In Thomas Malory’s The Tale of Sir Gareth of Orkney, it’s possible to argue that the place of women is both aggressive and passive.
When it comes to Linet, her place appears assertive. Linet takes it upon her to get help for her sister. Her sister is under siege so Linet takes action. She doesn’t wait for a man to come to her sister’s rescue. She finds a man herself. When Linet locates this man—Gareth—she does not yield to him or treat him as her superior; she criticizes and mocks him.
With Linet, her place involves agency and activity. The place of her sister, Dame Liones, comes off as more conventional. In accordance with traditional feminine tropes, Liones requires rescue and winds up married.
When compared with the tales in The Lais of Marie de France, one is likely to find that the place of women contains a similar mix of passivity and assertiveness.
In the “Guigemar” story, the Queen is restricted. She’s confined by the elderly King. Yet she’s not totally without agency. The Queen begins an affair with a knight and, when she senses that they will soon be separated by forces beyond their control, she puts a “knot” on him that only she can untie. This “knot” is meant to keep him faithful. It’s an example of how the Queen imposes herself on Guigemar and thus possesses an active place in their relationship.
Likewise, in the “Equitan” tale, the lady finds herself confined. She’s married to a man, a seneschal, that she doesn’t love. However, she maintains the ability to have an affair with someone else: the king. The lady also plays an active role in the plot to kill her husband. She’s the one who comes up with the idea to try to boil him to death in a scalding bath.