Aucassin and Nicolette is a unique text from roughly the first half of the thirteenth century. It is a textbook example of the generic transformation and experimentation that characterize thirteenth century French literature. Classified as a chante-fable or song-story, the work, whose author remains anonymous, advances the plot by alternating prose and assonanced, seven-syllabic verse passages. The prose sections of Aucassin and Nicolette primarily move the plot, while the verse passages deliver material of more emotionally charged interest. In addition to the combination of prose and verse passages, the work embodies features from a wide variety of literary genres. It exhibits mainly the characteristics of the courtly romance and the chivalric epic, but it also includes elements borrowed from the pastourelle, the saint’s life, the Byzantine adventure romance, troubadour lyric poetry, and the fabliau. Because of its compound nature, Aucassin and Nicolette is also referred to as a hybrid text. This composition was probably intended for public recital, possibly accompanied by musical instruments. While it is unique because it is the only existing example of this type of composition in French medieval literature, it was probably modeled after the Latin prosimetrum (prose-verse) tradition.
Besides its unique format, the text is curious in its treatment of subject matter and themes. While it is easily...
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