay in France in March 1409 is unknown. He has
probably stayed at the Hôtel d’Osteriche in Paris (the traditional Parisian basis of the Holland
court), and he has probably visited Chartres. Potter‟s mission consisted of informing his Lord
Count William VI about the latest developments in the conflict between Holland and the Lords
of Arkel, on the one hand; on the other hand he likely had to assist Count William in the
preparation and execution of the ceremonial reconciliation of Chartres in March 1409.54
        Around this time, the political situation in Paris was very tense. After several struggles
between the houses of Burgundy and Orléans, John Without Fear commissioned the murder of
Louis d‟Orléans in November 1407. This crime made the situation even worse and after John
was proved responsible, King Charles VI called for a reconciliation of both parties to regain
peace and to restore the political relation between the French Royal family and the House of
        Count William VI played an important role in resolving this conflict. His daughter Jacoba
was engaged to the second son of Charles VI, John of Touraine, since 1406. His sister, Margaret
of Bavaria, was married to John Without Fear whereas William himself was married to John‟s
sister, both alliances made in 1385. Count William VI thus was a suitable intermediate between
the parties, since he was related to both. After the murder of Louis d‟Orléans in 1407, William
was closely involved in the negotiations between John Without Fear and the French King, that

   Corbellini 2000:57.
   Corbellini 2000:53-80.
   Famiglietti 1986:63.

took place in Tours, over the winter of 1408-1409 and in company of the Lords Saint-George,
Croy, La Vielzville, and Dolhain.56
         With the ceremony on the 6th of March 1409 in Chartres, peace and forgiveness were
exchanged between John Without Fear, Duke of Burgundy, and the sons of Louis d‟Orléans,
Charles d‟Orléans and Philippe Comte de Vertus. Being the brother-in-law of John Without Fear,
and the father-in-law of the second son of the King of France, William VI was charged with the
peacekeeping during the reconciliation ceremony. Surely some help of one of his most loyal
diplomats, Potter, would have been welcome.
         Monstrelet, chronicler in service of the Duke of Burgundy from 1400-1444, has
described the event of the reconciliation. On the 6th of March, the king and his company were
already present in Chartres to prepare the ceremony. The company of Burgundy arrived that
same day. In the ceremony, during which John Without Fear humbly asked for the pardon of the
king and Louis‟ both sons, he was supported by Jean de Nielles, Lord of Olhain, stating that
John‟s only purpose had been to serve and secure peace and the French royal crown. The king
granted him a pardon, and on his request Louis‟ sons did the same. The ceremony took place in
church. In a council later that day an official letter of pardon was issued. After the peace was
sworn at Chartres, the Duke of Burgundy immediately left the king‟s presence and was in Paris
again by March 11. Charles VI did not return until March 17.57
         At this reconciliation ceremony the following persons were present: King Charles VI, the
Queen, the Dauphin (Lord of Guienne), Louis Duke of Anjou, the King of Navarre, Lord of
Berry (the king‟s uncle), Louis of Bavaria (the queen‟s brother), Duke of Bourbon (the king‟s
uncle), Counts of Alençon, La Marche, Eu, Vendôme, and Tancarville.58
         Potter‟s position in this conflict shows that he moved around in a social circle that was
closely related to the cultural circle of Philippe de Mézières, who had been the French king‟s
tutor and advisor, remained a close friend of Louis d‟Orléans until the end of his life, and even
dedicated one of his works to Phillip of Burgundy, at a time when the noble families were still
reasonably at ease with each other.59 In a manuscript dating from 1396 a list is found of members
of the French nobility who had declared their (financial) support of De Mézières‟ Order of the
Passion. Here, several names occur that are related to the social circle around the House of
Orléans, like Louis Duke of Bourbon, Duke of Berry, Duke of Orléans, Jean-Galéas Count of
Vertu, Pierre Baron of Craon, Philippe d‟Artois, Pierre de Navarre, Lord of Coucy. 60

   Vaughan 2005:75-78.
   Famiglietti 1986:75. The actual source of Monstrelet is quite inaccessible, since it has not been recently edited.
   Vaughan 2005:77.
   Philippe de Mézières, L’Épistre lamentable (1397). See Jorga 1896:435-499; Williamson 1994b:109.
   This is the same Pierre de Craon as to whom De Mézières dedicated his Livre de la vertu in 1385-1389. See Jorga
1896:491; MS Paris Arsenal 2251, f.114.

After these details on the historical context of Potter‟s diplomatic journey to France, the
forthcoming paragraphs will discuss three ways in which Potter could be influenced by French
literature during his stay. The first one considered is through De Mézières‟ Livre de la vertu, the
manuscript or its possessors. This is the most general and the simplest explanation of influence
(3.2.2). The second and third ways focus on the tale of Griseldis (3.2.3, 3.2.4).

3.2.2 Le Livre: the manuscript and its possessors

The one manuscript of Le Livre de la vertu that has come down to us, was made in the same
period as when the text came about – respectively 1385-1395 and July 17th 1385-1389. It has
been written by several different hands; none of them being autographical (De Mézières‟
handwriting is known from his testament). The manuscript was made in the Celestine Convent of
Paris, where the author was living at the time. It contains a miniature, showing a presentation
scene of the author offering the book to his Lord and Lady. Later possessors have erased the
original names and family weapons in this miniature.61
        Although only one manuscript of the text is known, a second one may have existed.
Golenistcheff-Koutouzoff, who has made a stemma of the dispersion of the tale of Griseldis
through medieval France, argues that there existed at least one more manuscript of Le Livre.
According to him, the preserved manuscript is a revised and corrected version of a supposed first
redaction. This revised version was made to be presented to the author‟s patron and is probably
closer to the Latin version by Petrarch than the supposed first redaction, now lost. Furthermore,
Golenistcheff-Koutouzoff argues that the first redaction would have been destined to a broader
audience of all women, not only to noble ladies. According to the same historian, this supposed
redaction would also have been the basis for the dispersion of the Griseldis-material in French,
for it is from this version that De Mézières‟ translation was taken and copied and started a
literary tradition of its own, independently from Le Livre.62
        Since the existence of a second manuscript is only hypothetically, I will now concern
only the preserved manuscript, MS Paris BN fr. 1175. It has been shown that both the text and
the physical manuscript have been dedicated to Pierre Baron de Craon and his wife Jehanne de
Chastillon.63 The text of Le Livre de la vertu thus may have been read or listened to by either one
of these persons, their families and friends or any acquaintances of similar status at the French
court of the time. The same goes true for later possessors, for Jehanne and Pierre have not owned

   Williamson 1984:447-449.
   Golenistcheff-Koutouzoff 1933:53.
   This is shown by the original names in the manuscript‟s presentation miniature, revealed by Joan Williamson. See
Williamson 1984:447-449.

the manuscript that long.64 Louis d‟Orléans possessed it from 1394 until his death in 1407. Since
he held a much higher position at court, the work could have been spread more widely through
his person. All possessors of the manuscript are listed below.65

          Pierre de Craon and Jehanne de Chastillon (period of possession: 1385/1389-1394)
          Louis Duke of Orléans (acquisition: 1394; †1407)
          Louis of Bruges (1422- †1492; moment and means of acquisition remain unknown)
          John of Bruges (acquisition by heritage in 1492)
          King Louis XII (he acquired a large part of the Bruges family‟s library)

It appears from this list that it is uncertain who possessed the manuscript at the time of Potter‟s
visit to France in 1409. The possessions of Louis d‟Orléans were probably inherited after his
death by his wife Valentina Visconti († December 1408) or his son Charles d‟Orléans, who at
this event became the fourteen year old Duke. Since the distorted relation between the Houses of
Orléans and Burgundy it is not likely that a Dutch diplomat (who was connected to both, being a
servant of William VI, yet more closer to the latter) could have actually laid hand on this
manuscript. If there existed a second manuscript, as Golenistcheff-Koutouzoff has argued, it is
impossible to decide whether Potter could have accessed it, since nothing is known about this
hypothetical source.
           However, it is quite likely that Potter has heard speaking about De Mézières or his work
during his stay in France, since he moved around in the social circle that had been De Mézières‟
everyday environment. In particular concerning the tale of Griseldis acquaintance is probable.
The French translation by De Mézières was a huge success and by the time of Potter‟s visit
Griseldis was all over the place. Potter could even have only overheard the story, to write it
down later, when it was of good use to him.
           De Mézières‟ translation stood only at the beginning of the French Griseldis-tradition. By
the beginning of the fifteenth century, it had been cut out of Le Livre and started a tradition of its
own. It was adapted and incorporated in other literary works, and it served as the main source for
a play, L’Estoire de Griseldis, that is to be discussed next.

3.2.3 A play: L‟Estoire de Griseldis

One of the witnesses of Griseldis‟ popularity in late medieval France, is the theatre play
L’Estoire de Griseldis (1395). Theatre was a popular form of amusement and education at the
same time, and it is not impossible that Potter has attended a performance while in France.

     See paragraph 3.1.1 above.
     Williamson 1984: 451.

        The play that narrates the tale of Griseldis has been preserved in only one manuscript.
This manuscript is one meant for reading, not to be used in the realisation of a stage
performance, since it is a quite luxury one, containing the full texts of all characters and not
showing any traces of use. However, the combination of the text and the simple illustrations the
manuscript comprises, does offer enough indications to realise a theatrical performance. Whether
such a performance has ever been realised, remains uncertain.66
        The piece was probably meant for an aristocratic audience and was suitable for
performance in the open air. It demanded a fairly large stage (ca. 20 meters in length), showing
all locations of the story at the same time. In addition to the main characters of the traditional
tale, many side characters get to speak as well (shepherds, barons, the pope, messengers, the
Marquis‟ family). Besides all these characters the play would have demanded a large number of
extra‟s, who could have featured in several silent roles (shepherds, courtiers, the people,
dancers). It also demanded quite a number of animals (horses, dogs, sheep and a dear). Any
realisation of the play therefore must have cost a large sum of money and a lot of trouble.67
        The text of L’Estoire is closely related to the text of the Griseldis-tale as preserved in Le
Livre, it even seems to be a rhymed adaptation of De Mézières‟ prose tale, uttered by the
characters. All narrative elements have been preserved and the narrative structure is equal. It has
been disproved that De Mézières himself was the author of the play.68 The only additions that are
made to De Mézières‟ text are the commentaries of the shepherds and country-girls on the
transformation that is lived by Griseldis, who is in a certain sense one of them.69
        Since at least one reading exemplary of the play existed, it is not impossible that Potter
has read it. Yet, it is not very probable since hardly anything is known about this manuscript or
its possessors. The same goes true for a performance. There are no sources indicating the actual
popularity of this play and realisation would have put the director through a great and expensive
effort, but a performance was a possibility and thus Potter may have acquainted the tale of
Griseldis by watching the play.
        However, there remain other possibilities to be explored. The tale of Griseldis has known
a rich tradition in France and thus there are several ways in which Potter could have come across
the story. Therefore, the next paragraph will elaborate on the literary French Griseldis-tradition
and its manuscript-sources, focussing on the sources that could have been accessible to Potter.70

   Huë 1999.
   Huë 1999.
   De Mézières‟ authorship of L’Éstoire was argued by Grace Frank, yet disproved by Guy Raynaud de Lage. See
Frank 1936 and Raynaud de Lage 1958.
   Brownlee 1992:875-886.
   All manuscripts mentioned are listed in Appendix I.

3.2.4 Griseldis and Melibée

The tale of Griseldis, probably derived from the Cupid and Psyche-tales, was first recorded by
Boccaccio in his Decameron (ca.1350-1353). In 1373 Petrarch rewrote the story in a Latin
epistle addressed to Boccaccio, which the latter unfortunately never received. All preserved
French and English versions of the tale derived from this Latin translation.71 Twelve to seventeen
years after Petrarch‟s death in 1373 De Mézières composed the first French prose translation of
the story. He expanded the original by adding details, but the narrative sequence has remained
the same as in Petrarch‟s version.72
         Around 1400 two French prose versions of the Griseldis-tale were diffused. A Latin
rhyme version of the tale circulated as well in the French area, composed by Petrus de Hailles of
Poitiers.73 However, this version is left out of scope in this thesis.
         Following Golenistcheff-Koutouzoff‟s stemma I will call the two French prose versions
„type A‟ and „type B‟.74 Type A concerns the French translation by De Mézières and its 16
followers (this translation was cut off Le Livre and started a tradition of its own). This is the
stemma of type A:

The 16 followers of type A can be divided into two groups, based on shared characteristics and
omissions when compared to the translation preserved in Le Livre.75 The two groups are called

   Griffith 1931:12-112. The epistle can be found in Seniles XVIII, 3. See Severs 1942:3-37 for a broad introduction
on the versions of Boccaccio and Petrarch.
   See Severs 1942:21, 27, 177, 179 for more details on De Mézières‟ translation techniques.
   This Petrus de Hailles is believed to be the secretary of Gui II du Chastillon, who was closely related to Jehanne
de Chastillon, De Mézières‟ patroness. See Williamson 1984:453-454. See also the recent publication of Vetter
   Golenistcheff-Koutouzoff 1933:53. The image is taken from this publication.
   In this stemma, μ2 = PN1 is the preserved manuscript of Le Livre. μ2 indicates the supposed but lost first
redaction of Le Livre (see paragraph 3.2.2).

„alfa‟ and „bèta‟. The bèta-group was the most popular. To this group belong the translations
incorporated in Le Mesnagier de Paris (1393), a moralising text written by a Paris householder
for his young bride, and Le livre de la cité des dames by Christine de Pizan (1405).76
         Type B concerns another French prose translation based on Petrarch‟s Latin version. This
anonymous prose translation was composed not long after Le Livre de la vertu and uses a more
precise way of translating than De Mézières‟.77 It has been preserved in 17 manuscripts.78
         Most strikingly, among the manuscripts containing a French Griseldis-version there are
six also comprising a French redaction of Melibée et Prudence, the work that Potter has
translated into Middle Dutch. The possibility that Potter encountered the tale of Griseldis in the
same manuscript he used for his translation of Melibée is fascinating.79 Unfortunately research in
the matter is difficult, if not impossible, due to the lack of an edition or stemma of the French
Melibée and its tradition. The six relevant manuscripts are listed here:80

        MS London British Library 19 C. VII (Griseldis type A/alfa)
        MS Paris BN fr. 12477 (Le Mesnagier, type A/ bèta)
        MS Bruxelles BR 10310 (Le Mesnagier, type A/ bèta)
        MS Paris BN n.a. fr. 6739 (Le Mesnagier, type A/ bèta)
        MS Paris BN fr. 1165 (Griseldis type B)
        MS Paris BN fr. 20042 (Griseldis type B)

Furthermore, Severs has shown that Geoffrey Chaucer‟s Tale of Melibee – which is also a direct
translation of a French source text – is closest related to MS Paris BN 1165, and next to MS
Paris BN 20042.81 Both of these Melibée-manuscripts also contain a French Griseldis-version of
the B-type. In another publication, Severs has shown that Chaucer‟s Clerk’s Tale – which is the
oldest English Griseldis-translation – is closest related to MS Paris BN 1165 as well.82 It is thus
quite probable that Chaucer has used one and the same manuscript containing both tales as a
source text for both his English translations.
         Now back to the Dutch traditions. Potter‟s Mellibeus has been preserved in the so-called
„Rekemse‟ manuscript, dating from the last quarter of the 15th century. This manuscript does not

   For more information on these texts, see Loba 2008c; Loba 2003; Lorcin 1993; Quilligan 1991; Ferrier 1979.
   Severs 1942. According to Golenistcheff-Koutouzoff 1933:83 it came about at the beginning of the 15 th century.
   Golenistcheff-Koutouzoff 1933:87.
   Overmaat (1950) states that the French Melibée has been preserved with some work of Christine de Pizan as well.
Unfortunately he does not precise whether or not it concerns Le livre de la cité des dames, in which a Griseldis-
version is incorporated. A random sample of manuscript descriptions of codices containing Melibée however has not
led to any positive result.
   All manuscripts referred to in this chapter, are listed in appendix I.
   Severs 1932.
   Severs 1935.

contain the literal text Potter has written. At least two copies have been made in between:
potentially one made in Holland, and certainly one made in the Limburg region and one made in
the Overijssel region. The text was composed between 1415 and 1428, supposedly after 1419
and more probably after 1425. Potter has been in France in 1409, 1416 and 1418. Therefore he
has had plenty of opportunity to acquire a manuscript of the French source in its area of origin. 83
           According to Overmaat, Potter‟s Mellibeus is closest related to the French Melibée of MS
Paris BN 2240. Overmaat also states that Potter‟s translation is closer to Chaucer‟s version of the
tale than to the French Melibée-version that is incorporated in the manuscripts of Le Mesnagier
de Paris.84 Since the latter group of manuscripts also comprises a Griseldis-translation of the
A/bèta -type, and since Chaucer‟s Melibée-source text was probably bound together with a
Griseldis-translation of the B-type, this analogy could be taken as an indication that Potter‟s
Melibée-source text was related to Chaucer‟s and thus it could be more likely that Potter‟s
Melibée-source was bound together with a Griseldis-translation of the B-type as well.
Unfortunately, Overmaat does not state the relation between Potter‟s Mellibeus and the French
version in MS London British Library 19 C. VII – that comprises a Griseldis-translation of the
A/alfa-type. Unfortunately, due to the lack of research on the Melibée-manuscript tradition it is
difficult to examine the relations between all those French source texts.

Except for the prologue and epilogue, there are no major differences between De Mézières‟
translation (type A) and the anonymous translation (type B). Potter‟s version deviates from both
French versions in a number of aspects, and it is not possible to state that the first is more closely
related to either one of the latter. The same goes for superficial comparison with the short
version of the tale that is incorporated in Le livre de la cité des dames.
           If Potter has had access to a manuscript that contained both Melibée and the tale of
Griseldis, there remain two possibilities. The first possibility is that this hypothetic manuscript
contained a version of the tale of Griseldis that was related more closely to Potter‟s. This version
could be lost, or it could be simply unknown to me; Potter‟s version is quite short and as such
this hypothetical version could be just a relatively short mention, part of a longer text, that is not
in Golenistcheff-Koutouzoff‟s overview.
           The second possibility is that Potter has consciously adapted and shortened the tale. The
structure of Der Minnen loep demands for short exemplary tales. Furthermore Van Buuren
examined Potter‟s adaptation techniques in several tales of Der Minnen loep that were composed
after Ovid‟s Metamorphoses and Heroides. He has shown that Potter tends to shorten his sources

     Overmaat 1950:20, 46.
     Overmaat 1950:44-47.

every time. In addition this medieval author adapts the tales to fit them into his own theoretical
framework, only preserving those elements of the tale that really contribute to his aims. In this
research Potter turns out to deviate from what is known from the literary traditions in all
examined cases.85 Taking this into account it would not be that striking if Potter would have
drastically shortened and adapted his Griseldis-source as well, to make it fit better to Der
Minnen loep. Hence, it cannot and should not be excluded that Potter did use a French
manuscript-source to compose his Dutch version of the tale.

3.3 Some concluding remarks

It has become clear that Potter‟s diplomatic journey to France in 1409 provided numerous
occasions to acquaint and acquire new literature. Like at the court of Holland, there existed at the
court of Paris a lively cultural circle. De Mézieres‟ works and particularly the tale of Griseldis
were right in the centre of this circle, and thus fairly within Potter‟s reach.
           Various possible ways of influence have been explored, but it is not possible to point out
a source of Potters work with certainty. He may have been influenced – directly or indirectly –
by De Mézieres‟ work or by some French version of the Griseldis-tale. He could have had access
to a manuscript source containing the story, he could have attended a performance of the play, or
he could even have come across a Latin source. There also remains the possibility that Potter has
only heard the story of Griseldis during his stay in France, to embody it in his Der Minnen loep a
few years after. Yet, the most convincing possible way of acquisition is by a hypothetical
manuscript source that would have contained both Griseldis and Melibée. But whatever may be
the right explanation, it is evident that the Griseldis-tale belonged to the common knowledge at
the French court in Paris around 1400, and as a travelling diplomat, Potter had several
opportunities to acquaint the material. As Golenistcheff-Koutouzoff puts it: „le sujet passe à la
cour des ducs de Bourgogne‟,86 and those were exactly the people Potter was sent to France for.
           In addition, Potter has written his Middle Dutch version of Griseldis remarkably early.
His version does not appear to be connected to the other Middle Dutch versions that have been
preserved, and the Latin translation by Petrarch was not spread very widely into the Low
Countries in the early fifteenth century. Acquaintance during his stay in Rome is possible, yet
before that time he already had been to France, where acquisition seems to have been very easy.
           Since the tale was generally known in aristocratic France at the time of Potters first visit,
as shown above, it is fairly probable that he acquired the material during his diplomatic mission.

     Van Buuren 1979:284-286.
     Golenistcheff-Koutouzoff 1933:132.

Therefore it can be stated that Potter acquired it due to his position as a diplomat and as such has
formed an artistic connection between two courtly cultures through the political network.
       In the remaining part of this thesis I will analyse the images of the ideal husband and wife
that can be derived from Der Minnen loep and Le Livre de la vertu. I will take a close look at the
examples of famous good and bad wives that are recited, and the contemporary narrative
traditions and the authors‟ use of exemplary tales will be explored. Finally, I will focus on the
example of Griseldis, that occurs in both texts. A comparison could clarify any possible
influence De Mézières‟ work may have had on Potter‟s.

II Marriage and the ideal husband and wife

Dirc Potter‟s Der Minnen loep and Philippe de Mézières‟ Livre have in common their main
topic; marriage. Both authors value this alliance between man and woman very highly,
describing the ideal husband and wife, their duties and rights, and their love. Both authors
present a theoretical framework of moral views on the virtue of marriage and the rules that apply
to husband and particularly to wife. These theories are amplified by short stories that offer
models of behaviour that are either desirable or to be avoided. These tales may be called
exempla, and are discussed in detail below.
        The two diplomat-poets thus were interested in the same topic, around the same time. A
comparison of the contents of Le Livre and Der Minnen loep will clarify how that topic was
considered by different writers at different places, and in different, yet related cultural circles.
Traces of influence may show, but the main aim is to put both texts in a broader perspective, to
enlarge our knowledge of late medieval ethics and to be able to consider both author‟s theories
more delicately than has been done before.
        As will appear in the next chapters, both Potter and De Mézières stress the female side of
the matter. The duties and desired qualities of the wife are discussed in detail, while the ideal
husband gets away with some roughly sketched characteristics or loose remarks. In the exempla
as well, the women are the models that need to be pursued or rejected. Their husbands are
sometimes even barely named. Therefore, this part of the thesis shall forcedly pay most attention
to women as well. Furthermore, the present research is limited to those parts of Le Livre and Der
Minnen loep that consider marriage exhaustively; those are respectively book III and book IV of
these texts.
        For reasons that will be clarified in part III, and for simplicity‟s sake, I will not
distinguish narrator and author from the historical persons Philippe de Mézières and Dirc Potter.
This part II will focus on the works‟ contents, starting with an overview of the theories on
marriage and the ideal husband and wife, that can be found in the texts. Next, the relevant
exempla on marriage will be considered, with a particular attention for the qualities of the ideal
wife they reveal, and the moral behaviour they propagate in matrimony. All observations will be
balanced in the conclusion of this part II.

1 The theoretical framework of Le Livre
1.1 General theories

1.1.1 Marriage and matrimonial laws

The third book of Le Livre de la vertu is a well-structured whole of 29 chapters and two
prologues. The central understanding of De Mézières‟ theoretical framework is that every
married woman has two lawful husbands, those being first the Immortal Spouse God (to whom
she is conjoined by the sacrament of baptism) and second her earthly, mortal husband (to whom
she is conjoined by the sacrament of marriage). From this understanding follows that every true
Christian is allied to the first Spouse – God –, even widows, virgins and men. When De Mézières
states in his prologue that this book is not only meant for married ladies, but for all good
Christians as well, he is actually stating that all are married to God and thus will all benefit from
his teaching.87
           De Mézières teaches the matrimonial alliances to both spouses simultaneously, for every
woman should love and serve both her mortal and her Immortal spouse and neglecting either
marriage may generate physical and mental affection. The present research however, will focus
on the earthly marriage between man and woman, and leave alone the theological interpretations
of the spiritual alliance between the Christian and God.

According to De Mézières, in this world there are only three conditions of perfection. Those are:
marriage, abstinence and virginity. All three conditions are good if one knows how to use them
in the right way, but they are of a different perfection. The conditions of abstinence and virginity,
which are more perfect, represent the spiritual life (through analogy with the Virgin Mary). The
condition of marriage represents the temporary life.88
           Marriage is a sweet, legitimate, company, with the consent of both partners, the duty of
both partners to restrict oneself to the other, and with the condition that none of them should
refuse the love and company of the other. Thus is the sacrament of the spiritual marriage
between man and woman, according to Le Livre. Even without consummation marriage can be
true, holy and whole. Some people say that marriage is not completed if not consummated,
because God commanded Adam and Eve to replenish the earth and to be one flesh. But this is
not so, for Eve was created from Adam‟s rib and thus they are one flesh. Furthermore, man
should aim to live a more perfect life after the coming of Christ than he did before. Therefore
marriage shall only be carried out by two persons; one man and one woman. Consummation is

     E.g. f.97, p.229; f.138v, p.309.
     F.90-90v, p.216-217. See also Loba 2008b:85.

only legitimate as a remedy against human fragility, that is great and dangerous; for God is
pleased better by spiritual generation, which is generated in the hearts of the spouses by the
virtue of the sacrament of marriage. Marriage is essentially a spiritual alliance of perfect love
between a male and a female spirit. Therefore true marriage can exist in chastity, as is shown by
Mary and Joseph, and by several other examples in Le Livre.89
        If a man and a woman cannot live together in chastity, they should respect at least two
conditions to follow the sacred matrimonial law. Those are: sweet love between both partners
and living together agreeably.90 Married ladies who complain they cannot love their husbands
anymore, must know that God commands to love both friends and enemies, and that He never
commands the impossible. In addition, there have been ladies who loved and loyally served their
husbands, even though his behaviour was that bad that he could have been called an enemy
because of it.91
        The author explicitly underlines that if it is stated in this book that a woman has infringed
the sacrament of her marriage, it does not necessarily mean that she has seen another man or has
broken the office of chastity; she may simply have neglected to love her husband like she
should.92 Throughout all this, the author keeps his faith in the goodness of women. According to
him, a noble lady would not infringe the sacramental law of her marriage for all gold of

De Mézières views the human life as a pilgrimage on earth. To fulfil this pilgrimage, men and
women should weapon themselves with the attributes every pilgrim needs, that is to say a
doublet, a scarf and a staff. The author describes what these attributes should be made of and
what they should look like, allegorising the meaning of every bit of it. Most important, they
stand for the virtues of patience (doublet), faith (scarf) and hope (staff).94 To be able to follow
the right road that will lead to the City of Jerusalem (signifying the Holy Paradise) the author
presents a compass. This is an allegorical figure that every Christian should carry with him. One
should consciously and devoted follow the direction that is pointed out by its needle, that is
drawn to the force and virtue of the Fine Diamond (representing Holy Mary). The compartments

   F.92v-93v, p.220-222. See also Loba 2008b:86-87.
   F.93v, p.222.
   F.94v, p.225. This passage could be interpreted as an indication that Jehanne de Chastillon, to whom Le Livre was
dedicated, was one of those women married to a possible enemy.
   F.97v, p.230.
   F.96v, p.229.
   Book III, chap.X, p.258. Here De Mézières draws from an exhaustive tradition, basing himself directly on
Guillaume de Deguileville‟s Pelerinage de vie humaine, Pelerinage de l’ame and Pelerinage de Jesu Crist. See
Williamson 1994a:108.

of the compass represent the members of the human body. The human heart represents the
needle, and should thus always be directed to the Virgin Mary in faith and contemplation.95

1.1.2 Complexions, illnesses and cures

Throughout Le Livre, being unhappy in marriage is considered nothing but a continuous fever
and a painful illness. Therefore in the third book the author, as he puts it, becomes a physician,
teaching married couples about the dangers that may occur if one breaks the matrimonial vows,
does not love the other enough or if one is unhappy in marriage for another reason. Mental and
physical illnesses are considered to be caused by the same components, namely a distortion of
the balance of the four humours in the body (blood, yellow bile, phlegm and black bile), or a
pollution of one or more of these humours.96 These distortions or pollutions are caused by the
behaviour of the man or woman at issue. For instance, a lack of love between both spouses
causes a lack of heath in the body. Due to this, the person is not capable of digesting his or her
food, as he or she should. This disrupted digesting troubles the body in producing the humours,
that therefore get polluted.97
         The four humours in the human body are thus subject to the circumstances the person is
in. De Mézières defines four conditions that form a fertile ground for the distortion of their
balance or quality, being: an excessive appetite, an immoderate wrath, uncontrolled personal
desires, and a pertinent hypocrisy and jealousy.98 These conditions should be avoided by all
married ladies, for seven dangerous illnesses and seven fevers may arise from them. The
illnesses one should beware of, are: hydropsy, paralysis, apoplexy, colic, a strong cough, frenzy,
and last, heart attacks, heart conditions and fainting. The fevers are named after their appearance:
first come the strong or the slow fever (or both), next the erratic, the third, the fourth, the daily
and the continuous fever.99 Whoever wants to know more about the workings of the four
humours in these situations, is directed to medical books.100
         In addition to the four conditions, De Mézières presents seven impediments that may get
in the way of a happy marriage: when the alliance is forced, when both partners are close
relatives, when young children are joined together in marriage, when both partners are not of

   Book III, chap.XXV, f.141v-144, p.314-319. See also Golenistcheff-Koutouzoff 1937:33; Williamson 1994b:78.
   Medieval healthcare was based on the principle that these four humours had to be in balance in the human body.
See Williamson 1994b:62-63, 76-79.
   Williamson 1994b:77-78.
   „appetit desordené‟, „courous demesuré‟, „propre volonté malordené‟, „ypocrisie et jalousie enracinee‟ (f.95v-96v,
p.227-228). See also Williamson 1985:404.
   The illnesses are „ydropsie‟, „paralisie‟, „appoplesie‟, „passion colique‟, „tous enracinee‟, „frenesie‟, „maladie
cardiaque, default de Coeur et paumison‟. The fevers are „forte fimere‟, „lente‟, „erratique‟, „tierçane‟, „quartaine‟,
„cotidiene‟ and „continue‟. (f.95v-96v, p.227-228).
    „es livres de medecine‟ (f.96, p.228, r.20).

equal nobility, when they are not equal in wealth, when they neglect their matrimonial duties or
when either one of them shows imperfections in body or beauty.101
         As a counterbalance to all these risky situations that may rend a woman (or man)
unhappy in marriage, the author suggests seven treatments. Each type of treatment represents a
complex system of herbal medicines and corresponding precious stones, planets, metals, virtues,
sacraments, gifts of the Holy Spirits and works of charity. The seven types of medicine are:
preparing, soothing, purging, comforting, preserving, nourishing, and stimulating.102 In case all
those cannot heal the ailment, De Mézières highly recommends the medical example of the
Passion of Jesus Christ.103

1.2 The ideal husband and wife

1.2.1 The ideal wife

Although Le Livre de la vertu is written for al women, men and good Christians, women in
particular are the subject of this treatise. According to the author, women are by nature more
fragile than men, and thus they need more advice and help to prevent them from illness,
unhappiness and sin. The ideal, happy wife is a healthy one.104
         Obedience, servitude and love seem to be of crucial importance to the ideal, healthy wife;
these qualities are repeated throughout the third book. She should beware of the seven deadly
sins, that are strongly linked to the seven illnesses De Mézières describes. Furthermore, the four
conditions in which a woman may fall ill and unhappy in marriage should be avoided. Hydropsy,
generated by an excessive appetite and uncontrolled personal desires, results in pride. Paralysis,
generated by an immoderate wrath, results in envy. Apoplexy, caused by uncontrolled personal
desires, results in wrath. Colic, generated by a pertinent hypocrisy and jealousy, results in greed.
A strong cough, frenzy and heart conditions may be caused by all conditions or either one and
give way to sloth, gluttony and lust.
         Most dangerous by far is the last mentioned; of heart conditions and heart attacks the
woman may even die a sudden death. To the related sin of lust is paid more attention than to the
other sins. The author describes five causes of – female – lust. First, beautiful clothing and
splendid jewellery should be avoided. The same goes for strong wines and delicious meats. Too
much sleep is dangerous as well, as are too much festivities and worldly assemblies. Last, the

    F.103-108v, p.241-251.
    The medicines are „preparative‟, „linitive‟, „purgative‟, „confortative‟, „preservative‟, „nutritive‟, „vivicatife‟,
f.109v, p.254. See also Williamson 1994b:77-78.
    „example medecinal‟ (f.118v, p.271, vs.27). The medicines are „preparative‟, „linitive‟, „purgative‟,
„confortative‟, „preservative‟, „nutritive‟, „vivicatife‟, f.109v, p.254. See also Williamson 1994b:77-78.
    F.138v, p.308.

lady should never pay attention to liars and flatterers, and should certainly not enjoy their
unreliable slander.105
        Furthermore, the sin of lust has got five daughters, the first of which is fornication
between two persons who have not been joined together in matrimony. The second is adultery.
The third is the rape of virgins or nuns.106 The fourth is incest and the fifth, worst of all, is the sin
against nature. By the mere speaking of sodomy the air gets polluted, according to De Mézières.
To illustrate the gravity of lust, the author points out six dangers that may come thereof (next to,
of course, the mentioned heart conditions). Lust attracts the woman to spend everything, which
will lead to great poverty. Second it causes the most miserable member of the human body to
control the reasonable soul. Next, it is humiliating; for lust makes the humans, who resemble
God and the angles, act like animals. Fourth, they get deprived of all reason. Fifth, lust will rend
the human culprit and he or she will die a sinner. Last, lust will imprison his prey and take
possession of her.107 Moreover, the author states that all fornication is more earnest when
committed by women, because it may result in generation, confusing the family‟s lineage.108
        Besides all those sins, women should beware of the seven impediments that may stand in
the way of a happy marriage. In chapter XXXIII, the author offers council and solution to those
ladies who are subject to one of those impediments. When the alliance between the partners has
been forced, the lady is advised not to desire any grief for her husband, but to pray for him
instead. Furthermore, she should remember that everything happens with the consent of God,
who has approved of her marriage because of her sins or her ancestors‟. The same goes true
when young children are joined together in marriage. They may best hope that their sufferings on
earth are to replace their time in purgatory. When both partners are related, the lady should
remember the Old Testament, when the fathers married their cousins for the sake of catholic
faith. The closer related she is to her husband, the more she should love him. When both partners
are not equal in wealth or nobility, they should love one another dearly nonetheless. Wealth and
nobility do not add up to the sacrament of marriage, which exists because of true, mutual love
from two united souls to God.
        The sixth impediment is when one of the partners restrains to give to the other what he or
she should, thus infringing the sacrament of marriage. There are three things that every husband
owes to his wife and that every wife owes to her husband. Those are: true love between both
spouses and between the mortal spouses and the Immortal Spouse; living together agreeably and
obediently, helping each other when needed; and last, the partners should not commit adultery

    F.128, p.288.
    F.129v-130, p.292, r.26-27. Strangely, rape of married women or widows is not mentioned in the third book.
    F.129-130, p.291-292.
    F.137, p.306.

but remain loyal to the sacrament of their marriage. At this point, underlining once more the
dangers of lust, the author profits once more by stating that all intercourse should best be left out,
living together in peaceful chastity instead.
            Last, happiness in marriage may be troubled by age, imperfections in beauty, strange
habits or secret maladies of either one of the partners. In such a case, the lady should remember
the pilgrimage on earth that is her life, and focus on the responsibility every reasonable soul has
towards God to remain free of sins. Although He may put her through difficult situations, she
must have confidence in her Immortal Spouse, practise the virtuous works of charity and humbly
take care of her old and ill husband. This is the only way to the Divine Kingdom.109

The married lady should at all times mirror herself to the Fine Diamond – representing the
Virgin Mary –, which has four sides that may serve as moralising mirrors. First there is the great
power and glory of God and His love for humanity. Next, there is the great charity of Christ,
shown by his coming to earth. Then, to complete the Holy Trinity, there is the marvellous love of
the Holy Ghost. The fourth side of the mirror represents the Last Judgement. Contemplating on
these four sides, a woman should recognize where she has come from (her lineage), where she
currently is (in this sinful world), where she is not (the joyful Paradise) and last the hour of her
death, which remains unknown to her.110
            Like the colour of the diamond, a married lady should be humble and simple. The
diamond represents four particular virtues. If the lady mirrors herself to Holy Mary to adopt Her
virtues, she will be protected against poison and storm. These are the first two virtues. Next, she
will attract the Virgin‟s love and return this love, which will especially please her Immortal
Spouse. Last, the lady who carries the diamond in her heart with love and seeks to live after Her
example, will grow in virtue and honour.111

At the end of book three, in chapter XXVIII, the author offers fifteen special rules to educate
married ladies, and next their husbands and all good Christians. Ladies should know these rules
by heart, to please their Immortal Spouse and to be loved by their mortal husband. I will recite
them below.

      I.       The married lady should always remain dressed with the scarf of catholic faith,
               obeying its commandments.
      II.      The married lady should always hold on to her staff of Hope.

    F.135-138, p.302-308.
    F.140-140v, p.311-312.
    F.140v-141, p.312-313.

   III.      The married lady should regularly bathe in the fountain of the Virgin Mary: the
             fountain of Humility.
   IV.       The married lady should always remain dressed in the pilgrim‟s doublet of Patience,
             suffering all tribulations that God wants to subject her to.
   V.        The married lady at all times should mirror herself to the Fine Diamond the Virgin
             Mary, seeking to adopt her virtuousness.
   VI.       The married lady should restrain from sloth.
   VII.      The married lady should make an effort to be vigilant and sober in appearance,
             nutrition and sexual intercourse.
   VIII.     The married lady should remember Eve, and therefore her human fragility and her
   IX.       The married lady should not be talkative, but speak only when humbly and necessary.
   X.        The married lady should make an effort not to be jealous and she should not be
             credulous against her husband.
   XI.       The married lady should not practice any kind of sorcery nor superstition.
   XII.      The married lady should not contradict her husband, unless his words are against God
             or the Church.
   XIII.     The married lady should educate and nourish her children in reverence of God. If she
             does not have children, she should nourish the poor.
   XIV. The married lady should be devote and regularly go to confession, thus setting a good
             example for her husband.
   XV.       The married lady should wisely manage her household, serving and honouring her
             husband and his friends.

1.2.2 The ideal husband

As all true Christians, according to De Mézières, the married man has a number of duties to fulfil
in his spiritual alliance with God. Furthermore, it has been shown above that in earthly marriage
there are some duties that are equally important to fulfil for both wife and husband. At some
passages in book three however, De Mézières pays attention to the husband‟s specific role in
earthly marriage.
          Married men should confine themselves to the Fine Ruby, representing Jesus Christ, and
should seek to adopt His virtuousness. In accordance to the smooth round shape of the ruby, a
husband should be sincere and open to his wife in their conversations and relation. In accordance
to the bright red colour of the ruby, a husband should be bright and red within his heart, by the

memory of Christ‟s Passion and His blood, and thus he shall be full of good works towards his
         Four virtues are of particular importance to the married man. The husband, like the wife,
should arm himself with faith, hope and patience. This is the first virtue. The second virtue of the
ruby is authority or dominion, that will make every husband loved by his wife, who will serve
him like he was half her own soul. The third virtue is the love that is attracted by the good works
a man should commit towards his wife. This joins the two free wills of the partners into one, as
their spirits. Last, the ruby illuminates the darkness and thus the husband will illuminate his wife
and whole company with the good works and spiritual love the ruby brings him. If a married
man carries a ruby with him, which is a metaphor for carrying the love for Christ in his heart, he
will certainly gain all these virtues.112

2 The theoretical framework of Der Minnen loep
2.1 General theories

2.1.1 The value of marriage

At the beginning of the fourth book of Der Minnen loep, Potter points out that marriage is
commanded by God, who Himself has joined together man and woman.113 God created Adam
and Eve and commanded Adam to leave his parents and to follow his wife.114 So, if this alliance
is made by His holy commandment, what status can be held higher in esteem than marriage? 115
Furthermore, God commanded Adam and Eve to multiply; thus we earthly creatures are obliged
to follow this commandment and to produce offspring, as pleases Him.116
         Potter highly praises the love between a man and a woman who are joined together in
matrimony.117 Contrary to the monastic vows of the clergy, he states, marriage is one of the
seven sacraments and therefore of great worth.118 Once joined together, husband and wife should
remain together all their life. Here, Potter once again makes a sneering comparison to the clergy
to underline marriage‟s value: husband and wife do not have a probation time like monks do.119
         The main reason why Potter himself holds marriage in such a high esteem, is its
legitimacy. The matrimonial love is the one kind of love that is permitted and safe. One does not

    F.139-139v, p.309-310.
    IV, vs.47.
    IV, vs.30-36. The passage referred to is to be found in Genesis 2.24.
    IV, vs.30-39.
    IV, vs.13-28.
    IV, vs.70-73.
    IV, vs.48-51.
    IV, vs.74-79.

have to fear gossip; one can love in virtue and in liberty.120 Justice belongs to those who are wed,
and it is marriage‟s main virtue. This virtue of justice comes with two costumes, both in the
colour blue: faithfulness and stability.121 For if one of the spouses is unfaithful, the other will
trespass as well, and this means the end of the peaceful stability in love.122 Once made a vow,
one should keep to it. Nothing brings more peace than to remain in the place where one has
chosen to live.123
        The element of a free choice is repeated only once.124 Potter uses it as an argument to
remain faithful: since the matrimonial vow has been made voluntarily, a wife should always be
faithful to her husband. According to Potter, the virtuous cloth of faithfulness that belongs to
marriage, is one of the most important components of the alliance. However, husband and wife
are not regarded equal in this matter. If a woman cheats on a man‟s love, both are disgraced by
this. But if a man cheats on his wife, her honour remains untouched. Although he knows to have
sinned before God, he is not disgraced on earth.125 Next, the author uses the argument of
generation: of a man‟s unfaithfulness may come bastard children, but women‟s sins lead to heirs
and thus to problems and fights regarding the heritage.126
        Another central idea in the text is that friendship makes friendship in return, but hostility
only causes wrath. One gets what he gives, and if one gives but injustice or violence, one
deserves to be treated alike.127

2.2 The ideal husband and wife

Men differ from women, Potter teaches us. Women are sweet and merciful, whereas men can be
evil and insincere. Therefore it is worse if a woman commits evils, like treason or murder,
because it is not in her nature. Men have the bad habit of committing evil, but if women are to do
so, the rumours of it will spread much further…128

    IV, vs.81-127.
    IV, vs.167-175.
    IV, vs.184-195.
    IV, vs.196-210.
    IV, vs.1569-1570.
    IV, vs.365-402.
    IV, vs.405-410.
    IV, vs.481-489.
    IV, vs.225-244.

2.2.1 The ideal wife

Not all women are equal, Potter remarks. Some seek to be virtuous; others seek only shame and
sin.129 Humility, gentleness, servitude and faithfulness are considered important qualities of a
married woman.130 Not of less importance is that honour should be guarded at all time. A
virtuous woman has to control herself and mix femininity with shame, to guard her honour. If
her husband is evil, she should treat him with virtue, and she will gain the more for it.131
According to Potter, the Script tells us that an evil woman is worse than the devil.132
         At several places in the text, Potter addresses women specifically and directly. Every
time his tone of speech is one of both respect and admiration, even when he offers his advise or
warns the female audience for the dangers of love and marriage.133 For instance, he summons
women to be faithful to their husbands and to follow them humbly.134 If they suspect their
husband to be unfaithful, they are advised to be gentle with him. He has to better his sins himself
and she should not act alike and loose her honour.135
         Besides this faithfulness, a woman cannot have more than one husband. It has happened a
lot in old times that one man had several wives. Even in Christian time it occurs that a man has
two or three women, but the author never has heard speaking, nor read in any book, about a
woman who honoured two men.136 A wife who is chasing off her husband to replace him by
another man, should not be tolerated anywhere either.137
         A married woman in Potter‟s view is inferior to her husband. Married women should
seek to please their husbands, no matter what he does.138 Humility is required for a married
woman, for one should never try to overrule his master.139 Likewise, God himself commanded
Eve to always be in her husband‟s service and to honour him, for he shall take care of her
         Honour is an important motivation to be a good spouse.141 According to Potter one will
speak with high regards forever of those who have honoured and humbly obeyed their husbands,
but those wives who make their husbands angry are never praised.142 Striking is Potters opinion

    IV, vs.1320-1324.
    IV, vs.2279-2286.
    IV, vs.1891-1906.
    IV, vs.1854-1856.
    E.g. IV, vs.425-457, vs.876-886.
    IV, vs.429-440.
    IV, vs.2216-2226.
    IV, vs.2233-2250.
    IV, vs.609-612.
    IV, vs.857-859.
    IV, vs.303-306.
    IV, vs.741-744.
    IV, vs.1553-1560.
    E.g. IV, vs.960-993.

that noble women of high birth honour their husbands better and more humbly than do the
ordinary people.143
        Next a woman should be honest and sincere to her husband, and not spread bad rumours
about his deeds. Then he will love and honour her.144 She should also watch her speech. Women
who say whatever they like and think there is nothing wrong with that, are being considered of
an evil nature.145 These women act strangely, according to Potter, for they disturb all peace and
stability and make their husband angry.146
        Likewise, there are evil women who always seek to annoy their husband. They fight and
curse him so badly that he is intimidated by it. And when he seeks some peace by joining his
friends in the tavern, they will follow him because they fear he will spend all their money. Yet
often such a wife gets drunk herself, and then it is her husband who has to drag her home.147
Many married couples do nothing but fighting; instead of being friends they turn into enemies.
This should be avoided.148
        Another bad quality of women is that they are too credulous. Potter teaches never to rely
on a woman‟s thought, for if someone comes to tell her that her husband has been away, she will
believe the messenger at once, whether true or false, as if it was written in the Script.149 And to
make it worse, she will even be thankful for these slanderous lies.150
        A third bad habit of certain women is their desire to check after their husband and to
follow his actions. Those are hardly worthy to be called „women‟.151 Married women should best
stay at home, for they do not belong where men go.152 Instead, they should remain quiet and not
try to chain their men, or they may get trapped themselves.153 Yet, Potter states, it has often
occurred: when it is prohibited to a woman to do a certain thing, she will like to do it even

2.2.2 The ideal husband

Although most specific advises of the author of Der Minnen loep apply to women, Potter does
show some concern with their husbands. He states that there are many honest men who love their

    IV, vs.1291-1296.
    IV, vs.629-644.
    IV, vs.645-652.
    IV, vs.727-733.
    IV, vs.931-942.
    IV, vs.1625-1635.
    IV, vs.1636-1644.
    IV, vs.1647-1650.
    IV, vs.1839-1846.
    IV, vs.1939-1940.
    IV, vs.1953-1970
    IV, vs.1314-1319.

wife and would not want to dishonour her.155 However, the next passages regarding men are
mostly negative.
        A married man should take care of his wife, not the other way around. If a good wife
suffers from an evil, weak husband, she is to be pitied. Even Potter cannot advise her better than
to beg for God‟s mercy. She should however always remain gentle, for otherwise her husband‟s
desire for her will certainly diminish.156
        Like married women, married men must keep their vow. A man who chooses a good wife
and lives with another woman in her place openly, has lost all honour by his adultery. Once
promised to remain faithful, husband and wife should stay together forever.157 Mistresses
however are tolerable, since this does not break matrimony, because the wife still comes first.158
Strangely enough, no specific qualities of the good husband are mentioned. According to Potter,
a man has no duty towards his wife to better his sins. However, if a man does not get
dishonoured for his sins on earth, his sins before God will be much greater.159

3 The exempla: a comparison

The previous chapters have considered the theories on marriage and the ideal husband and wife
that are to be found in Le Livre and Der Minnen loep. However, these texts also contain a
number of short tales that provide useful sources on information about the author‟s opinions and
intentions. Therefore, this chapter will consider what the contents of these tales may reveal about
the virtues and values of marriage and the main qualities of the ideal wife. For a detailed
overview of all components referred to in this comparison, the reader is directed to the
appendices II and III.

3.1 The definition of an exemplum

The short tales that Potter and De Mézières have inserted in their texts, to persuade and moralise
their audience, are called exempla. An exemplum in the sense that I will use the word for, is a
brief tale with a moralising tenor, that is to be applied to mankind. It can be embedded in a
longer text. The sources from which an exemplum has derived its material could deviate from
ancient classical or oriental to contemporary or personal. An exemplum may vary in length from

    IV, vs.629-644.
    IV, vs.1878-1890.
    IV, vs.591-608.
    IV, vs.618-628.
    IV, vs.860-872.

several lines to several folia. A single line reference to a (famous) person or event will not be
considered an exemplum.160
           The present research shall concentrate on those exempla, incorporated in Le Livre de la
vertu and Der Minnen loep, that treat as their subject the earthly matrimony between a man and a
woman, and in which the moralising tenor is put on this topic specifically. Both partners are
human and have been joined together by the sacrament of the Catholic Church. These spouses
may include saints, biblical characters and characters from ancient Greek and Roman myths.
Although the characters from ancient Greek and Roman myths have never been joined together
by the sacrament of the Catholic Church, I will adapt medieval thought (from which point of
view, after all, the literature discussed has been written) and neglect this pagan aspect, assuming
their marriages were confirmed with a vow and blessing, either Christian or not. The same goes
for characters derived from the Old Testament.
           According to these definitions, Der Minnen loep contains 18 relevant exempla, Le Livre
contains 16 relevant exempla. These are all listed, with text references, in appendices II and III.
It is worth noting that, according to these definitions, the tale of Griseldis as De Mézières has
imbedded it in his Livre is not an exemplum, as it is of considerable length. Moreover, in this
text Griseldis is considered of greater importance than the other exempla referred to. Therefore,
it will be left out of scope in this chapter. It will however be analysed in detail in part IV of this

3.2 Sources of the exempla

Potter‟s main source for the exempla he recites in the fourth book of Der Minnen loep, is the
ancient Greek mythology, which has in most cases (7 out of 10 classical exempla) come to him
via Ovid‟s Metamorphoses, Heroides, and Ars amatoria. Another important source is the Bible
(4 exempla). Two exempla are said to be based on recent events recorded in the surroundings of
the author. One exemplum is derived from the literary Griseldis-tradition. Of one the source
remains unknown (the tale of Paschalis and Boecia).
           Van Buuren has demonstrated that Potters interpretation of most exempla depends highly
on the medieval tradition of commentaries on Ovid‟s texts.161 Unfortunately, this tradition of
commentaries has not been studied thoroughly, which makes it difficult to state any detailed
observations on this matter. Furthermore, Van Buuren has shown that Potter has adapted the
tales of his sources fairly freely in quite a number of cases. Each of the stories examined by Van

      Welter 1927:1-3. See also: Les Exempla 1998; Dictionnaire des Lettres Françaises, p.437-438.
      Van Buuren 1979:192-239.

Buuren has been adapted to fit exactly within Potter‟s theory, and is often cut back to those
elements that are essential to Potter‟s purpose.162 Moreover, many tales have been medievalised;
ancient elements have been removed and replaced by medieval pendants. The author, for
example, speaks of knights and other courtly elements.163 Some names of ancient gods however
have been preserved.164 The Biblical exempla have been shortened as well, but their content has
been changed to a less extent. For instance, in Genesis it is God who commands Lot‟s wife not to
look back, but in Der Minnen loep it is Lot himself. Therefore in Potter‟s version the wife
disobeys her husband, contrary to the biblical wife, who disobeys God.165 Yet, of all exempla the
exact source text remains unknown.
         De Mézières‟ corpus of sources is slightly more diverse. He describes many events based
on his own memories or after his personal acquaintances (6 exempla). The Bible is used as a
source for three exempla. Next he makes use of the text La vie des pères, two Saint‟s Lives, Paul
the Deacon‟s Historica Langobardorum, Albertus Magnus‟ Book of Minerals and the medieval
history of the French Kingdom.166 Unfortunately no research has been done on this author‟s
attitude towards his sources yet, nor are the precise source texts known. Since the author claims
to write from his personal experiences in 6 out of 18 exempla, in these cases any research into
sources is difficult, not to say useless. In the cases in which he derives his material from
literature or history, it could be worthwhile to study De Mézières‟ attitude towards his sources, in
order to gain insight in possible adaptations, deletions and additions he has made. Those could
clarify the meanings he attributes to the tales and the intention he has in reciting them.

3.3 Social background

According to Williamson, De Mézières‟ intended audience is surely noble, which is not only
indicated by the noble lineage of his patrons, but is also shown by the examples and tales he
cites. Those are all selected from among the nobility, or even royalty.167 This is a very interesting
statement, and for this reason I will make my own observations on the social backgrounds of the
exemplary women, before adopting Williamson‟s conclusions. In addition, examining the social

    Van Buuren 1979:284-286.
    E.g. Orphaen is called a „ridder‟ (IV, vs.1096), Chephalus is „een machtich burgher‟ (IV, vs.2042) and
Ypermestra is imprisoned „in enen kercker‟ (IV, vs.1082).
    Van Buuren 1979:259-268.
    Der Minnen loep, IV, vs.1307-1315. Lot‟s wife was commanded not to look over her shoulder to see the town
they were fleeing burning in flames. As she did, she turned into a rock: „Ende wort een steen: noch staet si daer‟,
vs.1315. See also: Genesis 19.
    Loba 2008b:87.
    „O nobles dames‟, f.58, p.157; see also Williamson 1985:399.

background of the women cited by Potter could lead to an interesting comparison, that could
reveal something about his intended audience as well.
        In Der Minnen loep the social position of the exemplary women after their marriage is
mentioned in 12 out of 18 exempla. Their birth or social position before marriage is only
mentioned in 6 out of 18 exempla. This does not appear to have anything to do with the length of
the tale, its moral, narrative core, whether it was well-known or whether it concerns a positive or
negative exemplum. The mention of the social status could have depended on the sources used
by the author, but of none of the exempla the precise source text is known.
        In all cases (both before and after marriage) but one, the mentioned status of the women
is high, ranging from low nobility to royalty. The exception is Lympiose, who is a poor peasant‟s
daughter (though ennobled through her marriage). Her birth is not crucial for the illustration of
Potter‟s matrimonial ideals, but it does make a nice contribution to his general opinion (also
stated in his later work Bloeme der Deugden) that true nobility lies in one‟s character, not in
one‟s birth. This opinion is casually stated along the tale.168 Hence, if a similar change of status
over marriage would appear in any other source, one would expect Potter to have conserved it in
his version of that tale. Besides Lympiose, the social positions of the women in Gent and
Schyedam are probably not very high either, although nothing is mentioned about them.169 All
other women described are offspring of noble families. A particular case is the biblical Hester,
who was not born a princess. Yet, Hester‟s extreme holiness certainly grants her a high status as
well, even before her marriage.
        In Le Livre the social position of the exemplary women after marriage is mentioned in 15
out of 16 exempla. Their birth or social position before marriage is only mentioned in 4 out of 16
examples. In all cases in which her status is mentioned (either before or after marriage) the
woman belongs to nobility or royalty. In the few cases when both statuses are given, no change
over marriage occurs; royalty marries royalty, noblemen marry noblewomen.
        Again there does not seem to be a rational ground for not mentioning the status of any of
the women. It may be just not of any interest to the author to mention the status before marriage,
since in all cases but one he already mentions the status after the alliance. Obviously the last was
most important, as a woman‟s marriage definitively fixed her social position, which she kept
even after her husband‟s death. In the case of Saint Elizabeth only her status before marriage is
mentioned, although she was wed to an important Lord, Louis IV of Thüringen. This omission
may be related to the content of the story: Elizabeth wished to live in chastity, but her marriage

    Der Minnen loep IV, 1131. See also Verbij 1999. Lympiose was married by a wise and powerful lord, because of
her exceptional virtuousness. See also part IV of this thesis.
    IV, vs.1919-1926 and vs.1971-2032. These women came to regret that they wanted to check on their husbands‟

obliged her to have children and thus she prayed God to take away her husband, which He did.170
Hence Louis IV was of bad influence to this lady‟s exemplarity, which may explain why De
Mézières not even mentions his name, leave alone his social position. Yet again all women
described in the examples seem to have been of noble lineage, all but the holy Hester.
        Although not of all exemplary women the status is explicitly mentioned, a quick look at
both the statements made in the texts and in some of the original versions of the exemplary tales,
shows that all women described, in both texts, are of noble lineage, varying from low nobility to
the highest royalty, except for the women from Gent and Schyedam and of course Lympiose (all
occurring in Der Minnen loep). As both texts agree on this, it may well be related to the literary
tradition. Literature had been a privilege to the wealthy for ages. Since De Mézières and Potter to
a large extent draw from this tradition, it is not necessarily surprising that their examples are
chosen from among the nobility; this could simply have been the core of the material available.
        Yet, Williamson‟s explanation is plausible as well. The authors may have been reaching
for a noble audience. They could have chosen to present familiar characters and situations, to
which the recipient would identify.171 However, it could also be a matter of authority; by reciting
the virtuous behaviour of persons of high status, the recipient may have been persuaded to follow
their example, as Loba has argued regarding certain exempla in Le Livre.172

3.4 Exemplary women

Der Minnen loep contains 18 exempla, of which nine are positive, eight are negative and one
contains both a positive and a negative example (the exemplum of the proud Vasti and the
virtuous Hester). Le Livre contains 16 exempla, of which ten are positive and six are negative. In
comparison it can be stated that Potter handles a balance between good and bad examples,
whereas De Mézières stresses the positive side of the treated themes.

There are only two women figuring in the exempla considered as relevant within this thesis‟
scope, that are recited by both authors.173 Furthermore, they figure in the same narrative, for it
concerns Vasti and Hester, the wives of the Assyrian king Ahasverus. In Der Minnen loep they
function together as one exemplum, whereas in Le Livre they are introduced separately. In
accordance with the Bible both authors present Vasti as a proud and disobedient woman,

    F.153, p.335.
    Williamson argues that this was De Mézières‟ intention when composing Le Livre: Williamson 1985:400.
    Loba argues that this is the case regarding De Mézières‟ examples on chaste marriages: Loba 2008b:89.
    Queen Semyramis of Babylon for example occurs in both texts as well, but in neither of the examples the
moralising tenor concerns her marriage (De Mézières mentions her great strength and Potter points out her sinful
attraction towards her stepson). See Le Livre, f.164v, p.356 and Der Minnen loep, III, vs.833-909.

contrary to the virtuous Hester. The choice to represent them in either one or two exempla
however, has influenced the exact role of the latter.
        In Der Minnen loep, Hester is simply presented as the direct opposite of Vasti. The
narrator tells how proud and disobedient queen Vasti was. Therefore Ahasverus took the crown
away from her and gave it to the obedient and loyal Hester, who was pleased whenever her
husband was pleased.174 This leads to the somewhat simple moral that wives should obey their
husbands. Le Livre is more complex in this matter. Vasti is suffering from hydropsy, which
causes her pride and disobedience. She is a negative example of this illness, of which all married
ladies should beware.175 Hester is mentioned several folio‟s later, as an example of dignity,
devotion and servitude. The forthcoming moral here is that she pursued internal beauty instead of
external appearance.176

It appears from the comparison of the examples that both authors have their own preferences in
the qualities that are important to the ideal wife. Potter‟s examples solely warn us for the
following bad qualities: mendacity, revengefulness, credulity, mockery, conceitedness,
suspicion, wrath. He propagates the following good qualities: virtuousness (in general), sincerity,
unselfishness, gentleness, patience and wisdom. The bad qualities or even sins that occur in De
Mézières‟ examples solely are: insanity, treason, desperation, unchastity and greed. He
propagates virginity, chastity, dignity and piety/devotion. Both authors share a stress on the bad
qualities of unfaithfulness, disobedience and pride, and on the good qualities of servitude,
beauty, humility, diligence and modesty/restraint. Last, the virtues of obedience and faithfulness
occur in both texts as well, but clearly the more often in the examples of Der Minnen loep.
        Some remarks can be made on the qualities occurring in both texts. First, the exact
definition of unfaithfulness differs slightly. With Potter, Clytemestra is unfaithful to her husband
because she is having an affair with Egistus. With De Mézières, Rosamond and Vasti are
unfaithful to the sacrament of marriage, because they fail to serve and obey their husbands as
they should. The same goes for the positive quality of faithfulness. Second, it may be remarked
that not all women who are explicitly stated to be beautiful, are positively qualified. There are
the good and handsome Lympiose, Marie d‟Espagne and Cretan ladies versus the foolish but
handsome Boecia, Pocris and Rosamond. Last, in Der Minnen loep in all cases obedience refers
to a wife obeying her husband, whereas in the one case in Le Livre (saint Elizabeth) it explicitly
refers at the same time to both a daughter obeying her parents and a wife obeying the sacrament.
In the examples on disobedience the same goes true: Potter‟s Vasti and the wife of Lot simply

    IV, vs.782-856.
    F.119v-120, p.273.
    F.128, p.289.

disobey their husband, but De Mézières‟ Vasti neglects the matrimonial law to obey her spouse.
Thus it could be stated that De Mézières has a more formal perception of marriage. The ideals to
which a married lady should live up, are not merely good qualities, but virtuous duties to which
she is obliged by the sacramental law.
       Taking a closer look on the preferences of each author, it occurs that Potter values most
fidelity between both partners. Its importance is stressed in no less than seven exempla
(Thobyas‟ daughter, Atestes, Enalue, Penelope, Herimones, Boecia, Clytemestra). Next comes
the balance between credulity/suspicion, represented by six exempla (Creusa (2x), Boecia,
Pocris, the Schyedam woman, the Gent woman). The pair obedience/disobedience can be found
in five examples (Hester/ Vasti, Ypermestre, Lympiose, Lot‟s wife, Ladomya). Last, the pair
mendacity/sincerity is represented by four exempla (Clytemestra, Medea, Ypermestre,
       De Mézières gives most attention to chastity and to piety/devotion. These qualities are
stressed in respectively five (Delphina, Cecilia, Marie d‟Espagne, Elizabeth, Queen of Hungary)
and four (Cecilia, Hester, Marie d‟Espagne, Elizabeth) exempla. All of these but one (the queen
of Hungary) are positive exempla.

3.5 The moralising tenor

A first look at the morals that can be derived from the exempla, points out that in the case of Der
Minnen loep they are mostly of the type in which either a reward or a punishment is given. Those
unfaithful will be punished for it (Clytemestra, Jason/Medea), but faithful wives will be
rewarded (Penelope, Herimones). Disobedient wives will be punished for it (Vasti, Lot‟s wife),
yet obedient wives will be rewarded for it (Hester, Lympiose). Credulous wives will be punished
(Creusa, Boecia) and they will come to regret it if they interfere with their husband‟s business
(Wife in Gent, Woman in Schyedam, Pocris). Angry wives will be punished as well (Nycol). All
these women have been either punished or rewarded for their deeds, of which they are
represented as a respectively negative or positive example. The only exempla in which nobody is
punished or rewarded, are those propagating that a true wife values her husband‟s life more than
her own body (Ypermestre, Atestes, Ladomya, Enalue). These are all positive exempla in which
the woman more or less sacrifices her own body out of devotion to her husband. In two cases she
saves his life in doing this (Ypermestre, Atestes), but no other specific reward is given.
       A second observation, that has already become clear from the former paragraph, is that
Potter frequently uses several exempla to illustrate one and the same moral. The exempla sharing
their moral are sometimes grouped together, but not in all cases. Moreover, it is shown that the

morals form pairs – obedience/disobedience, credulity/suspicion, faithfulness/unfaithfulness,
mendacity/sincerity –, representing both positive and negative cases of each theme.
       The morals that can be derived from the exempla in Le Livre de la vertu are both more
diverse and more delicately refined. The overall view that a chaste marriage is to be preferred,
for example, results in balanced morals like „a pious and chaste marriage will save ladies from
hydropsy‟ (Cecilia) and „to obey the sacrament of marriage a lady should bare children but to
truly serve God she must remain chaste‟ (Elizabeth). Only three morals are used more than once
(„abstinence in marriage is virtuous‟: Delphina, Queen of Hungary; „a diligent wife remains in
good health‟: Rebecca, Queen of Cyprus; „marriage should not be undertaken for greed, but out
of free will only‟: Charles Robert I, Jeanne of Navarre), and none more than twice.
       Furthermore, none of the exemplary women in Le Livre is rewarded for her excellent
behaviour. Living up to the sacrament of marriage and exercising all virtues that go with it, is not
concerned an achievement, but is the duty of every married lady, man and all good Christians. In
addition, punishment does not often occur either. There are only two exempla in which the lady
gets punished for her deeds: Vasti and Rosamond. Both of them suffer from dangerous illnesses
caused by an unhappy marriage and the author uses them to illustrate the great evils that may
come from these illnesses. Yet Joan of Naples suffers from such an illness as well (insanity), but
she remains untouched, although her husband does have to pay for it with his life.

4 Conclusion: a comparison regarding the content

De Mézières and Potter both present a complex framework of theories regarding marriage.
Although the third book of Le Livre is longer, more detailed and more structured than the fourth
book of Der Minnen loep, at some points they seem to fully agree with each other. Both authors
decisively distinguish men from women and they both clearly state that marriage is a bond
between one man and one woman, no more or less.
       They are furthermore very dedicated to the social functioning of marriage. In both texts,
peace and harmony are of the highest importance and both partners should make an effort to
keep them in marriage. This mutual responsibility is by De Mézières formulated with the
catholic „Love both your friends and your enemies‟; Potter chooses the more profane and
humane „You will receive what you give to others‟. The social functioning is not restricted to the
bond between the partners. An illustration of the influences society may have on married women
is the specific warning to women not to believe bad rumours, liars and messengers, presented by
both authors. Another example is both authors‟ concern with women‟s adultery, more than with
men‟s, because of the generation that may come from it – any bastard children may be a threat

for the family‟s heritage. Free will in the alliance and the legitimacy of the living together are
named important values of a good marriage.
       The main difference between the texts concerns the spiritual dimension of marriage, that
is completely absent in Der Minnen loep but omnipresent in Le Livre. Potter is mainly occupied
with the concern of profane society: he values marriage higher than monastic life, his main
advise in problematic situations is to maintain honour, and unfaithfulness is regarded upon as the
breaking of an inter-human domestic relation. De Mézières views the earthly marriage as a
reflection of the spiritual alliance every Christian has with God. An earthly marriage cannot
function well if one of the partners neglects the spiritual marriage with God, the First Spouse.
Unfaithfulness therefore may consist of breaking either one of these bonds and it could just mean
that one of the partners failed to love the other in peace (without any adultery committed). Here,
sinning in marriage is first related to the soul‟s responsibility towards God to remain clean of
slate, not towards the profane society that matters to Potter.
       Another difference is the physical dimension. De Mézières relates bad behaviour and
mental ailments directly to the functioning of the physical body. Happiness and health are
closely connected: medical care will cheer up the mind and virtuousness will cure illness. This
physical dimension also is absent in Potter‟s work. The intertwining of the social, the spiritual
and the physical makes that De Mézières seems to prevent a cure for every possible problem.
       Besides these three dimensions – the social, the spiritual and the physical –, of which
only the first is present in Der Minnen loep, it has become clear that De Mézières is more
religiously focused in general. God is omni-present in Le Livre, and all human actions are
considered to influence the relation between God and humanity. Potter names God a few times,
but never in his advises on the spouses‟ behaviour and He is certainly not the main reason for
which husband and wife should live together in virtue. Furthermore, the disciplined structure of
the third book of Le Livre shows that De Mézières has carefully considered his topic beforehand.
All theories, causes and advises are presented in groups of seven, six, five, four or three, and all
are announced in advance, often at the beginning of a new chapter in the manuscript. This book
shows a structure one could expect to encounter in a medieval theological scholarly treatise. Any
structure of the kind is absent in Der Minnen loep‟s fourth book. This aspect makes De Mézières
not only more Christian, but even theological.
       Also the sources used by De Mézières indicate a theological basis. As has already been
mentioned in part I of this thesis, he cites Hugo of Saint Victor, Saint Augustin, Saint Gregory
and the Holy Apostles to amplify his theoretical framework. Another important source is the
Bible, also referred to by Potter. Although De Mézières and Potter both refer to Genesis 2, they
use the source for a different aim: De Mézières finds here an argument to state that marriage can

be true, lawful and valuable without consummation, to Potter the story of Adam and Eve is
simply an indication that marriage was commanded by God Himself and therefore is of the
highest esteem.
           In addition, regarding the exempla cited both authors have but one common source as
well: again it is the Bible – De Mézières‟ version of the Griseldis-tale has been left out of scope
(since it is of to great length and importance to be defined as an exemplum, according to the
definition fixed in paragraph 3.1). Moreover, Potter draws mainly from classical literature, such
as the work of Ovid. De Mézières uses his personal memories and acquaintances, plus a diverse
number of medieval texts. Former research has demonstrated that Potter‟s attitude towards his
sources it often that of free adaptation,177 but regarding Le Livre de la vertu no such research has
been undertaken yet. It is unfortunately outside this thesis‟ scope to complete this lacuna.
           This lack of knowledge of source texts poses a problem in the further analysis of the
exempla: what elements have been created by the authors, and what elements were provided by
their sources? For instance, the question whether the authors have consciously chosen either to
omit or mention the women‟s status, could reveal information on the intended recipients of the
text. De Mézières seems to have been more preoccupied in mentioning the women‟s social
position after marriage than Potter. Even so, he seems to be less interested in the women‟s birth
than his colleague. This difference may be related to his traditional Christian view on marriage,
according to which this alliance permanently determines the social position of the woman.
           From an analysis of the exempla themselves, it appears that Potter handles a balance
between positive and negative examples, whereas De Mézières stresses the positive side of the
treated themes. Both authors share the appreciation of servitude, beauty, humility, diligence,
modesty, obedience and faithfulness. Potter stresses most fidelity, obedience and the balance
between credulity and suspicion. De Mézières prefers piety and chastity. The way in which these
qualities appear in the exempla, shows that De Mézières has a more formal perception of
marriage, regarding it as an official alliance. According to this author, the married lady is obliged
to a certain virtuous behaviour by the sacramental law, towards her mortal as towards her
Immortal Spouse. His theological background thus determines his perception of marriage as a
spiritual alliance, the fringing of which leads to sin and thus to suffering in purgatory. As has
been shown by the various interpretations of the concept of faithfulness, Potter is more pre-
occupied with inter-human relations.
           Naturally, this difference is also reflected by the virtues that are stressed most in each
text. Fidelity, obedience, credulity and suspicion are qualities that specifically apply to the
profane society; when two people make a vow, they should be loyal and sincere to one another.

      Van Buuren 1979:284-286.

The qualities of piety and chastity are clearly inspired by the Christian religion; by these virtues
a woman directs herself to God, remaining pure and unspoilt for His will.
       Most of Potter‟s morals are of the type „reward or punishment‟. Several exempla
illustrate the same moral, often in pairs that show both the positive and the negative side of the
moral. De Mézières‟ morals are more diverse and more refined. Only three morals are used more
than once and none more than twice. Rewards or punishments are not of any importance.

Both Le Livre and Der Minnen loep show a close connexion between the morals of the exempla
cited and the theoretical framework those are incorporated in. The emphasis that De Mézières
puts on the dangers of lust is directly reflected by the many exempla on virginity and chastity he
cites, the most striking one being the tale of the pious and chaste Marie d‟Espagne, who even
mourns the sinful thoughts her natural beauty may have caused in others‟ minds. Furthermore De
Mézières‟ intertwined complex of the social, the spiritual and the physical is present throughout
the third book, also in the exempla. Saint Cecilia for instance chooses to remain a virgin for
religious reasons (spiritual component), convinces her husband to live in chastity with her and to
become Christian (social component) and is thus saved from hydropsy (physical component).
       Likewise, the morals in Potter‟s exempla are very much analogue to his opinions uttered
in the theoretical framework. Moreover, he succeeds in making it look like he derives his moral
ideas on marriage from the events narrated in the exempla, thus hiding that he has prepared a
carefully balanced composition of exemplary material that amplifies his theories.
       Both authors are mainly concerned with advising women, as has become clear from the
great amount of attention being paid to the ideal wife, contrary to the ideal husband, who is
discussed merely briefly. In describing the virtue of marriage and the qualities needed
accomplish this, both authors stress the wifely duties. To Potter, female virtuousness is
indispensable for a happy, stable and harmonious alliance. According to De Mézières, women
simply need more counselling than men do, because of their weak and fragile nature. Either way,
the intended audience appears to have consisted of females for a large part.
       The observation that almost all exempla cited are chosen from amongst the nobility,
could possibly indicate a noble audience for both works. For Le Livre this seems plausible,
regarding the noble couple the work was dedicated to. De Mézières‟ statement that wealth and
nobility do not add up to happiness in marriage – since it is a sacrament, spiritually uniting two
souls – does not necessarily interfere with the possibility of a noble audience. Der Minnen loep
however, has not been dedicated to anyone particular, but since his position at the court of
Holland, Potter could have reckoned with noble recipients of his work. At least he does once
state that noble women honour their husbands better than do the ordinary people.

       Next, the selection of noble women and men could be a way to attribute to the virtuous
characters a certain authority. This could be a didactic and persuasive strategy to make the
audience – that is not necessarily noble itself – pursue the behaviour of someone they admire and
look up to. For both Der Minnen loep and Le Livre this is a plausible explanation, since they
both aim to convince the audience of their ideas. Last, the observation that most of the exempla
recited, narrate of the nobility, could simply be dependant on the medieval literary traditions.
This explanation is the most general, but also the less convincing, just because the other two
explanations provide motivations that are more particular and yet suit both authors quite well, or
even better.
       A supposed noble audience goes well with the theological core of Le Livre. This complex
work probably demanded for a more educated audience than the simpler, profane Der Minnen
loep, that could well be found in the French court circle around De Mézières – about which I will
come to speak again in part III of this thesis. Potter, not being a nobleman himself, is known to
criticize the acquisition of the noble status by birth instead of by virtue in his later work. Der
Minnen loep may therefore rather be emerged in a middleclass environment, connected to the
late medieval town of The Hague. If so, this would explain both the author‟s concern with the
profane society and the lack of theological structures and sources or spiritual dimensions.
       Yet, the spiritual dimension of the theories posed in Le Livre makes this work suitable for
a broader audience than just the French nobility. According to De Mézières‟ interpretation of the
theme, all Christians may benefit from his advises, not only the married ladies he addresses in
the first place. However, to come to a definitive conclusion on the matter, the formal aspects of
both texts need to be examined first. I will do so in the next part of this thesis, to get back to the
question of the audience in chapter 3.

III Exemplary narratives

At first glance, Le Livre de la vertu and Der Minnen loep appear to have similar structures. Both
are moralizing texts on the virtue of marriage, making us of exempla, for didactic purposes. This
part III is therefore dedicated to these texts‟ forms. By examining the formal features more
detailed, it will be revealed whether these works actually are as much alike as the first
impression allows us to believe, or not.
           The first chapter explores the existing contemporary traditions of moralizing literature, to
which Potter and De Mézières could have been leaning when writing their own works. As such,
this chapter will put the authors in their own cultural circle for a moment, instead of exploring
the possible connections between them. The second chapter aims to clarify the works‟ structures,
and the functions of exempla in the main discourses. Finally, the third chapter describes what is
mentioned in both texts about author and audience, and in what way. These observations will
clarify the authors‟ intentions and the public they were reaching for, supplementing the
observations formerly made in part II of this thesis. This is described in this part‟s conclusion.

1 Existing traditions

Both Der Minnen loep and Le Livre de la vertu do not stand alone. These works can be placed in
a wider framework of existing moralising and narrative traditions of the time. Late medieval
Europe developed a particular interest in the topic of the good wife and exempla have been used
since Antiquity.178
           The late medieval French literature shows multiple examples contemporary to De
Mézières‟ works, the most well-known being Le Mesnagier de Paris, Le Livre du Chevalier de
la Tour Landry and the works of Christine de Pizan. Le Livre du Chevalier de la Tour Landry
was composed around 1371-1372 by a Poitou nobleman, for the education of his daughters. Le
Mesnagier de Paris was written in 1393 by a rich and old Paris bourgeois for his 15-year old
wife. Like Christine de Pizan‟s Livre de la cité des dames, both works present a number of short
exemplary tales, among which the story about Griseldis. They were quite popular in their time
and have been preserved in several manuscripts.179
           This tradition is marked by three aspects: the texts are closely connected through
dedication and patronage to the highest French nobility, the tales focus on married women‟s

      Vecchio 1994; Les Exempla 1998.
      Loba 2008c:479-480; Loba 2003:31-32; De Gendt 2003; Lorcin 1993; Quilligan 1991; Ferrier 1979.

behaviour rather than on single women‟s virginity as an important area of female virtue, and they
carry a strong socio-political dimension. This latter dimension consists of the assumption that the
good wife bears a responsibility for creating domestic harmony through virtues that also
contribute to the common good. This harmony is considered to have a positive influence on the
relation between the spouses and on the social relations between the married couple and the
people surrounding them. Likewise, female virtuousness could influence male power and politics
in a positive way.180 As will be explained in part IV, chapter 3, the obedient Griseldis is an
excellent example of this.
         The flowering of moralising texts in the vernacular in the French court circle around
1400 is closely connected to history. The political situation was unstable after the death of
Charles V. Problematic were the minority and later madness of Charles VI, the continuous
battles with England and the struggles between the Dukes of Burgundy and Orléans. To cope
with these circumstances asked for more consciousness of society. Themes like peacefulness,
reconciliation and common good were popular. This emerged in a shift of literary focus from the
self and the self‟s emotions to a focus on social relations. The education of married couples is
one component of it, and the broader public of all good Christians to which De Mézières
addresses himself, fits in with these circumstances even better.181
         The work of De Mézières is in particular connected to the work of fellow-courtier
Christine de Pizan. Much of the ideas expressed by Christine de Pizan, were first initiated in a
more conservative form by De Mézières in Le Livre de la vertu. As Christine de Pizan‟s father,
Thomas, was an astrologist at the court of France at the same time De Mézières was one of the
court‟s most prominent figures, both writers shared an intimate social circle. Christine de Pizan
certainly belonged to the first readers of Le Livre de la vertu, and even relied on it for her version
of the tale of Griseldis, incorporated in her Livre de la cité des dames.182 In her Livre des trois
vertus Christine shows a view on marriage inspired by De Mézières‟. Both authors show a
concern with the true nature of marriage, while any reflection of the kind is absent in Le
Mesnagier de Paris and Le Livre du Chevalier de la Tour Landry. Although preoccupied with
the profane reality, Christine de Pizan and Philippe de Mézières draw the subject beyond the
earthly, daily and practical, dimension, by insisting on love as the major compound of the
alliance, expressed by the exemplary strong and patient Griseldis. Both authors are thus
exploring the spiritual foundations of marriage. Yet, Christine de Pizan seems to draw this even

    For these definitions see Collette 2000:152.
    Collette 2000:151-155; Brown 2002:44-45.
    Quilligan 1991:165-167.

further by explicitly inviting her female audience to be self-critical and responsible for their own
        Beside this, the work of De Mézières is connected to contemporary theological traditions.
Although addressed and applicable to a broad audience, Le Livre shows a well-considered
thematic structure that reminds us of the genre of the theological Summa. In the second half of
the fourteenth century, theologians focused more and more on moralising a broad audience
likewise, instead of destining their works to the University‟s internal atmosphere. A shift of
genre appeared, away from exegesis and towards the answering of individual questions of the
author‟s interest. Jean Gerson (1363-1429), chancellor of the University of Paris, was one of the
first and most influential schoolmen who thus became a public intellectual.184
        Gersons work was very popular up to the end of the fifteenth century. It was largely
copied and spread by his younger brother Jean the Celestine, who belonged to the same order as
De Mézières withdrew to in his later years. Among the owners of these manuscripts were the
Dukes of Burgundy and the King of France. It has been argued by Lieberman that De Mézières
and Gerson knew each other personally. A letter by Gerson, addressed to a „noble et religieux
seigneur‟, is to amplify this assumption.185 Le Livre de la vertu, being addressed to a wide
audience with a moralising aim, yet clearly and explicitly based on traditional theological
sources like the works of Augustine, Gregory the Great, Bonaventura, Hugh of Saint Victor and
Bernard of Clairveaux, fits into the developments in intellectual Paris of the time, of which
Gerson has been the face.
        A quick look at the topics discussed in tracts and treatises by theologians and canon
lawyers of the later Middle Ages, shows that marriage was discussed very little in this tradition,
and the treatises that do discuss it are all dated in the second half of the fifteenth century.186
However, Gerson‟s attitude towards women, though poorly researched, reveals some similarity
to De Mézières‟: his main aim is to secure women‟s well-being, to direct them to a life of
devotion, and to protect them from their husband‟s non-religious attitude and bad treatments. He
furthermore stresses the element of free will in the alliance of marriage, which is to his opinion
often violated. Last, both spouses carry an equal responsibility in family conflicts. Nevertheless,
and like De Mézières, Gerson values virginity higher than marriage. The difficulties a married
life can bring to women are discussed by Gerson in an unfortunately unedited text, called
Enhortant a prendre l’estat de virginité plus que de mariage.187

    Loba 2008a:294-301; Brown 2002:43-44; De Gendt 2003:189-206; Lorcin 1993:241-242.
    Hobbins 2003.
    Lieberman 1967.
    Hobbins 2003: appendix.
    Mazour-Matusevich 2006.

           It thus appears that De Mézières‟ work is related to both Christine de Pizan‟s and Jean
Gerson‟s. To complete the triangle, the relation between the latter two can be investigated more
closely. Here a short mention of what is often referred to as the debate on Le Roman de la rose
will do to illustrate. Le Roman, a very popular allegory on courtly love, was written in the
thirteenth century and has provoked discussion ever since, peaking around 1400 in Paris. Many
scholars and intellectuals regarded the work as one of the masterpieces of French literature, yet
Christine commented heavily on the views on women expressed in the text. Obscene language
and defamation of women were her main objections, and in spite of many contemporary
intellectuals‟ complaints she refused to withdraw her statements. Instead, she even took the
debate into the public sphere by spreading the scholarly correspondence, even to the Queen,
Isabeau of Bavaria.188
           The quarrel was set forward and Christine de Pizan found a companion in her objections
in the person of Jean Gerson, who agreed on her moral statements from a theological point of
view. In answer to Le Roman, Gerson wrote an allegorical treatise opposing it: Chastity
presenting eight articles of complaint to Justice. Obscenity, jealousy, misogyny, and the
excessive call to sexual procreation that according to his opinion were present in the text, were
the main topics. The objections of De Pizan and Gerson show an individual commitment to an
ideal of civic, social responsibility, that equals De Mézières‟ (as will be further shown in part
IV). There are even sources that indicate that De Pizan and Gerson consciously used the debate
to consolidate their positions at the French court, like De Mézières wrote for the higher nobility
to secure his.189
           The observations above show that De Mézières‟ Livre can be placed in a contemporary
French tradition of exemplary and allegorical narratives. The topic of the virtuous wife was very
popular at the end of the fourteenth century, as becomes clear from the exemplary texts Le
Mesnagier de Paris and Le Livre du Chevalier de la Tour Landry, that have been preserved in
several manuscripts. De Mézières was in particular connected to fellow authors and intellectuals
De Pizan and Gerson. He thus proves to be strongly attached to his age.

The literary tradition in which Potter‟s Der Minnen loep can be placed, is one of didactical
poems on love, often referred to as artes amandi. The most important representatives of this
genre are Ovid‟s Ars amatoria and Remedia amoris and Andreas Capellanus‟ De amore libri
tres. These works were widely spread in the later Middle Ages, often serving as reading material
at schools, and by the time Potter could take notice of them an exhaustive tradition of

      For more information see McWebb 2007; Hicks 1977.
      Hult 1997:351-355. See also Langlois 1918.

commentaries existed as well. Like Der Minnen loep, Ars amatoria knows a careful composition
of theories, explained by examples or short stories. Although these stories are sometimes similar
and Ars amatoria and Remedia amoris in some passages seem to have had their influence on Der
Minnen loep, the actual ideas expressed by Ovid in both Latin texts are quite different from
        Tracing this possible influence further, Ovid‟s Epistulae Heroidum (or Heroides) seems
much closer related to Der Minnen loep. This literary work contains fifteen elaborate letters,
fictively exchanged between famous couples from antique mythology. All letters are written by
the female heroine and addressed to her lover, like Penelope to Ulysses, Dido to Aeneas and
Hermione to Orestes. Not only has Potter used many stories from this antique work, but in the
medieval commentaries that are conserved in the margins of Heroides-manuscripts, the three
kinds of love Potter distinguishes are frequently discussed. Here, we do find not only many
similar ideas, but also a similar use of terminology: the same Latin words are used in the same
sense and situations as the Dutch words coinciding with them. Ghecke minne (amor stultus),
gheoerlofde minne (amor licitus) and ongheoerlofde minne (amor illicitus) – crazy love,
permitted love and forbidden love – were thus part of a contemporary scholarly tradition of
reading and interpreting an ancient literary master, and were as such taught at many medieval
schools. Regarding the high range of similarities it is probable that Potter has encountered this
terminology likewise.191
        The remaining kind of love (goede minne, good love) he may have gathered from Ovid-
commentaries as well, although it is much less present. However, the typology of four kinds of
love is known from other medieval sources as well, and thus Potter may have encountered the
good love elsewhere. Still, former research has not been able to connect the ideas expressed by
Potter in the format he has chosen for it to any other medieval text known. As such Der Minnen
loep remains a highly original work, until a closer study of medieval Ovid-commentaries may
prove different.192

2 Use and function of exempla

It has been demonstrated that Le Livre de la vertu and Der Minnen loep are related to different
traditions of moralising literature. Connecting this to the observations made in part II and to

    Van Buuren 1979:192-239; Gerritsen 2009:51-54.
    Van Buuren 1979:198-211; Gerritsen 2009:43.
    Van Buuren 1979:237-238. Unfortunately, Van Buuren does not specify the „other sources‟ in which the
typology of four kinds of love can be found.

recent studies on the medieval exemplum, it occurs that both authors‟ specific use of exempla
gives reason to place them in different traditions as well.
         The research in this field usually distinguishes two kinds of exempla: the sermon
exemplum and the classical or public exemplum.193 The two exempla are distinguished on three
grounds. The sermon exemplum evolved out of the earlier monastic tradition, initiated by
Gregory‟s Dialogues. It drew most of its material from folkloric and hagiographic traditions. The
classical or public exemplum has flourished in the ninth century‟s Mirrors of Princes, but also
occurred in other political and historiographical contexts. It drew its material mainly, yet not
only, from classical antiquity, which explains its first name. This material was next adapted to
coincide with medieval public matters, which explains the exemplum‟s second name. Next, the
classical or public exemplum addresses issues of lay authority, thus being often more political
than the sermon exemplum, which is foremost hagiographical or ecclesiological. Last, the
classical or public exemplum had a preference for the evil exemplarity; for narratives that
demonstrate the truthfulness of their morals by narrating violations of these morals and the
punishments received upon these violations. This preference is related to the disorder that is
inherent to the historical world this type of exemplum addresses. The sermon exemplum tends in
the other direction, seeking the miraculous and showing a benevolent model of virtuousness.194
         When applying these characteristics to the exempla used by De Mézières and Potter, the
first author seems to prefer sermon exempla whereas the latter uses mainly classical exempla. De
Mézières‟ exempla are drawn from personal experience and hagiographical traditions, tend to
seek a miraculous or at least spiritual dimension and are mostly positive illustrations of virtuous
behaviour. The connection the author makes to the sermon tradition is in line with his rather
theological approach. Potter‟s exempla are mainly drawn from antique sources, adapted to his
medieval view on contemporary issues, address profane matters and show a moralising base of
reward and punishment. This coincides with the Ovidian tradition in which Der Minnen loep can
be placed. Thus, also the actual corpus of exempla gathered by De Mézières and Potter shows
how they are relying on different, existing traditions.195

According to the Dictionnaire des Lettres Françaises, an exemplum may have three different
functions in a moral discourse. The first is an exemplum in the most general sense: an example, a
model of virtue or behaviour that should be pursued. The second is the rhetorical exemplum: an
event or quote from the past, committed or uttered by a person of a certain authority. The
rhetorical exemplum is often used as a persuasive strategy in juridical or moralising texts or

    Scanlon 1994:57-58, 81-83.
    Scanlon 1994:57-58, 81-83.
    For the observations on the exempla the authors use, see part II, chapter 3.

sermons. The third function of the exemplum is that of an illustrative story, inserted in a longer
text, and used to teach the audience a moral lesson as well.196
           Observing the structures of Le Livre and Der Minnen loep, it has become clear that Potter
offers a sequence of short stories, connected by ideological commentaries. Every story is closed
by a moralising reflection, resulting in a short discussion of the topic related. The author
continues this discussion until the following tale, meanwhile twisting his discourse in such a way
that the next story makes another thematic connection. The stories themselves are adapted in
such a way that they nicely fit in with Potter‟s main argument.
           De Mézières works the other way around. He presents a well-structured sequence of
inter-related theories, occasionally and irregularly illustrating these by an exemplum. His tales
are much shorter and often presume some pre-knowledge of the audience.
           These observations point out that both authors do not use exempla in the same way. To
use the terminology mentioned above: De Mézières uses the exempla mostly as illustrative
stories. They are inserted in the actual discourse, amplifying its main argument. Theoretically, Le
Livre could be read without the exempla; the text would still be understandable if one took them
out. Reversed, not all exempla would be equally easy to understand when read independently.
They have been highly adapted to their position in the main discourse, meaning that the events
are narrated very briefly and thus the exempla are leaning on the main argument to a large
extent. One would need the whole text to fully understand the exempla‟s tenors. Besides this
illustrative function, De Mézières also makes use of the rhetorical function. The exempla are
often taken from his personal memories, or from contemporary history. In these cases, the author
himself is the authority, and the exemplum is not more than a brief recall of either his own
experiences or well-known recent historical events. Although they in the first place serve as
illustrations, they are also part of the author‟s persuasive strategies. This use of strategy shows
another connection between Le Livre and the sermon-tradition, that frequently uses rhetorical
exempla as well.
           In comparison, Potter uses the exempla merely in the general sense. The stories he
presents are models of either virtuous or rejected behaviour, which should be respectively
pursued or avoided. All stories could excellently be read independent of the theoretical
framework. Contrarily, taking out the exempla would render the text strangely illogical, and
difficult to understand. Potter‟s moralising strategy is not the traditional rhetorical one; he first
narrates the tales, and next he succeeds in making it look like his moral discourse arouses
naturally from the material presented. His commentaries thus more or less explain the exempla,
which is exactly the opposite of the strategy used by De Mézières.

      Dictionnaire des Lettres Françaises, p.437-438.

3 Author and audience

The intended audience of a text may be addressed directly, indirectly or not at all. Likewise, an
author can manifest himself in a text in several ways, or not at all. In the field of literary studies,
the author is usually formally separated from the text‟s narrator, for they can be two separate
entities. If the narrator speaks in the first person singular, this does not mean that it is the author
of the book we are listening to. Yet, in historical literature it is not always necessary to make this
distinction. When combining the information that is known about the historical author from
archival sources with the way in which the narrator introduces himself, it often appears that they
are one and the same person. Furthermore, the information a text contains on the author and
audience can be very valuable to research, because it may help in defining the social circles in
which the text has been written and read or listened to. Because social circles are important to
this thesis‟ topic, this chapter is dedicated to the authors and audiences of the exemplary
narratives Le Livre and Der Minnen loep.

3.1 The narrator and the author

In the prologue of Le Livre de la vertu the narrator introduces himself as:

           …un viel solitaire, jadis indigne serviteur et privé de pluseurs roys crestiens, usurpant lors la place d‟un
           preudhomme en presence des roys et a present le dit solitaire par la vocation de Dieu, (…), lequel faisant
           son pelerinage lors parmi les cours des papes et de roys, trouva pluseurs qui disoient estre ses vrays amis.
           (f.1v, p.44, r.3-7)

This „viel solitaire‟ has been connected to the historical person of Philippe de Mézières by
analogy with Le songe du vieil pélérin, L’Épistre au Roy Richard II and the autographed
testament, in which texts he calls himself likewise. The narrator and the author are thus
coinciding and may be called the name of De Mézières.197
           De Mézières refers to himself either in the first person singular or in the third person
singular. In the third book of Le Livre he names himself „je‟ 21 times;198 he personifies himself
as the old lonely writer 23 times. In this he is remarkably modest. He calls himself for instance
„cestui viel escripvain‟, „cestui rude plastrier escripvain‟, „le povre solitaire‟ and even „ce povre

      Golenistcheff-Koutouzoff 1933:47.
      See pages 223, 241, 243, 244, 246, 258, 266, 267, 277, 278, 279, 293, 294, 295, 306 of the edition.

escripvain simple et ydiote‟.199 In this part of the work he refers to himself in the first person
plural („nous‟) only three times.200 Although De Mézières makes his narratorship somewhat
intimate by the use of the personal pronouns „je‟ and „nous‟, he still keeps a certain distance
between his own person – the author – and the audience by calling himself diminishing names.
         Although De Mézières historicizes himself as the author and narrator of Le Livre de la
vertu, he distinguishes himself not very clearly. He stays at the background, which fits in with
the mystical aspects of his work. Although human, this author would rather not be an author at
all, would rather not even be bound to a human body at all. By keeping himself at the
background, De Mézières expresses the desire to become one with the allegory he teaches his
audience. The restrictions of the human body only block the spirit – the reasonable soul, married
to God – that plays such an important role in the book. This reserved attitude towards the
physical is reflected in his view upon marriage: virginity and abstinence are valued very high,
and if marriage has to be, then preferably in chastity. 201

Potter‟s narrator also introduces himself, namely at the beginning of the first book of Der
Minnen loep, referring to himself in the first person singular:

         Ic, man ende scriver vanden bloede,
         Die wile ic hadde die yseren roede
         Ende rechter was in svorsten lant,
         Wart ic int hoghe rijck ghesant,
         Om eenre ghewerff in stilre list,
         Daer dackerman niet off en wist.
         Ic bleef daer langher dan een jaer. (I, vs.77-83)

These descriptions correspond to what we know about Potter from archival sources. The author
and narrator are therefore usually seen as one and can be historicized as the natural person of
Dirc Potter.202
         Potter refers to himself mostly in the first person singular, by using the personal pronouns
„ic‟ and „my‟. In the fourth book of Der Minnen loep this occurs 65 times, which is rather
frequent. Only once Potter refers to himself in the first person plural, when he talks about his
work as „our book‟ („onsen gescrifte‟, IV, vs.158). All this makes Der Minnen loep quite

    „cestui viel escripvain‟ (f.90v, p.217, r.12), „cestui rude plastrier escripvain‟ (f.90v, p.217, r.14), „le povre
solitaire‟ (f.111, p.257, r.5) and even „ce povre escripvain simple et ydiote‟ (f.111v, p.258, r.1).
    See p.221 and 228 of the edition.
    Based on: Andrea Tarnowski, Dartmouth College, USA. Paper given at the conference on De Mézières, Nicosia,
June 2009.
    Corbellini 2000:53-58.

personal, and gives a subjective touch to the morals presented. Potter is a human teacher, trying
to teach his audience for the best he knows.

3.2 The addressed audience

In the prologue to Le Livre, De Mézières clearly states his intended audience to exist of all
married ladies, their husbands and all good Christians. This is repeated throughout the text, and
also the third book of Le Livre shows explicit addressings to this rather large group.203 Married
ladies are named 11 times, married ladies and their husbands together are named 23 times, and
all good Christians are named 11 times. This audience is addressed mostly indirectly, by phrases
like the following.

         „Or entrons (…) en la pratique du reconfort des dames mariees…‟ (f.111v, p.258, r.12);
         „Il fault donques que tout bon Crestien sain et malade et par especial au propos les dames malcontentes de
          leur mariage soyent tres bien armees pour le peril‟ (f.113, p.261, r.23-24);
         „Et pour ce desoremais en avant nulle dame mariee malcontente ne les maris aussy ne creature crestienne
          malade ou passionne d‟aucune maladie ne se doit laissier cheoir en la fosse de desperation‟ (f.134, p.301,
         „Encores est il expedient a la dame mariee et a tout bon Crestien que…‟(f.134V, p.302, r.18).

In three passages the author adresses his audience directly: „femme ou homme feru d‟yre‟,
„femme malcontente‟, „ma doulce suer‟.204 As becomes clear from these quotations, he turns
himself to women and men together one time, and to women solely, twice. In the passages
following these citations, the author gives his advices directly to the person(s) addressed, using
some commandments and some conditional phrases, of the type „if you do this, you will get
happy‟. He furthermore addresses his audience with the rather informal second person singular‟s
pronouns „tu‟ and „toy‟.
          A remarkable passage is chapter XXV.205 Here, the author lets his intended audience
speak to him: „Biaus amis, tu as empris un grant labour pour nous reconforter…‟.206 The author
seems to start a dialogue with the married lady, whom he lets address him informally. Yet, he
introduces her speech as a question posed „a cestui viel escripvain solitaire‟ and keeps this
distance in answering: „A laquelle dame se puet respondre…‟.207

    Collette 2000:156.
    „femme ou homme feru d‟yre‟ (f.122, p.277-278), „femme malcontente‟ (f.123v, p.280-281), „ma doulce suer‟
(f.131, p.295).
    Entitled „En respondant a une question que aucunes dames malcontents porroyent faire au solitaire‟, f.141, p.314.
    F.141v, p.314.
    F.141v, p.314; f.141v, p.315.

          By addressing his audience mostly indirect, like she were a neutral, third party, De
Mézières creates once more a distance between author and audience. Doing so, he presents
himself as a narrator, but with the authority of a teacher, physician or even a theologian. Married
ladies, men and all Christians are not merely his audience; they are his topic.

The audience of Der Minnen loep is at the very beginning of the text described as „Ladies,
knights and youngsters who do not know what love is‟.208 Potter addresses his audience directly,
making use of the second person singular or plural („ghi‟, or in object-position „u‟). In the fourth
book this occurs 78 times, which is quite frequent. Besides this, the author urges his audience
many times to act in a certain way, using direct commandments like „doet‟, „gaet‟ and „levet‟. 209
This confirms the personal tone of the author and the close relation that exists between him and
his audience. They are on the same social level.
          Interestingly, in the fourth book the author addresses himself mainly explicitly to women.
Although former research generally argues that Der Minnen loep‟s audience consisted of the
author‟s friends – the ladies, knights and youngsters mentioned in the prologue –, Potter speaks
about them but once in the fourth book.210 Yet, every time that he addresses himself directly to
the audience, it explicitly concerns women solely. There are seven passages that give detailed
advises to women, either married or not. Each of these passages opens with a definition of the
intended recipient:

         „Ach lieve vrouwen‟, (IV, vs.425-448);
         „Ghi, eerbaer vrouwen‟, (IV, vs.949-962);
         „O waerde vrouwen‟, (IV, vs.1562-1570);
         „goede wijff‟, (IV, vs.1819-1820);
         „Goede, eerbair, salighe vrouwen‟, (IV, vs.1891-1902);
         „Ghi, goede wive‟, (IV, vs.2211-2232);
         „Ghy, eerbair wiven‟, „u, salighe wiven‟, (IV, vs.2261-2324).

The last passage mentioned is also the closing of the whole manuscript, which is thus even a
stronger indication to an intended female audience of this part of Der Minnen loep.

    „Vrouwen, ridderen ende knechten, / Die niet weten wat minne sy‟ (I, vs.124-125). See also Van Buuren
    IV, vs.2295-2298.
    „Ende ghedoechsame te sijn / Radic alle die vrienden mijn‟, IV, vs.1875-1876. See also Van Buuren 1979:79.

4 Conclusion: a comparison regarding the form

Le Livre de la vertu and Der Minnen loep can each be placed within different existing traditions
of moralising literature. The exempla used by both authors indicate the influence of different
traditions as well. De Mézières‟ work is related to the work of contemporary Parisian
intellectuals like Christine de Pizan and Jean Gerson, who share with the first a number of views
and ideas. Besides this, Le Livre can be placed in a particular contemporary tendency of
moralizing exemplary literature on the topic of the ideal wife. Furthermore, it occurs that Le
Livre is connected to a theological tradition of sermons. In comparison, Der Minnen loep is
leaning towards a medieval artes amandi-tradition, based on antique sources, in the center of
which we find Ovid. This difference goes both for the broader perspective of exemplary
literature as a genre and for the actual exempla occurring in the texts and the functions they
fulfill in the main discourses.
       Next, De Mézières and Potter differ in the way they manifest themselves as narrator and
author, and in the way they address their audience. Potter equals himself to his audience: he
maintains a personal, informal tone and addresses his audience like he were one of them. De
Mézières keeps a distance. He sometimes may get personal with his recipients, but he keeps his
position of a teacher, treating his audience like it were his topic and giving himself the authority
over the other.
       At the same time, De Mézières repeatedly stresses that his work is dedicated to a fairly
large audience of all married ladies, men and all good Christians. By this he transgresses all
geographical and social borders, for even lower-class people from other regions could benefit
from his teachings, as long as they are pious Christians. However, one may wonder if all those
pious Christians would get to read the work; it emerged in a circle of noble courtiers and due to
the theological approach it would not have been easy to understand to the lower educated. It may
well be that the perspective of all Christians is an ideological one, rather than a practical one.
       In part II it has been observed that a noble audience is more probable for Le Livre
instead, and in this part no indications have been found to deny this impression. In addition, it
has occurred in part II that the author offers his advises to women in particularly and that he has
attributed most attention to the ideal wife, contrary to the ideal husband. In the present part III it
has been observed that the author regularly addresses himself to married women explicitly, yet
most of the time he addresses himself to both married women and married men together. Of the
three passages in which he addresses himself directly to his recipients, two are addressing
women, and one is addressing women and men together. Hence, the intended audience of Le
Livre probably consisted of – noble – married couples (who are addressed most of the time), but

with a particular benefit to women, who according to the author need more counseling because
of their fragile nature. This profile corresponds to the noble married couple Pierre de Craon and
Jehanne de Chastillon, to whom Le Livre was dedicated.
       In comparison, Potter first addresses Der Minnen loep to ladies, knights and youngsters
who do not know what love is, but in the fourth book he addresses himself explicitly to only
women. In part II it had already been stated that the author directs his advises mainly to women
and that he is more occupied with the ideal wife than with the ideal husband. This could indicate
that the author intended a specifically female audience for the fourth book only. However, the
fourth book can hardly be separated from the other three books of Der Minnen loep, and thus it is
more probable that the case is similar to Le Livre‟s. The work was composed for ladies, knights
and youngsters, but apparently the topic of marriage was considered to be in the first place a
female affair, and so in the fourth book only women were addressed to take the author‟s advises.
       However, no social distinction is made in the fourth book. Yet, the personal tone of the
author towards his audience, the informal attitude and the way in which he equals himself to his
recipients, may be an indication that Potter is not aiming for an audience with a high social
status. That is to say: not higher than his own. Since Potter himself was probably born in a
middleclass family, it would be plausible that he intended his audience to be alike. As stated in
part II, this goes well with the content of Der Minnen loep. The observation that most exempla
he recites are chosen from among the nobility, could be a matter of authority, meant to persuade
his audience to either adapt or reject their behaviour. By presenting noble models of both
positive and negative qualities, he furthermore shows that nobility and virtuousness are not
necessarily connected. And this is exactly what Potter argues in his version of Griseldis and later
in his work Bloeme der Deughden.

The observations above clarify that Le Livre and Der Minnen loep are not that similar after all.
The authors lean on different traditions, which is clearly reflected by their own works. These are
differing likewise, even though the authors both use exemplary tales in their moralizing
discourse. They aim for a different audience and do so by using different strategies. Potter stays
personal and informal, reaching for a smaller audience than De Mézières, who is presenting
himself as an intellectual teacher from whose wisdom many may benefit.

IV Griseldis

Le Livre de la vertu and Der Minnen loep have one remarkable element in common: the tale of
Griseldis. This tale has become very popular throughout western literature, yet De Mézières and
Potter have embodied the material in their vernacular texts in a remarkably early stage in the
tradition.211 As has been clarified in part I, Potter has had several opportunities to acquire the tale
during his diplomatic mission to France in 1409. This tale could therefore well be a literary
connection between both authors, dispersed through the political network.
           Hence, this part IV aims to carry out a comparative analysis of Potter‟s and De Mézières‟
versions of Griseldis. I will consider the stories, the techniques by which they are narrated, and
their meanings, in particularly regarding marriage and Griseldis‟ exemplarity as the ideal wife.
Finally, traces of influence may be discovered. For the reader‟s convenience, copies of the texts
of both Griseldis-versions are inserted in appendix IV.

1 A comparative analysis
1.1 Stories

A comparison of the stories is indispensable for an analysis of the Griseldis-versions made by De
Mézières and Potter. The actual story, its sequences, situations and characters, differs from one
version to another, as do the location(s) where it takes place and the time that passes. I will start
with a summary of De Mézières‟ plot, followed by a summary of Potter‟s plot.

De Mézières narrates:
The Marquis of Saluce, a strong, handsome and noble man called Gautier, wealthy and good-
mannered, was yet unmarried. He liked his loneliness and did not think of the future, neither did
he want to hear speaking of marriage. He neglected his land. His barons however urged him to
marry, but before doing so, Gautier asked them to promise to love and honour his future wife
under all circumstances, whoever she might be. After this, he set a date for the wedding day
(which is not explicitly named). Whenever Gautier would go hunting, he passed a small village
that was home to the poor old Janicola and his pretty daughter Griseldis who took care of him.
Gautier had already heard of her reputation of great virtue and one day, as he looked upon her
when on his way to the woods, he decided that she would be his wife. On the pre-decided date
Gautier and some courtiers came to the village. Gautier spoke to Janicola and asked Griseldis‟
      Femme exemplaire 2000; Golenistcheff-Koutouzoff 1933; Laserstein 1926.

hand in marriage, which the obedient old man could not refuse to his master. Next, in her
father‟s presence, Gautier asked Griseldis to vow that she would never disobey him, no matter
what it was he would ask for. She consented and they got joined in matrimony.
        Griseldis gave birth to a daughter. However, Gautier wanted to test her obedience and
patience. He pretended that the child would have to die because his barons were unhappy with
the heir and he asked for Griseldis‟ patience. She kept herself to her vow and, without showing
any grief, she let a sergeant take away her child – that was actually sent to Gautier‟s sister to be
educated over there. Four years later a son was born. He too was taken from her, so to say
because Gautier would fear that his people would prefer his son to him as a lord. Once again
Griseldis did not shed a tear, although she believed her son would die too. In reality, he was
united with his sister in their aunt‟s care.
        After twelve years of marriage, Gautier secretly sent for a false charter, pretended to be
signed by the Roman Pope, of which the rumour was told that it gave him the right to dissolve
his marriage and to take another wife. He told Griseldis that he was planning to marry another
woman and sent her back to Janicola, dressed in nothing but a chemise. Nonetheless he asked her
to prepare the new bride‟s welcoming, since no-one could fulfil this task better than she.
Griseldis humbly obeyed and showed all courtesy to this new bride, who was in fact her own
daughter, accompanied by her son and their aunt and uncle, who had been previously informed
by Gautier. At the look of the girl, Griseldis begged Gautier not to make this new wife suffer like
he made her, for this one was younger and more delicately educated and would not be able to
bare similar sufferings. Then Gautier could not restrain himself any longer and fulfilled of
compassion he embraced and kissed Griseldis. He revealed their children‟s identity and
convinced her that she alone was and would remain his wife. Griseldis was delighted with joy
and embraced her children while crying. They would live in peace for another twenty years.

Potter narrates:
In Achayen lived a powerful knight, a noble lord with a good sense, called Orphaen, who praised
virtue higher than noble birth. His barons urged him to marry a sensible woman to help him rule
his land. Whenever he rode into the fields to hunt, he would cross the cottage of Arlamoen,
whose daughter was both pretty and virtuous. Arlamoen, poor and humble yet honest and
beloved, had lost his wife. His daughter Lympiose took care of him now. She was humble and
mild-tempered, and the whole town spoke nothing but good words off her virtuousness.
        It seemed Orphaen desirable to marry such a woman who, although of low birth, would
be a wise and kind lady to his people and possessions. He therefore sent for Arlamoen, to ask his

daughter‟s hand in marriage. The old man first thought his master was joking, proposing to a
poor peasant‟s daughter, but then gave his humble consent.
           Orphaen and Lympiose got beautiful children, but he sent them away – it is not said
whereto or why. After this he told Lympiose that she was not worthy a luxury life and that she
should dress humbly and help in the housekeeping, to which she obeyed. Then he even stated
that she no longer could be his wife, but that she could stay as a servant to his new bride, what
offer Lympiose gratefully accepted. The day this new bride arrived, Lympiose put all her efforts
in preparing an appropriate welcoming. But then the young damsel revealed that she was in fact
Lympiose‟s daughter, and that it was she, her mother, who was to be honoured. Orphaen
confirmed this and admitted to have tested Lympiose‟s virtuousness by his cruel behaviour. He
then vowed never to marry another spouse but her.

A quick look on these summaries may illustrate the main difference between both versions:
Potter‟s is much shorter. In his version, the number of characters is limited to four, and their
names have changed.212 Whereas the French version also contains speaking barons (the council),
a speaking sergeant (who is to take away the children), and attributes large passive roles to the
children, aunt and uncle and to the court staff as a whole, the Dutch version sticks to Orphaen,
Lympiose, Arlamoen and the daughter. The actual number and sex of Lympiose‟s children is not
even mentioned.
           Several narrative elements that play a role in the French version, are absent in the Dutch
one, like the pre-set wedding date, the secret education of the children by Gautier‟s sister, and
the papal charter. In the French translation, Janicola obeys his master immediately when Gautier
asks for the hand of his daughter. In the Dutch version, Arlamoen initially accuses his master of
mockery, for he could not be seriously intending to marry a poor peasant‟s daughter!
Furthermore, the Dutch Lord Orphaen does not make his wife believe that their children will be
killed; he simply takes them far away from her, unknown whereto. Another difference is that in
the French version the climax of the story lies with Gautier, who at a certain moment cannot
longer restrain himself to tell his wife the happy truth about their children and the test he put her
through. In the Dutch version the climax lies in the moment when Lord Orphaen‟s new bride
herself reveals her true identity, being the lost daughter. This climax is followed up by an
explaining speech of Orphaen, but the outcome of the story has already been given away.
           Moreover, both tales show a different structure as regards the process of trials the heroine
is put through. In De Mézières‟ version, five stages of trial can be distinguished, whereas
Potter‟s version shows but three:

      No explanation of the different names has been found so far. See also Van Buuren 1979:243; Laserstein 1926:40.

      De Mézières:
      1. Griseldis must take an oath of obedience
      2. The daughter is (believed to be) killed
      3. The son is (believed to be) killed
      4. Griseldis may not be Gautier‟s wife anymore and is taken back to her father
      5. Griseldis is called back to the palace to prepare the new bride‟s welcoming

      1. The children are taken away
      2. Lympiose must dress humbly and assist in the housekeeping
      3. Lympiose may not be Orphaen‟s wife anymore, but may stay as a servant. In this position
         of servant she assists in preparing the new bride‟s welcoming

A comparison of these schemes points out that in Potter‟s version, De Mézières‟ stage no. 1 is
left out, and that De Mézières‟ stages no. 2 and 3, and no. 4 and 5, have been combined into
respectively Potter‟s stages no. 1 and 3. Surprisingly, a new stage (no. 2) is inserted, in which
Lympiose is still Orphaen‟s wife and living in the palace, yet dressing humbly and assisting in
the housekeeping.
         Maybe even more notable than these differences is the omission of some important
emotional turning points in the narrative. Griseldis takes an oath to obey her husband Gautier, no
matter what he is asking for.213 Next, when he makes her believe that she no longer may be his
wife and must leave his court, she submits entirely to his will. In a moving speech she humbly
asks for nothing but a chemise to cover her body, for in Gautier‟s palace she has left her
virginity, that she brought with her as her only dowry.214 Finally, at the arrival of the girl that is
presented as Gautier‟s new bride, she begs him not to make this new wife suffer as he has made
her suffer.215 These three moments are crucial in the version by De Mézières, yet absent in the
version by Potter.
         Next, the story by De Mézières is set in Pieumont, Lombardy. This corresponds with the
modern region of Piémont, situated in North-West Italy, close to the Alps and the French border.
The town of Gautier, Saluce, should be understood as the Italian town Saluzzo.216 Spaces that are
important settings for the story include foremost the palace and the little village with Janicola‟s

    F.168, p.363.
    F.172v-173, p.371-372.
    F.174v-175, p.375.
    F.166, p.359.

cottage, and to a less extant the mansion of Gautier‟s sister, where his children are sent. These
spaces show a paradox that is important to the story‟s interpretation. The antagonism between
the poor cottage, exchanged by Griseldis for the wealthy palace, is not only a change of place,
but a change of social position, the importance of which is underlined by Gautier‟s decision to
take his whole court staff with him as he comes to take his bride. This social dimension of the
spatial change is confirmed as Griseldis is brought back to the village by the entire court staff,
when Gautier has decided to take another wife.
         This paradox is preserved in the Dutch version, although less strong because of the lack
of any court staff and because Lympiose does not return to the countryside. Potter does explicitly
comment on Orphaen‟s high valuation of virtue, rather than wealth.217 All scenes but the
proposal can be located in the mansion of Orphaen. Other spaces are not used, it is not even clear
where the children are taken too. The story as a whole is situated in a land called Achayen,
which corresponds to the Greek region of Achaia, located on the western side of the
         The time structure of the French tale is not described in detail, but there are some
indications given. Four years after her daughter has been taken away from her, Griseldis gives
birth to a son, who is taken from her at the age of two.219 Gautier pretends to marry another
woman after they have been married for twelve years.220 When the children are called to the
palace, they are aged twelve and seven.221 After the happy reconciliation they live together for
another twenty years.222 From these indications can be derived that the total amount of time that
passes after the wedding day is about 32 years.
         The time structure of the Dutch tale is even more vague. The only indication of the
course of time is the age of the daughter, who by the end of the story apparently has reached a
suitable age for marriage, which is still very unclear. About the events passing before the
children‟s birth there are no time indications whatsoever.

1.2 Narrative techniques

As for the narrative techniques De Mézières and Potter do not differ that much. Both stories are
written in the past tense, by an omni-present narrator. Potter once presents a flash forward to his
audience: „Had si niet guet gheweest van zeden / Si en haddet nymmermeer gheleden / Dat sij

    IV, vs.1131.
    IV, vs.1095.
    F.170v, p.367.
    F.172, p.370.
    F.175, p.376.
    F.175v, p.377.

leet, als ghi sult horen‟.223 This narrator is thus all-knowing. At one moment, he shows some
slight subjectivity as he values Orphaen‟s behaviour as strange.224 De Mézières does not use
flash backs or flash forwards, but demonstrates his omni-knowledge by introducing the story
with a prologue. In the actual narrative he expresses some comments, mostly complaints on the
great suffering the heroine is put through. Like Potter, De Mézières marks Gautier‟s behaviour as
strange, as he takes away the children.225
        Potter marks the most important events in the narration by use of direct speech, as
opposed to indirect speech and narrator‟s text. This concerns four passages. The first is the
moment when Orphaen asks Arlamoen for Lympiose‟s hand in marriage. Arlamoen thinks
Orphaen is joking but then affirms him that he is their Lord and as such can command them
whatever he wishes to.226 Second, there is the moment when Orphaen tells Lympiose that she is
not worthy a luxury life and that she should help in the housekeeping. Lympiose does not answer
him, but simply obeys, for she was so humble and virtuous that everything her Lord would
command her, would please her to do.227 Third, we find Lympiose‟s reaction once Orphaen has
told her his intention to take a new wife. It is worth noting here that the stress is not upon
Orphaen‟s decision, but on Lympiose‟s gentle reaction to it. She hopes to have been a good
mistress to Orphaen‟s people and understands that she is not worthy to be his spouse. Her
husband then commands her to prepare the arrival of the new bride and to be her loyal servant,
which Lympiose gratefully accepts.228 Next, the daughter speaks when revealing her identity.229
Last, Orphaen praises Lympiose‟s virtuousness, obedience and modesty in the speech that closes
the story.230
        De Mézières as well reserves direct speech for the most important scenes. But whereas in
Potter‟s version it is mostly just one character speaking once – the previously uttered question or
the answer being summarised by the narrator –, De Mézières presents whole dialogues.231 The
relevant scenes are: the barons‟ request for Gautier to marry, Gautier‟s visit to the village and his
proposal, Gautier‟s commandment to take away the daughter (and the sergeant obeying),
Gautier‟s commandment to take away the son (and the sergeant obeying), Gautier expelling
Griseldis in her chemise, and the climax of the story, when it all comes together. The remaining
events are described by narrator‟s text and indirect speech.

    IV, vs.1123-1125.
    „Dit was die eerste vremdicheit‟, IV, vs.1167.
    „sa merveilleuse, perilleuse et strange curiosité‟, f.170v, p.367. See also Brownlee 1992:872-874.
    IV, vs.1136-1152.
    IV, vs.1176-1179.
    IV, vs.1194-1224.
    IV, vs.1239-1240.
    IV, vs.1244-1254.
    These dialogues enabled De Mézières translation to serve as the main source for the later composed play
L’Estoire de Griseldis (1395). See Loba 1997, Frank 1936 and Roques 1950.

1.3 Griseldis as the ideal wife

The function of the tale of Griseldis can be explained in four ways, which form the traditional
basis of medieval exegesis of the Holy Scripture. According to the Lexikon des Mittelalters,
these are the historical, tropological, allegorical and anagogical senses. The historical sense is the
literal meaning of the story; it regards the events narrated. Next, the tropological sense concerns
the meaning on behalf of inter-human relationships; the moral of the story. The anagogical sense
is a mythic dimension, concerning the relation between the human and God, and referring to (the
path to) the Divine Kingdom. Last, the allegorical sense is a hidden, symbolic meaning,
essentially the linguistic expression of something abstract. Two types of allegory can be
distinguished. These are hermeneutic allegory, in relation to other, formerly written texts, and
illustrative allegory, the interpretation of the image that is hidden behind the text it is expressed
by. Typical for medieval allegories are the connections between the earthly and the divine, the
temporary and eternal.232 The historical senses of both versions of the Griseldis-tale have already
been considered above, so I will now turn to the tropological, allegorical and anagogical
meanings, starting with the version by De Mézières.

The story of Griseldis can be viewed as the climax of Le Livre de la vertu. It is meant as a mirror
for all married ladies, to learn how to love their husbands and to reflect upon themselves and
their behaviour: do they live up to the rules of the matrimonial sacrament? This is, in short, what
the tropological sense of the tale is about. Next, it is meant as an example to all pious and
reasonable souls, who should all love their Immortal Spouse God, to whom they are conjoint by
baptism and who will receive them in the Divine Paradise if they serve Him well. This is, in
short, the anagogical sense of the tale. Last, the process of trials Griseldis is put through can be
interpreted as symbolising the Passion of Christ. This is, in short, the allegorical sense of the tale.
         Starting by exploring the tropological sense, De Mézières‟ main argument is that married
ladies should make an effort to pursue the example of the Marquise Griseldis and to please first
their Immortal Spouse and second their mortal one.233 The example will teach them to recognise
their own virtues and shortcomings and as such the condition of their marriages. All this is
written in the prologue to the story, in which the author also points out his source: the tale as it

   Lexikon des Mittelalters, lemmae „Allegorie‟ and „Anagoge‟.
   „ensuir la marquise de Saluce et de plaire premierement a leur Espous immortel et apres a leur mari mortel‟,
f.358, p.357, r.20-22. See also Brown 2002:45.

was written by Petrarch in Latin.234 This prologue also functions as an introduction to the story
and its main themes. There is no epilogue.
         Griseldis distinguishes herself by her obedience, patience and courage, all due to an
entire and humble submission to her husband the Marquis. Striking in her behaviour are not only
her courage and patience, but also that she suffers without shedding any tear or showing any
trace of anger, as is stressed repeatedly by the narrator of the tale.235 De Mézières on more
occasions shows his appreciation of wifely obedience, for example when citing the bad faith of
Vasti as she broke her bond of obedience to her lord and husband Ahasverus, and when
commenting King Richard II‟s wedding plans in his Épistre to this same king.
         The exempla of good and bad women in Le Livre‟s full text are all selected from among
the nobility, except two: Griseldis and Holy Mary. Although of low birth, Griseldis is referred to
as a noble marquise (f.4) and Mary is called a queen (f.46). By these means they are ennobled by
the author, and they are so on the account of their exceptional virtue.236 In his Épistre au Roy
Richard II De Mézières gives more examples of poor, low-born women being espoused by
nobles or kings because of their great virtue. Clearly, the author views virtue, although not a
demand for nobility, as an ennobling capacity. A difference in birth or background as such does
not necessarily interfere with marriage.237
         To De Mézières, all sorts of evils result from women having disordered appetites and an
excessive, uncontrolled self-will. These maladies cause sins for themselves and problems for
their husbands.238 It is all the more striking that the same author strongly advises only to marry
on free will.239 However, his predominant concern in this matter seems to be the functioning of
society, not the comfort and happiness of the women involved. Envisaging a society structured
by alliances of duty and obligation, the author urges husbands and wives to seek harmony in
marriage. Although his main concern in the exempla is to advise good behaviour in domestic
relations, tales like those about Rosamond and Joan of Naples240 undeniably carry a political
dimension: they show the influence bad female behaviour can have on their male partners, thus
having a disastrous political impact on the society in which the latter have the key to power.
Clearly, De Mézières does not want his audience to underestimate this female influence.241

    F.164-165v, p.356-358. „maistre Fransoys Patrarc, jadis son especial ami‟, f.165v, p.358.
    E.g. on p.365, 367-368 of the edition.
    Williamson 1985:400.
    Williamson 1985:400-403. See also Cropp&Hanham 2007.
    E.g. f.119, p.272. See part II, chapter 1. See also Williamson 1985:404.
    F.104v, 105, 105v, 106v-107v, p.244-250. See also Williamson 1985:404.
    Queen Rosamond persuaded her lover into killing her husband and later poisoned this lover as well. She paid for
it with her life, for in his last breath her dying lover forced her to drink from the poisoned cup as well (f.100v-102,
p.238-239). Joan of Naples was troubled by insanity and believed her husband to be a donkey. She called the royal
counsellors and persuaded them to kill this „donkey‟, who was her husband, and their King (f.100v-101, p.236-237).
    Williamson 1985:404; Collette 2000:155-168; Brown 2002:44-45.

         In the same way, female virtue could sustain and strengthen the social relations, thus
having a positive influence on male power and politics. Griseldis is the ultimate example thereof,
exalting above all other exemplary wives. She is even more admirable because she is believed to
have been a historical person, not a saint or biblical character.242 The social value of her
virtuousness relies on her self-control, that is the basis for her patience, obedience and humility.
Her virtuousness as a peasant‟s daughter was generally known and as the Marquise she is loved
by all, „seigneurs et dames‟.243 But there is more to it: when Gautier is absent, she manages
affairs of state as well as the household, and she agrees on losing her children for political sake.
This capacity to subordinate her own will and to submit entirely to her Lord makes her both the
perfect wife and the perfect political subject.244
         Although the story of Griseldis is a mirror showing how to love one‟s husband perfectly,
it could well teach the reader something on how to love one‟s wife perfectly. The tale reflects the
social importance of a good wife and a good marriage, and it may teach married men to
encourage their wives to be obedient and patient, and to respect them for these qualities. Virtue
is considered of higher importance to a Christian marriage than nobility. Apparently King
Richard II needed to be educated on this matter, so why would not all other men planning to
wed, have benefit from it? However, it is worth noticing that De Mézières‟ approval of Griseldis‟
complete obedience and submission to her husband does not necessarily imply acceptance of her
husband‟s cruel behaviour.245 The narrator remains mostly neutral on this topic, putting the
strongest emphasis on Griseldis‟ qualities; not on her pain and sufferings, and not on Gautier‟s
actions. The motives of the latter are even barely explained – although he is called a very cruel
husband once.246 This is not a misogynistic strategy, for the author explicitly lauds the heroine‟s
         The story of Griseldis is a mirror showing how to love one‟s husband perfectly.
Therefore it also functions as an anagogical model for the relation of the soul to God,247 and
more in particular as a model of how the female soul should serve her spiritual Lord. The
commandment to love God above all things and one‟s neighbour as oneself is reflected in terms
of marriage as a commandment to women to love their spiritual husband (God) above all things,
and next her neighbours, especially her earthly husband to whom she is joined by the sacrament
of marriage. Even so, loving our enemies is even possible in marriage when the husband acts so

    „Et est la dicte histoire publique et notoire en Lombardie et par especial en Pieumont et ou marquisie de Saluce et
reputee pour vraye.‟ (f.165v, p.358). See also Williamson 1985:400; Brownlee 1992:869-870.
    F.168v, p.364.
    F.169, p.364. See also Collette 2000:155-168.
    Medieval mind is being supposed to be capable of making this distinction. Williamson 1985:401.
    „crueulx et tres rigoureux mari‟, f.171v, p.369, r.18-19. See also Brownlee 1992:873.
    F.164v, p.356. See also Brownlee 1992:867.

cruel that he could easily be called an enemy, since God never commands the impossible.
Therefore it is never necessary to despair in marriage.248 This is shown by Griseldis‟
         The same perseverance must be kept in the love of the human soul towards God, for only
by serving Him the right way, entrance to Paradise may be obtained. Griseldis is such a human
figure on a spiritual journey on earth, pursuing perfect virtuousness. Her life therefore is a
pilgrimage with the Divine Kingdom as its destination.250 This applies to the lives of all good
Christians, to whom De Mézières addresses his work, and thus all may benefit from the story.
         Moreover, if Griseldis is interpreted as the human soul, then her husband Gautier may be
interpreted as a reflection of the soul‟s husband: God. As such the marriage between the earthly
Marquis and Marquise symbolises the spiritual alliance between God and human kind.251 That
would make the trials and sufferings Griseldis is put through, commanded by divine powers, for
inscrutable reasons but by the highest authority. The heroine‟s submission to His will, even
grants her the status of martyrdom. Like De Mézières puts it: if nowadays a lady would suffer
like the Marquise has suffered, one could say she was a real martyr.252 This also gives Griseldis
the capacities for saintliness, in addition to her virtues that are already exceptional.
         The allegorical interpretation of the story is just one step further. Besides all that has
already been mentioned, the earthly marriage between man and woman is presented as a
reflection of the spiritual marriage of Christ to the Church. As this spiritual marriage was
accomplished by Christ‟s Passion, Griseldis‟ suffering for her earthly marriage is an imitation of
the divine Passion.253 Before the marriage takes place, Griseldis vows her complete submission
to her Lord (Gautier), which can be compared to the initial sacraments of the Catholic Church.
Next, by order of her Lord she is willing to sacrifice her children, like Abraham was willing to
sacrifice Isaac by the order of God. Griseldis even agrees to sacrifice herself, making room for a
new bride, like Christ sacrificed himself for all humanity. Finally, Griseldis gains rehabilitation
and restitution of conjugal rights. This is a social resurrection, analogue to Christ‟s. All this
confirms Griseldis‟ capacities of saintliness once more.

Proceeding to Potter‟s version of the tale, it is clear that this author only uses the historical and
tropological senses. As the spiritual or theological dimensions are absent throughout Der Minnen
loep, it is not surprising that Potter has left them out in the brief exemplum of Lympiose as well.

    F. 94v-95, p.224-226; f.101v, p.238.
    Williamson 1985:401-402.
    See Femme exemplaire 2000:19.
    See Femme exemplaire 2000:143.
    F.164v, p.356.
    Williamson 1985:401-402.

         In Der Minnen loep the tale of Lympiose is one in a series of positive and negative
examples of matrimonial love and life. Naturally, this tale functions as a positive example. It can
be found in the verses 1095-1266, and is of limited length – 71 rhymed paired verses. It has no
introduction. It is inserted after the tale of Ypermestra, who was a true and loyal wife to her
husband Hynus, in spite of her father‟s commandment. After having briefly stated this moral, a
line-break is inserted in the manuscript, before the story of Lympiose is begun. Already directly
after the introduction of the character Lympiose, Potter stresses her suffering that is still to come:
were she not as virtuous as she truly was, she would not have suffered like she did.254 After the
story has ended, Potter utters a moral reflection on its theme. This passage at the same time
functions as an introduction to the next exemplum narrated, which is about the wife of Lot who
was transformed into a rock.255
         Potter thus finalises the exemplum of Lympiose with an explicit moral that directly
expresses the tale‟s tropological meaning: one may obtain more by virtue than by evil words. 256
The author praises Lympiose‟s behaviour. Had she not humbly obeyed but angrily resisted her
husband‟s commandments, he would have expelled her. After this comment a line break is
inserted in the manuscript, which suggests that the following passage, although connecting
thematically, must be regarded part of the next exemplum.257 Because of the close connection
however, it cannot be let out of scope here. According to the narrator, sweet words are easy to
find and yet make peace all around. In contrary, evil words can be spoken too hastily, while they
bare great consequences to the listener, who will get angry and will commit deeds he would not
have done otherwise. Thus, one shall be humble when required.
         Next, the narrator tells something striking: women of high birth are most virtuous to their
husbands, contrary to the ordinary people.258 This comment seems to be contradicting with the
comment elsewhere in the story, when Orphaen is said to value virtue higher than nobility. It is
also contradicting the story itself: Lympiose is of low birth and yet perfectly virtuous to her
husband. The author continues by comparing a repulsive wife to a pigeon not willing to step
aside for a falcon; it will loose its feathers. It is alike with humans: he/she who desires to rule
upon his/her master, will regret it.259
         Lympiose is presented as an ideal of virtuousness, off which the whole town spoke well.
The qualities that she is said to posses are the following: beauty, servitude, good manners,

    IV, vs. 1112-1124.
    „Ende wort een steen: noch staet si daer‟, vs.1315. Potter here uses the word „steen‟ (IV, vs.1315), meaning
„rock‟, instead of the „pilar of salt‟ that is mentioned in Genesis 19.
    „Mit duechden machmen bet verwinnen, / Dan mit quade woerden te spinnen‟, IV, vs.1265-1266.
    IV, vs.1267-1306.
    IV, vs.1289-1295.
    IV, vs.1299-1306.

simplicity, gentleness, humility, obedience, wisdom, and righteousness. Orphaen therefore
concludes that she is worthy of all honours. Most stressed and repeated are her simplicity,
gentleness and humility. As stated above, the author stresses that it is because of this
virtuousness that she has to suffer, which makes her position even more pitiful and cruel.
        However, there is not much attention paid to this aspect. The cruel deeds of Orphaen are
described in a neutral way and quite simply and short, as goes for most of the tale. Neither does
Lympiose show any emotions. As Orphaen commands her to prepare his new bride‟s welcoming,
she leaves calm and quietly.260 The one situation in which she does show to be moved is on the
reveal of her daughter‟s identity: her cheeks go red of shame.261 Unfortunately it is not specified
what it is that she feels ashamed of. Is it because she failed to recognise her daughter, or because
everybody knew the truth but her? She may also be ashamed of her old clothes in front of her
pretty daughter or because of the great honour the girl is willing to pay her: „Moeder, ghi sult
sitten hier / Ende ic sal u dienen schier‟.262 The last option seems to correspond most to
Lympiose‟s humble character, for she is not at all used to being served, certainly not by her own
daughter, who is of more noble birth than she is.
        The tale of Lympiose contains several indications of a certain view on love and marriage.
Orphaen is said to praise virtue above nobility and gentleness above pride, to which virtues
Lympiose‟s character is said to correspond. It is marked that he often reflected on such a virtuous
wife, who would do good for his country.263 But above all Orphaen is a Lord, and as such he has
more to please than his own will. He desires a wife „die him sijn dinghen halp besorghen‟, and
also his counsellors urge him to take „een wijff die nutte waer voer sheren lijff‟.264 Obviously,
this marriage is not about love. The desired spouse should make herself useful in helping him
rule his life and land. Later on in the story, as Orphaen tells Lympiose that she no longer can be
his wife, he motivates this with the advise of his counsellors; they would want him to marry a
noble lady, in order to gain honour for his country. Since none of the characters objects to this, it
seems to have been a plausible reasoning. Therefore it can be assumed that the wife‟s tasks were
not only organizational, but also concerned the representation and reputation of her husband‟s
land and power.265
        Another small indication can be perceived as Orphaen sends away his children to a far,
unknown location, to make sure that Lympiose, as the narrator states, „cannot play nor sing with

    „Si ghinc sonder groot gheschal‟, IV, vs.1227.
    „Doe wort die guede Limpyose / Root van schaemten als een rose‟, IV, vs.1241-1242.
    IV, vs.1239-1240.
    IV, vs.1126-1132.
    IV, vs.1101 and 1106.
    As also stated in Collette 2000:155-168.

them‟.266 At this moment the author comments: „dit was die eerste vremdicheit‟,267 indicating
that this should not be concerned normal matrimonial behaviour. This may also provoke the
question why Orphaen felt the need to test his wife. He could have simply trusted in the common
opinion and on the fact that she had never misbehaved towards him, but he asked for much more.
Surely, Potter would not want every husband to test his wife in such a cruel way. And surely
there would not have been a lot of women to accept the sufferings like Lympiose did. Yet, the
narrator does not explain Orphaen‟s motives, like De Mézières does not explain Gautier‟s,
because the emphasis is on the wife‟s nature. Likewise, men could have learned something out of
the tale as well: virtue is more important than birth and one may obtain more by gentleness than
by evil. In this way, Potter‟s most important moral messages apply to both man and woman.

2: Traces of influence

From the analysis above becomes clear that there are many similarities between both versions of
the Griseldis-tale. The main themes are matrimonial dedication, obedience and patience. Both
authors make use of the same narrative techniques. They put a stress on the ennobling capacity
of virtuousness and a political dimension of marriage and the wifely duties is present.
           As has become clear from part II and part III, the care for marriage and matrimonial
duties were foremost considered female affaires. This can be explained by the social influence
female behaviour was believed to have on male affairs of power and politics. Griseldis, as the
perfect wife, makes the marriage between the Marquis and herself a stable and harmonious
union, by being nothing but gentle, obedient and humble towards her husband. Not less
important, she also manages his affairs when he is absent, and agrees to lose her children for
political purposes. Likewise, Lympiose‟s virtuousness ascertains her of a strong matrimonial
bond, she manages state affairs as well as the housekeeping, and she plays a role in keeping up
her husband‟s reputation, to which tasks she entirely submits. The social and political importance
of a good wife is pre-eminently demonstrated by these tales, and hence is it clear why Potter and
De Mézières offer their specific advises on marriage to women in the first place.
           Next, there are also many differences between both tales, for instance regarding the story
itself. Potter‟s version is much shorter, set in a different place, the characters have different
names, and the story‟s structure deviates from De Mézières‟ version. The latter contains some
strong emotional climaxes that are absent in the first, and its structure is more complex. Potter‟s
structure of three stages of trial is simpler, yet more gradually processing: Orphaen does not

      IV, vs.1162-1163.
      IV, vs.1167.

„divorce‟ Lympiose at once, she may first remain Orphaens wife in a more humble position and
she is not sent back to her father‟s but may remain in the palace as a servant. Moreover, Orphaen
does not pretend to have the children killed, they are only sent away. It could be stated that the
trials Lympiose is put through are less harsh than those Griseldis has to endure.
           These observations could be interpreted as indications that De Mézières‟ Griseldis has
had hardly any influence on Potter‟s Lympiose. However, the differences in narrative sequence
are not that striking, given the stress that De Mézières has put on the theme of suffering
throughout the story. He has given the story besides an extensive tropological meaning also a
more abstract and spiritual anagogical sense. His Griseldis is indirectly compared to a martyr in
the service of God. Furthermore, the story must be interpreted as an allegory of the passion of
Christ. This Griseldis has the capacity of saintliness. Both the anagogical and allegorical sense
are absent in Potter‟s version, that concentrates on the tropological – moral and inter-human –
meaning of the tale. Lympiose must prove to be a patient and obedient wife, but there is no need
for her to be a martyr within Der Minnen loep‟s theoretical framework. Potter could have
changed the process of trials consciously, adapting it to his own aims.
           The existence of significant differences between both versions does not necessarily mean
that Potter is responsible for them. He could have used a text-source of the tale in which some of
these particular elements were already present. Yet, a closer look at Potter‟s attitude towards the
sources he uses for other exempla, points out that he generally adapts his source-material to a
large extent. Potter shortens his sources, adapting their contents to his own moral. And in doing
so, he deviates from the literary traditions as we know them, in all cases previously examined. 268
Regarding these observations, it would not be surprising, had he done the same to Griseldis.
           Clearly, the tale of Griseldis occupies a different position in both texts. In Le Livre de la
vertu it is presented in both form and anagogical and allegorical meaning as the exalting climax
of the whole work‟s theme. In Der Minnen loep it is one of many exempla presented, all of equal
importance and all serving the same didactic goal. Potter did not need an elaborate, allegorical
and emotional narrative on suffering, social cohesion and political influence. He was gathering
exemplary couples, mostly from literary sources, to prove his moral theories on love and
marriage and to convince his audience to follow his advises. And he was not too shy or too
modest to take only from his sources what was useful to him, or to add up details when needed.
           These are good reasons not to exclude the possibility that Potter has known De Mézières‟
French translation, all the more when taking into account the relatively early date of this version
of the tale in the Low Countries. Yet, strong indications of influence cannot be traced. For this,
Potter has put his personal mark on the tale too decisively.

      Van Buuren 1979:284-286.

V Conclusion

The political network around 1400 was closely tied together by cultural exchanges that took
place between the separate court circles. Culture was transmitted through Europe by travellers,
some of which undertook these journeys for political motives, yet benefited from the occasions
by acquiring new literature, music and so on. Of special interest is a small group of diplomat-
poets, like Dirc Potter and Philippe de Mézières, who are known to have embodied in their
works foreign literary influences that they might have acquired during diplomatic missions.
       In this thesis I have examined the relations between De Mézières and his Livre de la
vertu on the one hand and Potter and his Der Minnen loep on the other hand. These relations
concern first the historical background of the authors, their diplomatic functioning and the
relevant literary manuscripts that were produced in the cultural circle around them (part I),
second they concern their works‟ content (part II) and third their works‟ form (part III). The
works‟ contents have been examined on behalf of the moral ideas on marriage, the ideal wife and
the ideal husband that are expressed, and on the exempla cited. To examine the works‟ form and
structure, the use of exempla and the contemporary traditions of the genre have been treated, and
next the textual indications of author and audience. This analysis cumulated in the comparison of
both De Mézières‟ and Potter‟s version of the tale of Griseldis (part IV). In a way, this thesis‟
structure thus resembles the structure of Le Livre: three books of theory and exempla, coming to
a climax with the story of Griseldis in the fourth book.
       The main question is, however, whether Potters work resembles Le Livre, or, to literally
repeat it: may Dirc Potter have acquired new, literary influences on his diplomatic journey to
France – like the tale of Griseldis –, possibly descended from Philippe de Mézières, his works or
the cultural circle around him? Without any precaution, the answer to this question is yes. Yes,
for Potter indeed may have acquired new, literary elements on his diplomatic journey to France,
these elements could possibly be descended from Philippe de Mézières, his works or the cultural
circle around him, and they may have influenced him to a certain extent.
       This may appear weak and uncertain, but although nothing can be stated for sure, some
components of the answer mentioned above are actually fairly probably. Potter and De Mézières
never met, but it has become clear in part I that they did share a number of acquaintances.
During his stay in France, Potter found himself in the social and cultural circle that had both
determined De Mézières‟ life for its last decades and had been influenced by his person‟s
politics, morals and literature. It would be highly unnatural to assume that such an environment
would not have impressed a Dutch diplomat, educated in Latin, French and Italian and with a

great interest in literature, history and ethics – as is shown by his works. Potter‟s career at the
court of Holland more or less shows the profile of a self-made-man, developing from a simple
clerk to a bailiff and a diplomat, by his own merits. Der Minnen loep shows a great social
concern with the profane world. He was independent, both as a travelling diplomat and as an
author, and he seems to have been the kind of person that knows what he wants and how to get
it. Potter would not have left any opportunity to make new acquaintances – maybe among the
French nobility –, to taste the latest intellectual discussions and to gain narrative material. And
his diplomatic mission to France in 1409 must have offered him a number of those opportunities.
        The research carried out forms only a small part of all there is to be done: Potter could
have acquainted heaps of cultural and literary elements on his journey. It is unsure whether
Potter has known Le Livre de la vertu. The odds are that he has heard speaking about it, as the
manuscript was dedicated to and circulated in French noble circles. The topic of the ideal wife
was quite popular as well, regarding the number of instructional domestic texts for women that
were composed, read and spread in France around 1400. A comparison of Le Livre and Der
Minnen loep however, does not provide solid grounds to suppose familiarity. Both authors‟
views on marriage coincide on some points, yet differ on others. The multidimensionality of Le
Live, treating the social, spiritual and the physical at the same time, makes the solely profane Der
Minnen loep look simple. Both authors have their preferences of virtues and likewise their
preference of which famous women are most exemplary, a preference of source. De Mézières
uses mainly positive exempla, whereas Potters handles a balance between the good and the evil.
        Both works can be placed in different contemporary traditions, and the functions of the
exempla differ. De Mézières shows to draw from theological traditions and sermon-material,
whereas Potter is depending on antique literature, particularly on Ovid and the tradition of
medieval commentaries on Ovid‟s works. In correspondence the way in which both authors
incorporated the Griseldis-material is different. To Le Livre it is a climax, educating all
Christians by the tale‟s historical, tropological, anagogical and allegorical meanings. To Der
Minnen loep it is just one of many exempla, from which all lovers, male and female, may benefit
if they take notice of it and adapt its moral.
        The way in which the authors address their audience is not the same, and the audience
itself is not quite the same either. De Mézières is a wise teacher, approaching his audience with
care, but at a distance. He reaches for a very large group of all good Christians, but addresses
himself to married ladies and their husbands in particular. Potter is a personal, informal advisor
who stands on an equal level with his audience. He dedicates the text to all those who do not
know what love is, and addresses himself to women explicitly in the fourth book. For both
authors, matrimonial duties are essentially a female‟s affair. They believe that a virtuous wife

has a strong social influence on his husband and his politics and therefore women need to be
educated on the behaviour that is desired from them.
       Yet, De Mézières‟ theological approach demands for an educated audience, that he would
have found among the noble intellectuals at the court of France, where also his benefactors were
to be found. In addition, all exemplary couples presented in Le Livre are chosen from among
nobility or even royalty, which indicates a noble audience as well. Potter, not a nobleman
himself, addressed his work to his equals, who seem to belong to the middleclass rather than to
nobility. Although the court of Holland would have enabled Potter to acquire many possible
patrons of noble lineage, he chose to remain an independent writer, who in his later work even
criticised the nobility‟s behaviour.
       These differences easily provide a counterweight for the similarities mentioned in part II
and III of this thesis. A possible trace of influence therefore cannot be drawn any further than
that Le Livre may have brought some inspiration to Potter. He may have encountered the work,
or he may have overheard discussions on Le Livre or its main themes, and if so, the topics
probably did interest him. He may have used some of the elements in his own work, either
copying or adapting them, but unfortunately such an influence is hardly traceable.
       The story of Griseldis yet, merits a particular attention. At the time of Potter‟s visit, the
story was part of the common knowledge among the French nobility, and, regarding the broad
tradition of translations and adaptations we encountered throughout this thesis, it was quite a
fashionable topic as well, at the time. In other words: Potter just hardly could have missed it.
This is all the more worth noticing when considering the literary climate of the Low Countries,
where at the beginning of the fifteenth century the story was not widely spread at all. Although it
is difficult to ascertain that Potter did not know the story beforehand, in March 1409 he found
the perfect circumstances to acquire it; even before his journey to Rome in 1411.
       Moreover, the existence of several manuscripts containing both a French Griseldis-
translation and a full version of Melibée et Prudence strengthens this hypothesis. Former
research by Overmaat has pointed out that Potter certainly used a French manuscript source for
his Mellibeus. It is an attractive idea that he had access to one source containing both texts, like
Chaucer – another northern diplomat-poet – seems to have had. In this way, all pieces of the
puzzle would nicely fit together, we would only have to find this manuscript in order to point out
his exact source. However, the immense popularity of Griseldis combined with Potter‟s slightly
peculiar version of the tale makes that we still have to consider the most simple solution: Potter
could have merely overheard the story in France, to write it down later.
       Likewise, it is unsure whether Potter has known De Mézières‟ translation. His practise to
freely adapt his sources makes it almost impossibly to either exclude any Griseldis-version, or to

point out any of them to be closest related. As is shown by the Griseldis-comparison in part IV,
Potter has used the material for his own particular aims, integrating it in the theoretical
framework of Der Minnen loep. Even though we cannot be sure that all deviating aspects were
actions of Potter‟s hand, the adaptations made were required for artistic and didactic reasons.
       Furthermore, Le Livre did not stand on its own. As has been shown in part III, a wide and
colourful cultural circle existed at the French court by the end of the 14th century. De Mézières‟
works were read by and related to those of contemporary intellectuals like Jean Gerson and
Christine de Pizan. Furthermore the popularity of the topic of the ideal wife had emerged into
several didactic exemplary texts written for females, that were read in French noble and
bourgeois circles as well. It is therefore not impossible that Potter has acquainted any of those
texts, some of which also contain a Griseldis-version. Examination of this whole tradition
however was not possible within this thesis‟ scope.

This thesis has brought to light lots of new information, by considering familiar literary works
with a different view, and by connecting two authors that had not been connected before, on the
basis of their similar profiles – both diplomat-poets. Like any research however, it has opened
new lacunae as well, both at the French and at the Dutch side.
       To ascertain the probability of Potter‟s acquisition of the Griseldis-material during his
mission to France, a more refined research should be undertaken on other possible ways of
acquisition. As has already been pointed out in part I, the Griseldis-tradition in the Low
Countries has never been subject to an exhaustive study, taking into account all versions and
translations dispersed until ca.1500, either Dutch, Latin, French or other. Petrarch‟s journey
through the southern Low Countries (June 1333) could be a trace taken into account by such a
study, that may lead to a new connection in the network of travelling diplomat-poets.
       Furthermore, as Van Buuren already pointed out in 1979, further research on Potter‟s
sources and his adaptation techniques is required, especially concerning the medieval tradition of
mostly Latin Ovid-commentaries that was dispersed throughout the Low Countries and that
seems to have influenced Potter to a large extent. Equally, the sources and adaptation techniques
of De Mézières need to be examined in order to make a decent interpretation of Le Livre and its
position in the tradition(s) and to make a useful comparison to other exemplary narratives. These
could concern Der Minnen loep, but it would also make a very nice contribution to compare Le
Livre in detail to contemporary sources that came about in the same environment, like Le
Mesnagier de Paris and Le Livre du Chevalier de la Tour Landry. Besides, all this attention paid
to the ideal wife may make one wonder if any exemplary or didactical literature existed on

behalf of married men. An examination of the topic of the ideal husband could make an
interesting perspective in this tradition.
        Last, the present research is lacking any knowledge on the French tradition of Melibée
and its manuscript sources in particular. More knowledge is indispensable in the continuation of
the research on the connections of Potter to French literature, and on the possible ways in which
acquisition could have take place. Especially the verification of the hypothesis of a possible
acquisition of both Melibée and Griseldis through one source could not do without a stemma.

Coming to this thesis‟ end, it is time to return to the second component of its main question (as
posed in Part I, 2.1): could Potter, as a diplomat-poet, have contributed to the dispersion of
literary elements from the Middle French into the Middle Dutch linguistic area?
        Once again it must be answered positively: yes, as a diplomat-poet Potter could have
played a role in western European literary exchange processes. Moreover, this is quite probable.
The rich cultural life at the courts of Holland and France, where Potter resided as a diplomat,
must have had their impact on someone interested in languages, literature and ethics. His mission
to France must have influenced Potter in one way or the other. In this thesis numerous traces of
possible influence have been considered, and it would be fairly surprising if Potter would not
have been responsible for the diffusion of at least some literary elements from the Middle French
into the Middle Dutch linguistic area, for he has had so many opportunities to do so.
        For the time being, I have put Dirc Potter and Philippe de Mézières in a broader,
international European perspective, by showing their position in the late medieval political
network. I have considered their views on the virtue of marriage as they existed in two inter-
connected European courtly circles around 1400. This has resulted in an elaborate reflection on
the theme, on its values and on the relations between husband and wife. It has also resulted in an
exploration of exemplary literature, the existing traditions, and the different functions of
exempla. Finally, a comparative analysis of the tales about Griseldis at the same time confirmed
and deepened the former observations.
        Dirc Potter and Philippe de Mézières were influential men of international meaning, and
with intellectual capacities. They were involved in all great political events of their time, and I
argue they were involved in numerous important literary events as well. Like De Mézières
brought Griseldis from Venice to Paris, Potter has probably taken the tale with him from Paris to
The Hague. By this thesis, I hope to have shown the international relevance of Dirc Potter and
his works, by attributing him a place in the late medieval European network of diplomat-poets.

Resumé en Français

Dirc Potter, Philippe de Mézières et la vertu du mariage
De la littérature exemplaire au résau politique de la fin de Moyen Age

Dirc Potter et Philippe de Mézières n‟ont jamais été le sujet d‟une seule étude. Néanmoins ils
montrent quelques similarités remarquables, qui nous permettent de les placer dans une nouvelle
perspective. Philippe de Mézières (1327-1405), un des diplomates le plus influents du 14e siècle,
était le chancelier de Chypre et le conseiller personnel du Roi de France, Charles V, et ses fils
Charles VI et Louis d‟Orléans. Grâce à ces fonctions, il a fait de nombreux voyages dans les
pays méditerranéens. Dirc Potter (ca.1385-1428), secrétaire et juge de la cour de Hollande, a
voyagé aussi, en représentant le comte Guillaume VI de Hollande et de Hainaut. De plus, ces
deux hommes sont les auteurs de plusieurs ouvrages littéraires. Cette thèse a pour sujet le Livre
de la vertu de sacrement du mariage de De Mézières et le Der Minnen loep de Potter. Dans ces
œuvres, les auteurs s‟intéressent au mariage, cherchant à persuader le public de leurs idées par le
récit de brèves histoires morales.

De Mézières et Potter correspondent au profil du „diplomate-poète‟. Le diplomate-poète
médiéval, au service de son seigneur, fait des voyages politiques à l‟étranger. A cette occasion, il
rencontre des nouvelles cultures dont la littérature, qu‟il ramène chez lui pour l‟utiliser plus tard
dans son œuvre personnel. Le terme „diplomate-poète‟ est emprunté du chercheur Américain
Michael Hanly, qui a proposé un réseau international des écrivains voyageant pour des raisons
politiques, en même temps échangeant de la littérature et alors formant des connections
culturelles entre les principales cours de l‟Europe de l‟Ouest à la fin du Moyen Âge. Il désigne
Philippe de Mézières, Geoffrey Chaucer et quelques autres comme exemples. Grâce à cette
thèse, le nom de Dirc Potter peut être ajouté à cette liste.

Ce diplomate Hollandais a fait des voyages en France (1409, 1416, 1418), en Italie (1411) et en
Angleterre (1413). C‟est à Rome (1411-1412) qu‟il a composé Der Minnen loep (Le cours de
l’Amour), un poème didactique assez long sur les différents stades de l‟amour. Il enseigne quatre
types d‟amour, décrits dans les quatre livres de l‟ouvrage. D‟abord „l‟amour fou‟, qui se déroule
trop rapidement et qui est très dangereux. Ensuite „l‟amour juste‟, qui est sincère et désirable et
qui se déroule jusqu‟aux fiançailles. Puis il y a „l‟amour interdit‟ – c‟est l‟inceste, le viol,
l‟homosexualité et l‟amour pour les animaux, les Juifs et les païens –, et „l‟amour permis‟ – le

mariage –, qui est la continuation de l‟amour juste. Potter raconte des histoires des couples
fameux de la littérature ancienne comme preuve du sens moral de ses théories.
        Après Der Minnen loep il a composé une traduction fidèle du Livre de Melibée et
Prudence de Renaud de Louhans, intitulé Van Mellibeus ende sijnre vrouwe Prudentia (ca.1415-
1428) et une adaption du texte italien Fiore di Virtú, intitulé Bloeme der Deugden (ca.1415-
1428). Ceci montre que Potter avait une bonne connaissance de l‟italien et du francais et qu‟il
avait un interêt pour la littérature étrangère. Bien qu‟il fut lié à la cour de Hollande, il n‟avait pas
de bienfaiteur : ses ouvrages ne sont dédiés à personne. Il paraît être le premier auteur
indépendant connu, écrivant de sa propre volonté, pour un public limité : des amis et la famille.

Philippe de Mézières est l‟auteur du Livre de la vertu du sacrement du mariage, un ouvrage qui
cherche à enseigner à tous les Chrétiens d‟aimer Dieu, leur Époux Immortel, et particulièrement
toutes les dames d‟aimer leur mari mortel, avec qui elles se sont mariées par le sacrement de
l‟Église. Le Livre est également composé de quatre parties, qui chacune représente une des
alliances spirituelles du mariage, distingué par l‟auteur. D‟abord, il y a l‟alliance ou le mariage
entre Jésus Christ et l‟humanité, qui a été confirmée par Son Incarnation. Ensuite, il y a l‟alliance
ou le mariage entre Jésus Christ et l‟Église – qui est représentée par la Vierge Marie. Cette
alliance a été confirmée par Sa Passion. L‟auteur termine par l‟alliance entre les époux mortels,
confirmée par le sacrement du mariage, et l‟alliance entre Dieu et l‟âme raisonnable, confirmée
par la création.
        De Mézières a connu une carrière longue et variée. Il était très influent à la cour de Paris
et avait une amitié très forte avec Louis duc d‟Orléans, et ce, jusqu‟à la fin de sa vie. Il est
surtout très connu pour sa propagande pour les croisades et pour ses efforts dans la recherche de
la paix entre la France et l‟Angleterre – dans le but de reconquérir Jérusalem avec les troupes
d‟une Europe unie. Le Livre a été dédié entre 1385 et 1389 a Pierre Baron de Craon et sa femme
Jehanne de Chastillon, une couple noble, bien connu à la cour de France. La troisième partie
concerne le mariage entre l‟homme et la femme mortels et contient plusieurs brèves histoires
morales sur des couples fameux qui illustrent ses théories.
        La quatrième partie du Livre contient la première traduction française de l‟histoire de
Griseldis. Sur un de ses voyages à Venise, De Mézières a fait la connaissance de Francesco
Pétrarc, qui lui a donné sa traduction latine de l‟histoire de Griseldis, à l‟origine composée par
Giovanni Boccaccio au Decameron. Ainsi, un voyage diplomatique a pu contribuer à la
dispersion de la littérature, transgressant les frontières linguistiques.

Potter aussi a inclus une version vernaculaire de l‟histoire de Griseldis dans son Der Minnen loep
(1411-1412). Cette version est la plus ancienne Griseldis en rime qui a été conservée en Moyen
Néerlandais et ne paraît pas être liée aux quatre Griseldis en prose conservées, qui remonteraient
aux environs de 1400-1450. Ni la traduction latine de Pétrarc, ni la version originale de
Boccaccio n‟étaient bien diffusées aux Pays-Bas au début du 15e siècle. Potter aurait pu obtenir
la l‟histoire de Griseldis durant son séjour à Rome, mais avant, durant son séjour en France, il
avait déjà eu plusieurs possibilités de la connaître.

La première mission française de Potter consistait à assister son seigneur comte Guillaume VI
dans la préparation et la réalisation de la réconciliation de Chartres (mars 1409). Par cette
cérémonie, Jean Sans Peur, le duc de Bourgogne, se réconcilie avec les deux fils de Louis duc
d‟Orléans. Avant, Jean était reconnu coupable d‟avoir assassiné le duc d‟Orléans en novembre
1407. De Mézières, mort en 1405, était un ami proche de Louis d‟Orléans jusqu‟à la fin de sa
vie, et il avait dedié un de ses ouvrage à Philippe duc de Bourgogne en 1396. Ainsi, il était lié
aux deux parties. Le comte Guillaume VI aussi était lié aux deux parties, par des liens de famille,
tout comme son diplomate, Potter aussi était bien connu dans cet environnement social.
       Bien que les deux auteurs n‟aient pas pu se rencontrer, ils ont certainement eu les mêmes
connaissances, ils ont rencontré le même monde, et Potter pendant sa mission diplomatique s‟est
trouvé parmi les premiers lecteurs du Livre de la vertu. Il est possible que ce diplomate-poète
néerlandais ait entendu parler de De Mézières, de son Livre, ou de l‟histoire de Griseldis. Peut-
être a-t-il même pu lire le manuscrit (il n‟y en a qu‟un seul conservé), qui à la fois était en
possession des héritiers de Louis d‟Orléans.
       L‟histoire de Griseldis a connu une tradition longue en France, qui a commencé par la
traduction de Philippe de Mézières en 1385-1389. Quelques dizaines d‟années plus tard, une
autre traduction en prose a été composée par un auteur anonyme. L‟histoire est aussi inclus dans
trois autres ouvrages didactiques exemplaires : Le Livre du Chevalier de la Tour Landry (1371-
1372), écrit par un noble du Poitou, Le Mesnagier de Paris (1393), écrit par un bourgeois
Parisien, et Le Livre de la Cité des Dames de la courtisane intellectuelle Christine de Pizan
(1405). La traduction de De Mézières a sûrement été la source pour la version de Griseldis dans
Le Mesnagier, Le Livre de la Cité des Dames, et pour une pièce de théâtre, L’Estoire de
Griseldis (1395). De plus, une version latine en rime a été conservée, écrite par Pierre de Hailles
de Poitiers, le sécretaire d‟un membre de la famille de Jehanne de Chastillon, la même a qui De
Mézières a dedié son Livre de la vertu. Ceci montre que le sujet était très populaire à la cour de
France autour de 1400. Potter a pu lire un de ces textes, il a pu voir la pièce de théâtre, ou il a pu

entendre parler du sujet de Griseldis. Au tous cas, il a eu beaucoup de possibilités d‟obtenir le
sujet de cette histoire.
        Ce qui est encore plus intéressant, c‟est qu‟il existe plusiers manuscrits qui contiennent
au même temps une version de l‟histoire de Griseldis (soit une des celles basées sur la traduction
de De Mézières, soit une de celles basées sur la traduction anonyme), et une rédaction complète
du Livre de Melibée et Prudence. Une recherche antérieure réalisée par Overmaat a démontré
que Potter a certainement utilisé une source manuscrite française pour sa traduction fidèle de
Mélibée en Moyen Néerlandais. De plus, des recherches de Severs ont montré que le diplomate-
poète Chaucer aurait utilisé un seul manuscrit pour ses traductions anglaises de Melibee et de
Griseldis. C‟est une possibilité fascinante que Potter ait ainsi obtenu la matière. Malheuresement,
il est impossible de vérifier cette hypothèse, car peu de choses sont connues sur la transmission
du manuscrit du Livre de Melibée et Prudence.

Toutes ces donnés permettent une comparaison entre Le Livre de la vertu et Der Minnen loep, et
particulièrement entre les deux versions de l‟histoire de Griseldis qui sont inclues dans ces
ouvrages didactiques. Dans cette thèse, la comparaison a été faite et les résultats les plus
importants seront présentés dans ce résumé.

Bien que Le Livre et Der Minnen loep paraissent être similaires à première vue, il existe
plusieurs différences entre les deux textes. Ces différences se trouvent dans la structure comme
dans le contenu des textes. La comparaison s‟est concentrée sur les parties qui concernent le
mariage entre l‟homme et la femme ; ce thème est repris dans le troisième livre du Livre de la
vertu et le quatrième livre de Der Minnen loep.

Les ouvrages sont relatés par différentes traditions contemporaines de littérature exemplaire. Le
sujet de l‟épouse idéale était populaire dans toute l‟Europe et les „exempla‟ (des courtes histoires
morales) sont utilisés comme stratégie didactique depuis l‟Antiquité.
        Le Livre de De Mézières est surtout lié aux textes didactiques pour des femmes nobles
qui ont déjà été nommés. Ces textes ont un intérêt commun pour les conséquences socio-
politiques du comportement féminin. Par ses vertus, l‟épouse est considérée comme une
personne qui influence les affaires politiques et sociales de son époux. Au contraire, un
comportement négatif a une influence négative sur son époux et ses affaires. Cet intérêt pour le
bien-être commun semble lié à la situation politique de l‟époque, qui était plutot instable et
tendue. Il est clair que Le Livre de De Mézières en est un excellent exemple.

       Les ouvrages de Christine de Pizan, qui était une des premières lectrices du Livre,
montrent un aspect du mariage qui a été inspiré par les idées de De Mézières. De plus, Le Livre
montre des influences des traditions théologiques et surtout du travail de Jean Gerson. En outre,
les exemples qui sont cités par De Mézières montrent un lien avec les traditions des sermons. Il
utilise comme sources pour ses théories, par exemple, les travaux de saint Gregoire, Hugo de
Saint-Victor, Bernard de Clairvaux et les Apôtres. Pour les exempla, il cite beaucoup les Vies
des Saints, l‟histoire récente, et ses propres expériences.
       Der Minnen loep par contre, est lié à une tradition des artes amandi, des poèmes
didactiques sur l‟amour, dont Ovide est considéré comme le maître. Il existait une tradition
élaborée de commentaires médiévaux sur les ouvrages de cet auteur antique. Ce sont surtout ces
commentaires qui ont eu une influence sur Der Minnen loep. Aussi la division en quatre types
d‟amour est-elle dérivée de cette tradition pour une grande partie. Potter a aussi beaucoup utilisé
les histoires de Ars amatoria et Heroides d‟Ovide comme exempla. Il s‟inspire alors largement
des exemples antiques, bien qu‟il les utilise pour indiquer des affaires de sa propre époque.
       Non seulement les traditions utilisées sont différentes, mais aussi les fonctions qui sont
attribuées aux exempla par les deux auteurs. Potter raconte les histoires, en terminant avec une
réflexion morale inspirée, semble-t-il, du dernier exemple. Après il continue son discours
théorique de telle façon qu‟il puisse servir comme introduction thématique de l‟histoire suivante.
Potter donne l‟impression que ses théories sur le mariage découlent logiquement des exemples
qu‟il cite, bien qu‟en fait Der Minnen loep est une collection d‟histoires connues dont les récits
sont quasiment tous adaptés aux morales désirées par l‟auteur. De Mézières utilise une autre
stratégie. Il présente un réseau de théories bien structuré, de temps en temps et irrégulièrement
illustrant ces théories par un exemplum ou bien deux. Le Livre pourrait bien être lu sans ces
exempla, alors que Der Minnen loep serait très difficile à suivre si les histoires étaient ôtées.

Au sujet du mariage les auteurs sont d‟accord sur certains aspects. Le mariage est une alliance
qui ne peut être réalisée qu‟entre un seul homme et une seule femme. L‟alliance doit être faite
volontairement et les deux époux doivent faire un effort pour vivre ensemble agréablement et en
paix. Ils doivent garder une relation stable, loyale et sincère, sans faire attention aux ragots et
bavardages. Ce côté social du mariage est souligné par les deux auteurs.
       Puis, Le Livre contient aussi une dimension spirituelle et une dimension physique, qui
sont absentes dans Der Minnen loep. Pour De Mézières le mariage entre l‟homme et la femme
est une réflexion sur mariage spirituel entre chaque Chrétien et Dieu, son Époux Immortel. La
négligence de n‟importe laquelle de ces deux alliances est une sorte d‟infidelité. De plus, on crée
une infidélité à la loi du sacrement qui commande de vivre ensemble en s‟aimant. Alors

l‟infidélité pourrait simplement indiquer qu‟une femme n‟a pas assez aimé son époux – soit le
mortel, soit l‟Immortel.
        Pour De Mézières le bien-être de l‟esprit est intimement lié au bien-être physique. Le
soin médical peut rendre heureuse la personne mécontente de son mariage, et un comportement
vertueux garde le corps en bonne santé. Par le lien entre les maladies physiques et le conseil de
comportement désiré pour les époux, s‟ensuit la relation spirituelle avec Dieu, De Mézières
donne une solution pour chaque problème qui pourrait se poser durant la vie en couple marié.
        Potter s‟occupe surtout du monde profane, dans lequel l‟infidélité est semblable à
l‟adultère. Son conseil principal est de toujours garder l‟honneur, quoi qu‟il arrive, il faut garder
les problèmes dans l‟intimité du ménage et ne pas laisser pourrir sa réputation.
        En conclusion, il peut être compris des exempla cités dans les deux ouvrages que Potter
apprécie surtout les vertus des relations entre humains : fidelité, obéissance et ne pas être méfiant
sont importants à son avis. De Mézières a un intérêt particulier pour les vertus chrétiennes de
piété et de chasteté. De plus, les morales des exempla cités par De Mézières sont presque toutes
positives. Les exempla cités par Potter montrent le côté négatif comme le côté positif de chaque
sujet traité.

Quant à l‟histoire de Griseldis, il apparaît que la version de Potter est beaucoup plus courte que
la version de De Mézières. Malgré tout, le récit principal n‟a pas changé. Griseldis, une pauvre
fille vertueuse, épouse un noble seigneur, qui décide de prouver la loyauté et obéissance de sa
femme. Il l‟a enlevée à ses enfants et fait même comme s‟il allait se marier avec une autre
femme à sa place. Griseldis supporte toutes ses épreuves de façon calme et patiente. Finalement,
son mari lui promet sa loyauté éternelle, car il n‟a jamais existé d‟épouse plus vertueuse et digne
d‟honneur que Griseldis.
         Dans la version de Potter, plusieurs éléments narratifs ont été modifiés. Les personnages
sont limités aux principaux, et leur noms ont été changés : Griseldis s‟appelle Lympiose, Gautier
s‟appelle Orphaen, et Janicola – le père de Griseldis – s‟appelle Arlamoen. De plus, il manque
quelques tournants importants et émotionels, qui sont présents dans la traduction française. Le
récit des épreuves que l‟héroïne doit supporter est aussi quelque peu différent.
        Par contre, ces différences ne sont pas si remarquables quand on regarde l‟attitude que
Potter a vers certaines autres de ses sources. Il a l‟habitude d‟adapter les histoires pour les faire
concorder avec les théories présentées dans Der Minnen loep. Il change le contenu de ses sources
et, en faisant cela, il dévie des traditions connues dans tous les cas antérieurs étudiés. Pour cela,
il est possible qu‟il ait adapté sa source de Griseldis ainsi.

       De Mézières nous présente une Griseldis, encore, multidimensionnelle. De sa version de
l‟histoire peuvent être dérivé un sens tropologique, un sens anagogique et un sens allégorique.
Cette Griseldis n‟est pas seulement une épouse exemplaire envers son mari. Elle est aussi une
âme exemplaire, qui a une relation parfaite avec son Époux Immortel. Par les souffrances qu‟elle
supporte pour son Époux, elle représente aussi une allégorie de la Passion de Jésus Christ. Elle
est prête à sacrifier ses enfants, comme Jésus s‟est sacrifié pour l‟humanité. Quand elle est
finalement rétablie au palais comme la vraie épouse de Gautier, c‟est une résurrection sociale qui
forme un parallèle avec la résurrection de Jésus.
       Dans l‟histoire de Lympiose, Potter insiste moins sur les souffrances de l‟héroïne. Il se
limite au sens tropologique, ayant simplifié le cours de l‟histoire. Ces différences sont liées à la
structure des textes. Dans Der Minnen loep, cette histoire est une parmi beaucoup d‟autres, qui
sont toutes assez importantes. Dans Le Livre, l‟histoire de Griseldis est présentée comme le
sommet de tout l‟ouvrage. L‟histoire est citée séparément des autres exemples, à la fin du
quatrième livre, et elle est beaucoup plus longue aussi. La fonction alors n‟est pas du tout la
même, et cela est reflété par les contenus différents.

Il faut remarquer que les deux auteurs ont beaucoup plus d‟attention pour les qualités de l‟épouse
idéale que pour celles de l‟époux idéal. Selon De Mézières, les femmes ont plus besoin de
conseils, à cause de leur nature fragile. Mais aussi pour Potter le mariage est surtout une affaire
féminine. Cette attention pour le rôle de la femme dans le mariage est liée à l‟idée qu‟elle a une
influence importante sur son mari et ses affaires socio-politiques, et ses vertus contribueront au
bien-être. Griseldis est un excellent exemple d‟une telle femme, qui sert son époux avec une
grande obéissance, qui s‟occupe de ses affaires pendant son absence, et qui est d‟accord de
perdre ses enfants pour des motivations politiques.
       De Mézières explicitement destine son Livre aux couples mariés, aux femmes de
particulier, et à tous les Chrétiens. Il se pose vers son public comme un enseignant à distance.
Les couples mariés ne sont pas simplement son public ; ils sont aussi son sujet et il les traite
ainsi. Potter, au contraire, est un conseiller informel, qui s‟adresse à son public comme à ses
égaux. Il destine son ouvrage aux femmes, chevaliers et jeunes, mais dans le quatrième livre,
quand il s‟agit de mariage, il s‟adresse explicitement aux femmes seules.
       Un public largement féminin alors paraît probable pour les deux textes. Puis, l‟approche
plutôt théologique de De Mézières demande probablement un public cultivé, ce qu‟il trouvait à la
cour royale de France. Ses lectrices étaient de la noblesse et également toutes les femmes
exemplaires citées dans Le Livre sont de noble lignage. Il pourrait les avoir choisies ainsi

consciemment, pour présenter à son public des scènes et des personnages reconnaissables, ou
pour les attribuer une certaine autorité.
       Potter, qui probablement n‟était pas noble lui-même, est connu pour ses critiques de la
noblesse dans ses ouvrages plus tardifs. Vu qu‟il s‟adresse à son public comme à ses égaux,
même ses amis, un public bourgeois est possible. Lui aussi cite surtout des exemples de couples
nobles. Ceci peut être une stratégie didactique, pour leur attribuer une certaine autorité. Mais, vu
qu‟il ne montre pas seulement les côtés positifs mais aussi des examples négatifs, ça pourrait
également être une façon de montrer que la vertu n‟est pas toujours liée au lignage.

Pour terminer il faut conclure que Der Minnen loep et Le Livre ne sont pas aussi semblables que
ce que l‟on pourrait penser au premier abord. Bien qu‟il y ait des similarités élémentaires entre
les deux textes, il y a aussi beaucoup de différences. Ce n‟est alors pas possible de décider si Le
Livre a eu de l‟influence sur Der Minnen loep ou pas. Potter aurait pu être inspiré par un ou
plusieurs aspects du Livre d‟une façon ou d‟une autre, mais c‟est difficile de prouver une telle
       Par contre, pour l‟histoire de Griseldis, une influence ne doit pas être exclue. Pendant son
séjour en France, Potter a eu plusieurs possibilités d‟obtenir cette histoire. Bien que sa version
soit très différente de la version de De Mézières, ceci n‟indique pas nécessairement qu‟il ne l‟a
pas utilisée. Surtout la possibilité qu‟il avait un seul manuscrit comme source pour Griseldis
comme pour sa traduction de Melibée est une argument fort pour son acquisition de l‟histoire
durant son voyage en France.
       Ainsi, Potter a contribué à la diffusion de la littérature en Europe. Comme De Mézières a
ammené Griseldis de Venise, Potter l‟a ammené aux Pays-Bas. Alors, ces diplomates-poètes ont
formés des connections culturelles, entre les principales cours de l‟Europe, et par les voies du
réseau politique vers 1400.


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Appendix I: List of manuscripts

MS Bruxelles BR 10310 (15th c.):
Le Mesnagier de Paris (Griseldis, type A/beta)

MS Leiden UB LTK 205 (1486):
Der Minnen loep / Dirc Potter

MS London BL 19 C. VII (15th c.):
Le livre que fist le chevalier de la tour
Le livre de Mellibee et de dame Prudence
Griseldis (type A/alfa)
Le codicille maistre Jehan de Meun

MS Paris BN 1165 (15th c.):
Moralités du gieu des esches / Jacque de Cessoles, traduction de Frère Jehan de Vignay
Mellibée et Prudence / Albertanus
Histoire de Grisillidis (type B)
Cy apres commence Chaton en français / traduction Jean le Fevre

MS Paris BN fr. 1175 (ca.1385-1395):
Le Livre de la vertu du sacrement de mariage / Philippe de Mézières

MS Paris BN 2240 (15th c.):
Le livre de prudence à l’ensengnement de bien vivre / Christine de Pizan
Le livre de Mellimbée et Prudence / Arnaud de Brescia (traduction)
Le traicté de l’espere / traduction par Nychole Oresme
Dessignes de zodiaque
Traité d’astrologie

MS Paris BN n.a. fr. 6739 (15th c.):
Le Mesnagier de Paris (Griseldis, type A/beta)

MS Paris BN fr. 12477 (15th c.):
Le Mesnagier de Paris (Griseldis, type A/beta)

MS Paris BN 20042 (15th c.; ca.1436):
Roman de Melibée de Prudence
L’istoire de Appolonius
Le rommant de Grisillidis (type B)
La vie de saincte Marguerite, emprosse / par Theophimus

MS The Hague KB 128 E 6 (ca.1480):
Gedichten van Willem van Hildegaersberch
Der leken spiegel / Jan van Boendale
Der Minnen loep / Dirc Potter

Appendix II: Tables of relevant exempla occurring in Le Livre de la vertu

Exemplum              Text reference          Source                 Birth of the          Social position
                                                                     woman                 after marriage
Delphina of Arian     III/ I, fol. 93v-94     Personal               Born in the county    Countess, married
                      (223.6-224.14)          acquaintances of the   of Provence           to Elzéar count of
                                              author                                       Arian in Puille
Joan of Naples        III/ IV, fol. 100v-     Personal               Not mentioned         Queen of Naples
                      101 (236.32-237.8)      acquaintances of the
Rosamond              III/ IV, fol. 100v-     Paul the Deacon,       Daughter of a king    Queen, married to
                      102 (238.27-            Historica                                    Albinus king of
                      239.27)                 Langobardorum                                Lombardia
Cyprian daughters     III/ VI, fol. 104-      Personal               Nobility of the       Nobility of the
                      104v (243.28-           acquaintances of the   kingdom of Cyprus;    kingdom of Cyprus;
                      244.17)                 author                 no royalty            no royalty
The marriage of       III/ VI, fol. 104v-     History of France      Not mentioned         Queen and king of
Charles Robert I of   105 (244.27-245.1)                                                   Hungary
Jeanne of Navarre     III/ VI, fol. 105       History of France      Not mentioned;        Queen, married to
                      (245.1-245.4)                                  Daughter of Henry I   Philip IV king of
                                                                     king of Navarre       France
Florence of Rome      III/ prol., fol. 110v   La vie des pères       Not mentioned;        Empress, married to
                      (256.1-256.12)                                 daughter of king      the emperor of
                                                                     Oton of Rome          Rome
Vasti                 III/ XV, fol. 119v-     Bible, Esther 1        Not mentioned         Queen, first wife of
                      120 (273.21-                                                         king Ahasverus
Saint Cecilia         III/ XV, fol. 120-      Life of Saints         Not mentioned;        Princess, married to
                      120v (274.1-                                   noble family          Valerien prince of
                      274.30)                                        according to          Rome
Rebecca, wife of      III/ XVIII, fol. 123    Bible, Genesis 24      Not mentioned         Noble lady
Isaac                 (279.32-279.37)
A noble queen of      III/ XVIII, fol. 123v   Personal               Not mentioned         Queen, married to
Cyprus                (279.38-280.11)         acquaintances of the                         Hugue king of
                                              author                                       Cyprus and
Hester                III/ XXI, fol. 128      Bible, Esther          Not mentioned         Queen, second wife
                      (289.8-289.18)                                                       of king Ahasverus
The ladies of the     III/ XXI, fol. 128v     Personal               Nobility              Nobility
island of Candie or   (290.7-290.17)          acquaintances of the
Crec                                          author
Marie d‟Espagne       III/ XXII, fol. 130v-   Personal               Not mentioned;        Countess, widow of
                      131 (293.32-            acquaintances of the   Daughter of           Charles d‟Evreux
                      295.11)                 author                 Ferdinand II of       count of Estampes
                                                                     Spain                 and of Philippe de
                                                                                           Valoys count of
A queen, wife of      III/ XXVII, fol. 150    Albertus Magnus‟       Not mentioned         Queen, married to
Bela of Hungary       (330.3-330.19)          Book of Minerals                             Bela king of
The saint Elizabeth   III/ XXVIII, fol.       Life of Saints         Daughter of the       Not mentioned;
                      153 (335.11-                                   king of Hungary       married to Louis IV
                      335.25)                                                              of Thüringen

Exemplum          Text reference           Positive /   Qualities              Moral
Delphina of       III/ I, fol. 93v-94      Positive     +Virginity;            Abstinence in marriage is
Arian             (223.6-224.14)                        +Chastity              virtuous and beautiful
Joan of Naples    III/ IV, fol. 100v-101   Negative     -Insanity              Beware of the risk of insanity,
                  (236.32-237.8)                                               for great evil will come
Rosamond          III/ IV, fol. 100v-102   Negative     +Beauty;               Beware of the risk of cordial
                  (238.27-239.27)                       -Desperation;          passion, for great evil will
                                                        -Unfaithfulness;       come thereof
Cyprian           III/ VI, fol. 104-104v   Negative     -An inhuman and        Both partners should have a
daughters         (243.28-244.17)                       dangerous habit        free choice in marriage
The marriage of   III/ VI, fol. 104v-105   Negative     -Greed                 Marriage should be
Charles Robert    (244.27-245.1)                                               undertaken out of free will,
I of Anjou                                                                     not to gain land or power
Jeanne of         III/ VI, fol. 105        Negative     -Greed                 Marriage should be
Navarre           (245.1-245.4)                                                undertaken out of free will,
                                                                               not to gain land or power
Florence of       III/ prol., fol. 110v    Positive     +Humility;             The holy sacrament of
Rome              (256.1-256.12)                        +Loyalty               marriage should never be
Vasti             III/ XV, fol. 119v-      Negative     -Pride;                Beware of the risk of
                  120 (273.21-273.30)                   -Disobedience;         hydropsy, for great evil will
                                                        -Disloyalty            come thereof
Saint Cecilia     III/ XV, fol. 120-       Positive     +Virginity/chastity;   A pious and spiritual marriage
                  120v (274.1-274.30)                   +Piety;                will save ladies from hydropsy
Rebecca, wife     III/ XVIII, fol. 123     Positive     +Diligence             A diligent wife remains in
of Isaac          (279.32-279.37)                                              good health
A noble queen     III/ XVIII, fol. 123v    Positive     +Diligence             A diligent wife remains in
of Cyprus         (279.38-280.11)                                              good health
Hester            III/ XXI, fol. 128       Positive     +Dignity;              Ladies should pursue internal
                  (289.8-289.18)                        +Devotion;             beauty and no external
The ladies of     III/ XXI, fol. 128v      Positive     +Beauty;               Married ladies should
the island of     (290.7-290.17)                        +Modesty               withhold from wine
Candie or Crec
Marie             III/ XXII, fol. 130v-    Positive     +Beauty;               Ladies should be conscious of
d‟Espagne         131 (293.32-295.11)                   +Piety;                both their own sins and the
                                                        +Devotion;             sins they cause in others
A queen, wife     III/ XXVII, fol. 150     Positive     -Unchastity            A chaste marriage is to be
of Bela of        (330.3-330.19)                        (implicit)             preferred

The saint         III/ XXVIII, fol. 153    Positive     +Obedience;            To obey the sacrament of
Elizabeth         (335.11-335.25)                       +Chastity;             marriage a lady should bare
                                                        +Piety;                children but to truly serve God
                                                        +Devotion              she should remain chaste

Appendix III: Tables of relevant exempla occurring in Der Minnen loep

Exemplum              Text            Source                 Birth of woman              Social position after
                      reference                                                          marriage
Clytemestra,          IV, vs. 249-    Mythology, Dares       Not mentioned               Queen, married to
Agamenoen and         361 + 452-      Phrygius‟ De                                       Agamemnon
Egistus               478             excidio Troiae
Medea, Jason and      IV, vs. 495-    Ovid‟s Heroides,       Creusa was the              Medea: Princess,
Creusa                590             Metamorfoses           daughter of king Creon      married to prince Jason,
                                                                                         Creusa: Queen, married
                                                                                         to king Jason
David and Nycol       IV, vs. 661-    Bible, 2 Samuel 6      Daughter of king Saul       Not mentioned
Asswerus and Vasti,   IV, vs. 782-    Bible (explicitly      Vasti: High birth           Queens, married to king
Hester                856             stated), Esther        (vs.812)                    Ahasverus
Thobyas and his       IV, vs. 893-    Bible, Tobit           Not mentioned               Not mentioned
daughter              906
Ypermestre and        IV, vs. 999-    Heroides               Not mentioned               Not mentioned
Hynus                 1094
Orphaen and           IV, vs. 1095-   Griseldis -tradition   Daughter of a poor and      High, married to Lord
Lympiose              1266                                   simple man                  Orphaen
Lot and his wife      IV, vs. 1307-   Bible, Genesis 9       Not mentioned               Not mentioned
Ametus and Atestes    IV, vs. 1349-   Mythology:             Not mentioned               Queen, married to king
                      1362            Admetus &                                          Ametus
Protheselaus of       IV, vs. 1363-   Ovid (explicitly       Not mentioned               High, married to lord
Philasse and          1386            stated), Heroides,                                 Protheselaus
Ladomya                               Dares Phrygius
Capaneus and          IV, vs. 1387-   Mythology              Not mentioned               Queen, married to king
Enalue                1418                                                               Capaneus
Penelope and          IV, vs. 1419-   Dares Phrygius         Not mentioned               High, married to Lord
Ulixes                1560            (explicitly stated),                               Ulixes (vs.1477)
Herimones and         IV, vs. 1571-   Heroides, Dares        Daughter of king            Allied to Arestis, son of
Arestis               1624            Phrygius               Menelaus                    king Agamemnon;
                                                                                         allied to Pyrrus, son of
Tholomanes,           IV, vs. 1687-   ?, also occurring in   Not mentioned               High, married to Lord
Paschalis, Boecia     1808            Bloeme der                                         Paschalis
and Porijs                            Deughden (p.104)
Medea, Jason and      IV, vs. 1809-   Heroides,              -                           -
Creusa                1818            Metamorfoses
A wife in Gent        IV, vs. 1919-   ?                      Not mentioned               Not mentioned
A man and woman       IV, vs. 1971-   Recent history,        Not mentioned               Not mentioned
in Schyedam           2032            according to the
Pocris and            IV, vs. 2036-   Metamorfoses, Ars      Daughter of king            High, Chephalus of
Chephalus             2192            amatoria               Ericheus                    noble lineage

Exemplum              Text            Positive/        Qualities                 Moral
                      reference       Negative
Clytemestra,          IV, vs. 149-    Negative         -Unfaithfulness;          Those unfaithful in marriage will
Agamenoen and         361 + 452-                       -Mendacity                be punished for it
Egistus               478
Medea, Jason and      IV, vs. 495-    Negative         Medea:                    Jason (=unfaithful) and Medea
Creusa                590                              -Mendacity;               were punished for their deeds
                                                       -Anger;                   but Creusa could have prevented
                                                       -Revengefulness;          her death by investigating

                                                     Creusa:           Jason‟s civil estate more
                                                     -Credulity        thoroughly
David and Nycol       IV, vs. 661-    Negative       -Mockery;         Those women speaking angrily
                      727                            -Anger            to their men, are punished for it
Asswerus and Vasti,   IV, vs. 782-    Negative       Vasti:            Wives should always obey their
Hester                856             and Positive   -Pride;           husbands; disobedient wives are
                                                     -Disobedience     punished for it
Thobyas and his       IV, vs. 893-    Positive       +Loyalty;         Honour your brothers-in-law,
daughter              906                            +Servitude;       love your husband, serve him
                                                     +Virtuousness     humbly, care for your house and
                                                                       family, and be virtuous
Ypermestre and        IV, vs. 999-    Positive       +Virtuousness;    A true wife values her husband‟s
Hynus                 1094                           +Sincerity;       life more than her own body
Orphaen and           IV, vs. 1095-   Positive       +Beauty;          One obtains more by humble
Lympiose              1266                           +Servitude;       obedience and gentleness than
                                                     +Modesty;         by anger and refusal
Lot and his wife      IV, vs. 1307-   Negative       -Disobedience     Disobedient wives will be
                      1315                                             punished for it
Ametus and Atestes    IV, vs. 1349-   Positive       +Faithfulness;    A true wife values her husband‟s
                      1362                           +Unselfishness    life more than her own body
Protheselaus of       IV, vs. 1363-   Positive       +Faithfulness;    A true wife values her husband‟s
Philasse and          1386                           +Virtuousness;    life more than her own body
Ladomya                                              +Sincerity;
Capaneus and          IV, vs. 1387-   Positive       +Faithfulness;    A true wife values her husband‟s
Enalue                1418                           +Virtuousness     life more than her own body
Penelope and          IV, vs. 1419-   Positive       +Faithfulness;    Wives should remain faithful
Ulixes                1560                           +Virtuousness;    always
Herimones and         IV, vs. 1571-   Positive       +Faithfulness     Once a woman and a man have
Arestis               1624                                             vowed faithfulness, they should
                                                                       never be separated
Tholomanes,           IV, vs. 1687-   Negative       +Beauty;          Credulity may make many
Paschalis, Boecia     1808                           +Faithfulness;    victims, beware of this
and Porijs                                           -Credulity
Medea, Jason and      IV, vs. 1809-   Negative       Creusa:           Credulity may make many
Creusa                1818                           -Credulity        victims, beware of this
A wife in Gent        IV, vs. 1919-   Negative       -Suspicion        Women should not go out at
                      1926                                             night to seek for their husbands,
                                                                       for they will be robbed of their
                                                                       honour and only have
                                                                       themselves to blame
A man and woman       IV, vs. 1971-   Negative       -Conceitedness;   Married women should know
in Schyedam           2032                           -Suspicion        their place and stay there
Pocris and            IV, vs. 2036-   Negative       +Beauty;          Wives should trust on their
Chephalus             2192                           -Credulity;       husband‟s loyalty and not
                                                     -Suspicion        interfere with his business

Appendix IV: Griseldis. Full texts

This appendix contains the texts of both versions of the Griseldis-tale that are of central
importance to this thesis. The reader may find it adequate to use these texts.

Next follows the tale of Griseldis as Dirc Potter has inserted it in book IV of Der Minnen loep.
The text is copied from the edition by Leendertz (1845-1847), that is consultable online via

1095      In Achayen was wijlneer                             Het es my eernst ende gheen schimp.‟
       Een ridder machtich, een edel heer,                     Die vader sprack in goeder ghelimp:
       Die sinnich was ende wel ghedaen                        „Heer, wat ghi wilt dat sy.
       Ende was gheheten Orphaen.                     1150     Tghenuecht mijn dochter ende my.
       Sijn lant was wijt ende groot                           Wy sijn onder u gheseten:
1100   Ende hi en hadde gheen beddenoot,                       Ghi moecht ghebieden ende heten.‟
       Die him sijn dinghen halp besorghen.                    Die heer deedse bij him comen
       Sijn rade quamen alle morghen                           Ende heeftse tenen wive ghenomen.
       Ende rieden him tallen tijden,                 1155     Hi besliepse naden zede
       Dat hi uut soude doen rijden                            Mit hogher bruloft inder stede.
1105   Al omme soecken om een wijff,                           Schone cleder ende dier ghelijck
       Die nutte waer voer sheren lijff.                       Dede hij hoer maken costelijck.
       Nu plach die vorste tallen daghen,                      Hi creech daer schone kinder by;
       Als hi inden velde reet jaghen,                1160     Mar rechte voert soe dede hi
       Te riden voer eens mannes duer.                         Die kinder vander moeder bringhen,
1110   Daer sach hi altoes sitten vuer                         Om dat si niet soude singhen
       Een schone maghet van goeder zede,                      Noch vreuchde mitten kinder driven.
       Die alle hoirs vaders dinghen dede.                     Si mosten oick al van hoir bliven
       Hij was van sinen wive verloost                1165     So verre, dat si niet en konde
       Ende die dochter was alle sijn troost.                  Hoer kinder sien in enighen stonde.
1115   Arlamoen was svaders name.                              Dit was die eerste vremdicheit.
       Die dochter was hem zeer bequame,                       Daer na heeft hij tot haer gheseit:
       Si was simpel ende saftmoedich,                         „Lympiose, lieve wijff,
       So rechte dueghent ende oetmoedich,            1170     Ghi weet wel dat u selves lijff
       Dat alle die stat van horen zaken                       En is niet weerdich dese eer:
1120   Goede woerden plach te maken.                           Laet die costelicheit voert meer:
       Sy was gheheten Lympiose.                               Ghi moet u simpeliken cleden
       Sy bloeyde in doechden als een rose.                    Ende helpen alle dinck bereden
       Had si niet guet gheweest van zeden,           1175     So wes hier inden hove valt.‟
       Si en haddet nymmermeer gheleden,                       Die goede vrou was soe ghestalt
1125   Dat sij leet, als ghi sult horen.                       Ende so oetmoedich end[e] soe vol
       Dese vorste hoech gheboren                             doechde,
       Dochte dick in sinen moet,                              Dattet hoir wail ghenuechde
       Dat sulken wijff him waer goet,                        Wes hair hoir heer ghebieden woude.
       Die wijs waer ende goederhande,                1180     Si quam altoes alst wesen soude,
1130   Want dat ghinghe voer sinen lande.                      Wast int brouwen oft in tbacken,
       Hij prijsde duecht voer die gheboerte                   Si maectet deech, sy nayde sacken,
       Ende soeticheit voer hoghe woerde.                      Inder koken sorchde sy mede
       Hi leyde horen vader an,                                Datmen alle dinck wael dede.
       Die was een schamel eerbair man,               1185     Dair na sprack hoir die heer toe
1135   Van cleynen guede ende wail ghemint.                    Ende seyde hoer selve, hoe
       Hi sprac: „Vrient, du hebste een kint,                  Dat sy niet langher en mochte sijn
       Lympiose, die guede maecht,                             Vrouwe in alsulken schijn.
       Die minen sinnen soe behaecht,                          Sijn rade haddent also bewaert,
       Dat icse wil by minen live                     1190     Dat hij een wijff van hogher aert
1140   Hebben tot enen echten wive.‟                           Tot sinen hove halen soude,
       Arlamoen sprac: „Lieve heer,                            Die sijn beddenoot wesen soude,
       Nu misdoedi alte zeer,                                  Des sijn lant mocht hebben eer.
       Dat ghi schimpens dus bestaet                           Lympiose seyde: „Wel lieve heer,
       Mit uwen armen ondersaet.‟                     1195     Ic hope dat ic so hebbe ghedaen,
1145   Orphaen sprack: „Zwijch, Arlamoen!                      Dat ic danck hebbe begaen
       Dat ic segghe dat wil ic doen,                          Aen allen uwen onderzaten,

        Sijn si groot off cleyn ghehaeten;                  Die chierlic binnen wart ghebracht.
        Mer dat weet ic wail daer by,                       Die heer sloecher op groten acht
1200    Dat ics waerdich niet en sy                 1235    Ende ruynde een luttel mit haer.
        Te wesen u gheechte wijff:                          Doe Lympiose quam aldair
        Want u vorstelike lijff                             Ende woude der vrouwen eeren,
        Is waerdich veel hogher zaken,                      Sprack die vrouwe voer alden heren:
        Ende hoe dat ghijt wilt mit mi maken,               „Moeder, ghi sult sitten hier
1205    Dat ghenuecht my lude ende stille.‟         1240    Ende ic sal u dienen schier.‟
        Die heer sprac: „Tis mijn wille,                    Doe wort die guede Limpyose
        Dat ghi die cameren op reydet                       Root van schaemten als een rose
        Ende alle dinghen wael beleydet                     Ende die heer sprac hoer toe:
        Teghen dat mijn wijff sal comen                     „Limpyose, nu weet ic hoe
1210    Ende sy heeft u aenghenomen,                1245    Ghi sijt ghesint ende bin des vroet,
        Dat ghi bij hoir sult moghen sijn                   Dat ghi sijt schamel, wijs ende goet.
        Een dienster in joncfrouwen schijn.                 Ic hebbe gheproeft u wijflic schijn.
        Diendi wael ende sydi tru,                          Dit is u dochter ende die mijn.
        So sal si wael lonen u.‟                            Doe weder u cleder ane:
1215    Si sprac: „Heer,‟ in soeter tael,           1250    Alle dit lant sal u sijn onderdane.
        „Trouwen, dat ghenoecht my wael.                    Ghi sijt doeghendich ende rechtveerdich,
        Wyen ghi wilt dat ic dien,                          Ghi sijt alre eren waerdich.
        Tis recht dat ic my daer toe lien.                  En gheer nymmermeer gheen ander
        Ic wil dat sonder twifel, heer,                     Wijff, waer dat ic hene wander.‟
1220    Gaerne doen mit goeder gheer.               1255    Dit wan Lympiose, die goede,
        Op dat ic bij u bliven mach,                        Mit verdrach ende mit simpelen moede
        Willic hoer doen, nacht ende dach,                  Ende mit onderdanigher doecht,
        Alle dat mijn vrou begaert,                         Dat si hoechlijc bleeff verhoecht.
        Want si is seker des wel waert.‟                    Had si ghetoicht onwaerdicheit,
1225    Limpiose ghinc van dan                      1260    Boesheit ende onwillicheit
        Ende dede groeve cleder an.                         Ende hadde willen wederstaen
        Si ghinc sonder groot gheschal                      Die bode die hi hadde ghedaen,
        Ende bereyde die cameren al                         So had hise te mael begheven
        Teghen die coomste vander bruyt.                    Ende hadse slechs te mael verdreven.
1230    Van vroechden was daer groot gheluyt.       1265    Mit duechden machmen bet verwinnen,
        Men reyde disch, laken ende dwalen.                 Dan mit quade woerden te spinnen.
        Si reden om die bruut te halen,

On the next pages the reader may find a copy of the tale of Griseldis as Philippe de Mézières has
inserted it in Le Livre de la vertu. The text is copied from the edition by Williamson (1992).


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