Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun
Born de Lorris: c. 1200,

Lorris, France

de Meun: c. 1240, Meung-sur-Loire, France

Relevant Work Roman de la Rose


Biographies Edit

Guillaume de Lorris Edit

  • French author of the first and more poetic part of the medieval verse allegory the Roman de la rose, started by him c. 1225–30 but continued only some 40–50 years later by Jean de Meun.[1]
  • Little is known of Guillaume de Lorris except that he was clearly an aristocrat and that he was born in the village of Lorris, just east of Orléans. Guillaume’s section of the work—the first 4,058 lines—reveals him as a courtly poet of great perceptiveness who has mastered the revelation of character through allegorical symbols.[1]

Jean de Meun Edit

  • French author who continued Roman de la Rose, Jean de Meun doubtless edited the work of his predecessor, Guillaume de Lorris, before using it as the starting-point of his own vast poem, running to 19,000 lines.[2]
  • He was a defender of Guillaume de Saint-Amour and critic of the mendicant orders (a Christian order that adopted poverty, traveling, and living in urban areas for preaching, especially to the poor).[2]
  • Jean De Meun says that in his youth he composed songs that were sung in every public place and school in France.[2]

Roman de la Rose Edit

Background and Historical Context Edit

(French: “Romance of the Rose”) one of the most popular French poems of the later Middle Ages. Modeled on Ovid’s Ars amatoria (c. 1 bc; Art of Love), the poem is composed of more than 21,000 lines of octosyllabic couplets and survives in more than 300 manuscripts. [3]

Key Words and Terms Edit

Allegory - a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning.

Syllogism - an instance of a form of reasoning in which a conclusion is drawn (whether validly or not) from two given or assumed propositions (premises), each of which shares a term with the conclusion, and shares a common or middle term not present in the conclusion (e.g., all dogs are animals; all animals have four legs; therefore all dogs have four legs).

Key Quotations Edit

"Even though Hope is courteous and kindly disposed, she is still not certain in anything" (91).[4] "Promise without gift is worth little, and Hope leaves me possessed of so many contraries that no one can know their number" (91).[4]

"But the love which holds you in its bonds gives you the prospect of carnal delight so that your intention runs nowhere but upon wishing to have the rose" (99).[4]

"If you can live long enough to see yourself delivered from love, you will bewail the the time you have lost, but you will never be able to recover it, if indeed you escape that far, for, in that love where you are caught, many, I dare say, lose their sense, their time, possessions, bodies, souls, and reputations" (99).[4] "In this way know, and do not doubt, that he who has not tried evil will hardly ever know anything of the good, any more than will he who does not know the value of honor know how to recognize shame" (351).[4]

Discussion Edit

The passages of The Romance of the Rose which we cover are an example of medieval allegory. In the first section the narrator is confused about Love and Reason and why Love is so difficult. The character of Reason tries to explain Love and corresponding emotions. In the second passage we have the narrator succeeding in the original goal of having intercourse or making love or gaining the “rose” which was desired. 

Discourse of Reason Summary:

The piece starts by contemplating the loss of reason and the falsehoods of hope by claiming hope deceives and is a source for false reasoning.  While hope may relieve pain temporarily, its promises are empty.

The narrator laments giving” homage to the God of Love” (92) because it “brought about…[his] desires too well”(92) or in excess thus making him do foolish things of which Reason had warned against.  In an ironic twist the narrator claims to never want to complain about the “God of Love…Fair Welcoming or Hope, or against Idleness” (92) even though it has just been done in the previous paragraphs.

The narrator claims to turn themselves over to emotions and passions (particularly love).  Works become a source to “merit his [Love’s] grace” but ultimately the narrator is at the whim of Love. Reason “descend[s] from her tower” (93) and claims there is a balance to be had in loving and suffering, sweetness and bitterness which. Reason says the narrator is a fool for engaging in an affair of which the consequences are not understood.

Reason claims the narrator does not know or love truly (“by your soul”(94)) and that excess distorts understanding but that knowledge can help “escape easily from the prison where you are thus wasting away” (94). In other words knowledge sets you free. Using one’s head or mind leads to knowledge and understanding contrary to following a heart fixed on love.

Reason gives a description of love which is a series of contradictory statements like a “diseased health” and “malicious sweetness” (94-95) making Love paradoxical. Reason goes on to say that to rid oneself of Love, one must only flee from it for it will not follow.  The narrator replies that Love is still not understood yet it is known well, Reason’s description is not understood and further description is required

Reason describes love as lust where consequences (reproduction) are not considered. Many use love deceitfully seeking pleasure while “Nature has implanted delight” (96) in the process of reproduction in order to meet her (Nature’s) goal of reproduction.

Excess of pleasure and delight seeking leads to all nature of folly and sin. Youth is especially susceptible because Youth deals with freedom of emotion and passions without experience. Youth also “attracts men to delight” (97). Old Age takes men away from delight. No one likes old age but it’s good. 

Youth taken by Delight and wanted to serve him. Age dwells in Labor and Suffering which creates desire for repentance and prepare one for death.  Age sees folly of one’s Youth. If you are going to love do not shame away from pregnancy but seek reproduction. Anyone who deals with love deals with delight except prostitutes who should not be dealt with and be led away by.

“Good love should be born of a pure heart; love should not be mastered by gifts any more than by bodily pleasures” (99). If one is held prisoner by love because of delight, time and self will be wasted and lost “wishing to have the rose” (99).  After Reason has spoken the narrator tells that Love has more control over them. 

Venus’s Conflagration: Winning the Rose Summary:

“Things go by contraries” (351).  You must know one thing to know the other so experience much to know much. Like you can’t know good without evil or ease without difficulty.  If you do not know both sides you cannot know the difference.

The author begins an extended metaphor for having intercourse – particularly putting a “staff” between “two pillars” into a “sheath” successfully. The narrator claims the metaphor is to help others in successfully “negotiate the passage better, easily or deftly, without straining or tiring yourself” (353).

Major Criticism and Reception Edit

The Roman de la Rose has been criticized for its explicit language and imagery and for its unrealistic depiction of women. Notably, Christine de Pizan called the compilation a "work of idleness" and critiqued its blunt portrayal of "that which ought to remain tacit and not be named" (206). She also suggested that the authors' portrayals of women suggest that they have not been "acquainted with any honorable or virtuous women, implying that the authors themselves were not chaste (203).

Related Works Edit

  • Christine de Pizan. "Christine's Reaction to Jean de Montreuil's Treatise on the Roman de la Rose"

References Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Encyclopædia Britannica. (2017). Guillaume de Lorris | Medieval French Author. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Nov. 2017]
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Roman de la Rose". Encyclopædia Britannica. 23 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 510.
  3. Encyclopædia Britannica. (2017). Roman de la rose. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Nov. 2017]
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Horgan, Frances., and Jean. The Romance of the Rose. Oxford ; New York, Oxford University Press, 1994.