Aucassin and Nicolette

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 579


*Provence. Region of southeastern France composed of fiefdoms controlled by various noblemen. At the time of this tale, Provence was part of the Kingdom of Naples. The nobles of the territory wage ongoing battles for land and power.


Beaucaire (boh-kayr). Fiefdom of Count Garin, father of the lovelorn Aucassin, located near France’s Mediterranean coast. Most of the story’s action takes place here: the beginning and development of Aucassin’s and Nicolette’s love, their imprisonments, their eventual escapes, and their ultimate return and marriage. The count’s castle, located in the walled town, has a dungeon that becomes Aucassin’s prison when his father locks him up for misdeeds. At Beaucaire, Aucassin first infuriates his father and then makes him proud. The youth, his father’s only heir, sees the fiefdom as a hindrance to his pursuit of Nicolette. However, he has a bond with it and returns to it after several years of exile to take his rightful place as ruler.

Beaucaire’s castle

Beaucaire’s castle. Home of Nicolette who, though a “slave-girl,” has been reared as the viscount’s godchild. The viscount secretly confines her in a vaulted chamber in the high tower after Count Garin insists that she be exiled. The chamber is marvelously painted and has a window that gives Nicolette a view of a garden. Though locked in, she can listen to the birds sing and watch the roses bloom. Her life within the castle keep is much as her life outside has been: outwardly charming and even comfortable but restricting her every move. Determined to escape, she uses the window to get away, swims across a moat to elude pursuit, and even manages to get word to Aucassin that she will wait for him.


Forest. Region surrounding the town where Nicolette hides in wait for Aucassin. She believes there might be wolves, wild boars, lions, and snakes in the forest, but it is also a place where shepherds congregate to watch their herds. A highway runs through it, and seven roads meet at one point, providing a significant landmark for giving directions. It is both an obstacle to the young lovers and a safe haven for them as they search for each other and seek sanctuary from their pursuers.


Torelore. Kingdom in which Aucassin and Nicolette live for three years after escaping from Beaucaire. It is an odd land, in which the queen commands the army and fights the wars, while the king lies abed pregnant with their child. Battles are fought with apples, eggs, mushrooms, and cheeses, and custom dictates that opponents are not to be killed. Torelore is a sanctuary for the young lovers; they spend three years there in uneventful tranquillity.


*Carthage. North African city in which Nicolette was born and to which she is returned by Saracen marauders. The king of Carthage is, it is learned, Nicolette’s father, so she is royalty. Her return to Carthage allows her to reclaim her identity as a princess and paves the way for her at last to become Aucassin’s lawful bride. When her father decides to marry her to a prince of his own choice, she flees Carthage to find Aucassin. A house near Carthage belonging to a poor woman is her place of refuge when she sets out to find Aucassin again. Here she darkens her skin with herbs, disguises herself as a minstrel, and sails away for Beaucaire and Aucassin.


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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 250

Ferrante, Joan M. “Courtly Literature.” In Woman as Image in Medieval Literature: From the Twelfth Century to Dante . New York:...

(This entire section contains 250 words.)

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Columbia University Press, 1975. DescribesAucassin and Nicolette as a “parody romance” in which the usual role expectations of men and women are reversed.

Loomis, Laura Hibbard. Foreword to Aucassin and Nicolete. In Medieval Romances, edited by Roger Sherman Loomis and Laura Hibbard Loomis. New York: Random House, 1957. Emphasizes the dramatic and performance qualities of this chante-fable. Discusses the characterizations of Aucassin and Nicolette and the linkings of music to lyrics, lyrics to prose, and romance to fables.

Mason, Eugene. Introduction to Aucassin and Nicolette and Other Medieval Romances and Legends. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1951. Places Aucassin and Nicolette and the other romances within a historical perspective, emphasizing the contradictions inherent in an understanding of the Middle Ages and its literature.

Stevens, John. “Man and God: Religion and Romance.” In Medieval Romance: Themes and Approaches. New York: W. W. Norton, 1973. In this chapter in his illuminating study of medieval romance, Stevens discusses the complex relationship between romantic and religious ideals. Posits that the author uses Aucassin’s blasphemous speech about preferring Hell to Heaven as an illustration of the hyperbolic absurdity of young love.

Tattersall, Jill. “Shifting Perspectives and the Illusion of Reality in Aucassin and Nicolette.” French Studies 38, no. 3 (July, 1984): 257-267. Describes how the author deliberately works against the audience’s expectations by using a multiplicity of perspectives, switches in narrative viewpoints, and a variety of types of characterization.


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