Guillaume de Machaut Criticism - Essay

Siegmund Levarie (essay date 1954)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Levarie, Siegmund. “Guillaume de Machaut and His Time.” In Guillaume de Machaut, edited by John J. Baker, pp. 3-36. New York: Da Capo Press, 1969.

[In the following essay, originally published in 1954, Levarie discusses Machaut's life and work in the wider context of fourteenth-century social and political upheavals, also explaining the impact of the plague epidemic on social life.]

Guillaume de Machaut, composer and poet, was born around 1300 in the village of Machault near Réthel in the Champagne in France and died in 1377 as a canon of Rheims. Chronologically and artistically he represents his century, with which his life almost coincided and from which...

(The entire section is 9920 words.)

William Calin (essay date 1974)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Calin, William. “Le Livre du Voir-Dit.” In A Poet at the Fountain: Essays on the Narrative Verse of Guillaume de Machaut, pp. 167-202. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1974.

[In the following essay, Calin discusses Le Livre du Voir-Dit, Machaut's principal work, concluding that the ultimate reality implied by the poet's text is the reality of artistic creation itself.]

Toute-belle sends a rondeau to the Narrator, in which she says that she offers him her heart. The Narrator replies in kind. Soon the aging poet and his youthful admirer are involved in an amorous correspondence. He visits her several times, and...

(The entire section is 14738 words.)

Sarah Jane Manley Williams (essay date 1978)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Manley Williams, Sarah Jane. “Machaut's Self-Awareness as Author and Producer.” In Machaut's World: Science and Art in the Fourteenth Century, edited by Madeleine Pelner Cosman and Bruce Chandler, pp. 189-97. New York: The New York Academy of Sciences, 1978.

[In the following essay. Manley Williams describes Machaut as a remarkably self-conscious artist, observing that the poet's awareness of his importance as an author manifested itself in his consistent efforts to arrange, safeguard, copy, and distribute his manuscripts.]

About Machaut's famous contemporary, the Italian humanist, Francesco Petrarch, it has been said “we know far more about his...

(The entire section is 3932 words.)

Daniel Poirion (essay date 1978)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Poirion, Daniel. “The Imaginary Universe of Guillaume de Machaut.” In Machaut's World: Science and Art in the Fourteenth Century, edited by Madeleine Pelner Cosman and Bruce Chandler, pp. 199-204. New York: The New York Academy of Sciences, 1978.

[In the following essay, Poirion depicts Machaut's imaginary universe as quintessentially modern, clearly abandoning the medieval tradition of theocentrism.]

When Machaut began to compose his polyphonic songs, much medieval music aimed rather to intellectual than to sensual effect. Mathematical laws of the universe, with their arithmetical and geometrical figures, governed composition. Through musical rhythms human...

(The entire section is 3653 words.)

Kevin Brownlee (essay date 1978)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Brownlee, Kevin. “The Poetic Œuvre of Guillaume de Machaut: The Identity of Discourse and the Discourse of Identity.” In Machaut's World: Science and Art in the Fourteenth Century, edited by Madeleine Pelner Cosman and Bruce Chandler, pp. 219-31. New York: The New York Academy of Sciences, 1978.

[In the following essay, Brownlee asserts that a careful reading of Machaut's works shows how the poet transformed himself from scribe to author and imposed his authorial awareness as a new and dominant standard for writers.]

To a considerable extent the modern notion of “poet,” derives from fourteenth-century developments, for it was during the...

(The entire section is 7082 words.)

Douglas Kelly (essay date 1978)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Kelly, Douglas. “Guillaume de Machaut and the Sublimation of Courtly Love in Imagination.” In Medieval Imagination: Rhetoric and the Poetry of Courtly Love, pp. 121-54. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978.

[In the following essay, Kelly analyzes Machaut's conception of love, observing that the poet's meticulous definition of love draws from classical and medieval literature.]

          and yet thei spake hem so,
And spedde as wel in love as men now do;
Ek for to wynnen love in sondry ages,
In sondry londes, sondry ben usages

—Chaucer1

Ici a commencé pour moi ce que j'appellerai...

(The entire section is 18128 words.)

Catherine Attwood (essay date 1998)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Attwood, Catherine. “The ‘I’ of the Poet and the Poetic ‘I’: The Evolution of Literary Awareness in Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries” and “The ‘I’ and the Other: The Poetic ‘I’ in the Works of Guillaume de Machaut.” In The Poetic “I” in Fourteenth- and Fifteenth-Century French Lyric Poetry, pp. 11-228. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1998.

[In the following excerpt, Attwood analyzes Machaut's principal works concluding that he, more than any other poet of his time, reveals his poetic ego as a purely textual, literary construct.]

Among the most significant contributions of the writers of this period to the development of the first-person lyric...

(The entire section is 14943 words.)

Ardis Butterfield (essay date 2002)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Butterfield, Ardis. “Part V: Lyric and Narrative” and “Part VI: Envoy: The New Art.” In Poetry and Music in Medieval France: From Jean Renart to Guillaume de Machaut, pp. 217-72, 273–90. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

[In the following excerpt, Butterfield analyzes Machaut's poetry and music, finding that both as a poet and a composer Machaut experiments with fixed forms and citation in an effort to explore the limits of his art.]

It is widely acknowledged that with Guillaume de Machaut vernacular song enters a new phase. His lais, rondeaux and ballades have an elaboration and artistic seriousness that sets them apart from...

(The entire section is 9786 words.)