a n d o n m o r e t h a n o n e l e v e l . B y a n d l a r g e , a d u l - Social comportment, tery is a woman’s
however, is a domain in which men can be held as accountable as women. This is precisely the point of the attack. Initially the attack is car- ried out, as we have seen, by the countess’s claim that she possesses all those values that are adduced in masculine poetic discourse to characterize the perfect woman. When her friend betrays her, he betrays his own ideal. He says one thing and does another. To appreciate this attack, the audience has to be familiar with troubadour song so that the mirroring of a man’s complaint in a song by a woman takes on its corrosive irony. On one level, then, the comtessa is juxtaposing discourses, playing with words and images, showing that two can engage in the game of love. But on another level, her criticism moves beyond the judgment of a knight’s sexual behavior to a larger context. By couching her complaint in the language of the oath of fidelity and by giving prominence to the rich concept of the comtessa evokes the network of accords and agreements upon which aristocratic Occitan society depended: the obser- vation of faith pledged and kept without fail. In Occitania, where tenurial relations as such were modest and sometimes only symbolic, em- phasis was always on the personal oath, on the promise not to betray and to come to the aid of the other party when necessary. More than re-
buking the lover’s duplicity, elaborated in song, the countess exposes her friend’s behavior as a threat to the entire social fabric. Her strategy is not merely linguistic. She makes the opening gambit in a game of love that turns out to be the game of life. She gives a lesson in proper amorous behavior that is also a lesson in proper political be- havior toward your lord, your lady, and your fel- low knights: do not out of pride defraud or betray; do not break covenants; do not give those to
whom you are linked by
any cause for
If this behavior is not observed, the society collapses.
Now we may ask: what performance context
can we imagine for this song? Would the comtessa have performed it herself? Sarah Kay has argued that women poets “already marginalized discur- sively were further disadvantaged by the expecta- tion that they would not perform their songs in person but entrust them to someone The scribe of the late-thirteenth-century troubadour manuscript A (Biblioteca did not agree with this perception: he instructed the illu- minator of the letter A of “A to portray “una que (a lady singing). If we adopt the position that women in Occitania were ex- pected to participate in political and public life, that they exchanged oaths of fidelity with men, then we can also expect them to sing songs at
court and in groups that also included
34. James A.
Sex, and Christian
in Medieval Europe (Chicago:
of Chicago Press,
Churchmen did criticize men as
as women, especially beginning in the late eleventh and early
some of the ramifications of these views, see John W. Baldwin,
Northern France around
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
35. Kay, Subjectiui~ 145-46. Love,”
See Signs 3 (1978):
for a related point of view, Marianne Shapiro, “The
and the Limits of
36. Women’s ability to sing is suggested by a number of sources. Conduct books and romances describe singing as an accom-
plishment that women are expected to possess. Garin
Brun, in his
tells women to sing for
de gent de
(in the company
of worthy people)
Fox, ed. [Paris:
463-64). As Christopher Page has
“joglars e chantadors”
in such a way as to create a favorable impression so that the poet/musicians will their guests and to welcome speak well of them (Carl ‘ gnement de Garin 33 ed. Revue , d a m e s , R o b e r t d e B l o i s t e l l s w o m e n t h a t i f t h e y h a v e a g o o d v o i c e , t h e y s h o u l d s i n g - a n d “ e n c o m p a i g i n e In his /
Cbmtoiement des pris,”
des kques romanex
: 404-32, vv. 511-58).
pointed out: “Here Robert of Blois not only anticipates that women will sing for their own pleasure but also that they will per-
Femmes musiciennes du
Roman de la violette, the heroine sings
songs “en la sale”
Coldwell, ‘~oollgkre~~exand Trobairitz
during the course
amorous dispute (ed. D. J.
19891, ChrCtien Ch&im de TToyp Romanr trouv&re Yvonne
form before gent
[Berkeley: University of California Press,
knows how to compose poetry, to sing and to play (ed. C. de Boer, in
367). For general discussions, see and Maria V.
SATF, 19281, v.
depris”( Philomena 19941, w. 194-204).
” Romania 61 (1935): 464-80,
Secular Musicians in Medieval France,” in Women
These examples speak chiefly
ed. Jane Bowers and Judith Tick (Urbana: University of Illinois women, but the situations described at court could pertain to the