Beasts of Love

Beasts of Love: Richard de Fournival's Bestiaire d'amour and the Response

JEANETTE BEER
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442671195
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  • Book Info
    Beasts of Love
    Book Description:

    In Le Bestiare d'amour and the Response, a medieval chancellor's erotic bestiary to a woman is countered by the woman's passionate protest against the cleric's misogynistic presuppositions. Beer presents a close, linear reading of the two literary texts.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7119-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    Richard de Fournival, who wroteLe Bestiaire d’amour(The Bestiary of Love) in the middle decade of the thirteenth century, was successively deacon, canon, and chancellor of the Amiens chapter of Notre Dame; also canon of Rouen, chaplain to Cardinal Robert de Sommercote, and licensed surgeon by the authority of two successive popes;¹ also bibliophile,² astronomer/astrologer,³ and author of crystalline and sometimes impenetrable lyrics;⁴ also translator of several Ovidian love treatises.⁵ The work is ostensibly addressed to an anonymousbele tres douce amie, requesting her love, but its superficial courtliness masks profound complexities. The tradition of courtly love literature was...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Love and Reason
    (pp. 15-44)

    Richard begins his bestiary of love with the generalization ‘All men by nature desire to know’ (Aristotle,The MetaphysicsI, 1). This universal statement is an unlikely introduction to a declaration of love, transcending as it does any specifics of lover courting lady in favour of an Aristoteliansententia. It must not, however, be dismissed as a truism, for it is Richard’s first hint to his public of the paradox that will be dramatized inLe Bestiaire d’amour. Man’s desire for knowledge is the distinctive, God-given feature that from the beginning establishes his superiority over other animals. However, this same...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Love and the Senses
    (pp. 45-64)

    With the overthrow of reason by love, Richard ‘mors d’amour’ categorizes himself as love’s victim. The question for analysis now is responsibility for the death. The theological debate about guilt was hardly new. Ambrose, whom Richard frequently echoes, had pondered the degree of the first woman’s responsibility when she did not process instructions appropriately. There were after all attenuating circumstances concerning Eve’s disobedience, namely, that God’s instructions about the dangerous Tree of Knowledge were given to Adam before Eve’s creation and came to her only indirectly through Adam. Without actually endorsing heretical views, Ambrose obviously had difficulty in reconciling foreknowledge...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Remedies for Love
    (pp. 65-84)

    Love, which operates through ‘les sens,’ has been shown to undermine the proper functioning of ‘le sens.' Confessing his sensual vulnerability, Richard affirms he has become love’s victim. NowLe Bestiaire d’amourveers in a new direction: possible remedies for love. An obvious influence is Ovid’sRemedia amoris, although Richard never replicates the satiric mood of Ovid’s ‘all love is a con.’ Ovid spoke a language of happy cynicism to the lover. If a man has been imprudent enough to cross love’s threshold, love can still be cured by resisting and delaying; by replacing it with other diversions (gambling, drinking,...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Love for Women
    (pp. 85-110)

    When Richard initiates a series of prescriptive exempla for the edification of ‘la dame,’ the new direction is reminiscent, structurally at least, of Ovid’s dedication of the third book of hisArs amatoriato Penthesilea and her girls. However, Ovid’s advice to women was sheer tongue-in-cheek playfulness. Citing various females, divine and otherwise, for their less than successful relationships with their men, Ovid asserted that the women’s problems could have been avoided with a little bit of finesse. Cosmetics, jewellery, clothing, hygiene, street smarts, table manners, holding one’s liquor, the socially advantageous skills of reading (readingOvid, of course!), singing,...

  9. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  10. CHAPTER FIVE The Womanʼs Response
    (pp. 111-148)

    A response to Richard’s love bestiary appears in four manuscripts.¹ One of them (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek 2609, f. 32r) begins [‘Chi coumence li prologues de] la response dou bestiaire que la dame fist contre la requeste que maistres Richars de furnival fist sour nature des biestes’ ([Here begins the prologue of] the response to the bestiary, composed by the lady against the request that Master Richard of Fournival made on the nature of the animals). Another (Paris, BN f.fr. 412, f. 236v) begins [‘Ici endroit comence li prologues a] la response sour l’arriere ban Maistre Richart de furnival, ensi come sa...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Later Developments
    (pp. 149-170)

    Le Bestiaire d’amoursurvives in some 20 manuscripts.¹ Of these three appear to be survivals of an Italian archetype: Florens, Laur. Plut. 76, 79; Florens, Laur. Ashb. 123; and Pierpont Morgan 459. The first two are fragments, but PM459 contains a completeBestiaire d’amour, although not theResponse. The manuscript was compiled and illuminated in northern Italy, most probably in Lombardy, and postdates Richard’s original bestiary by about one hundred years. It was obviously produced for a public that had no knowledge either of the context that produced the love bestiary or of the bestiary’s original author.² The anonymity of...

  12. APPENDIX 1: ʻDe quoi li home est fais, et de sa natureʼ
    (pp. 171-174)
  13. APPENDIX 2: Prologue to the Response
    (pp. 175-176)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 177-190)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 191-200)
  16. General Index
    (pp. 201-212)
  17. Index of Animals
    (pp. 213-214)