ABOUT THIS BOOK
A comic masterpiece of medieval French literature, Aucassin and Nicolette is categorized by its anonymous author as a “chantefable,” or “song-story,” and is the only known work of this kind. This edition includes the thirteenth-century French text and a modern English translation on facing pages. An introduction outlines the text’s background, genre, literary relations, historical contexts, major themes, and relevance to a contemporary audience. Its alternating sections of verse and prose recount a story of love between the aristocratic but distinctly unheroic young lord Aucassin and his beloved Nicolette. Despite familial disapproval, class and ethnic differences, imprisonment, and geographical separation, Nicolette’s single-minded pursuit of Aucassin raises interesting questions about gender roles and their depiction in the Middle Ages. The issue of identity is also addressed, as the identity of Nicolette shifts in terms of class, religion, and ethnicity: born a Muslim princess, she becomes both a slave and a Christian convert, and is eventually recaptured by her Saracen family, much to her displeasure. With its daring escapes, its descriptions of travel to exotic lands, its separations, and its happy reunions, Aucassin and Nicolette is both a classic romantic comedy and an entertaining parody of the romance genre.