Form and Content
Written in 1405 by the daughter of an Italian astrologer attached to the court of France, The Book of the City of Ladies: A Fifteenth-Century Defense of Women is Christine de Pizan’s retelling of universal history from a feminist as well as a late medieval perspective. The work is an extensive, three-part prose allegory developed in accordance with established conventions of classical rhetoric—a form considered by Christine’s contemporaries to be accessible only to formally educated male writers.
The three sections of the book are clearly delineated by such phrases as “Here begins the book second part” and “Here begins the book third part.” In part 1 Christine, alone in her study and saddened by the many disparaging remarks against women that she has found in her reading, is visited by three ladies: Reason, Rectitude, and Justice. Each of these allegorical figures becomes the respective narrator of a section of the book.
Reassured by Lady Reason that these negative concepts of women are in direct contradiction to the truth, Christine is charged with the task of building a fortified city for all good ladies. Using the medieval practice of offering exempla, Reason recounts stories of renowned female military leaders such as the Amazons, a community of women warriors of considerable physical strength. A second group of illustrations presents women of great mental prowess. The stories are encapsulations of narratives drawn...
(The entire section is 549 words.)