9/15: Crime & Punishment in “Bisclavret”

Marie de France’s “Bisclavret” tells the story of a knight who keeps his werewolf form hidden from his wife until she gets him to explain why he leaves every week. She promptly leaves him for a normal knight, who she sends to steal Bisclavret’s clothes to trap him in wolf-form. Eventually, Bisclavret is caught by the king’s huntsmen, who return him to the king to be a new pet. When Bisclavret’s wife and her new knight visit the king, the whole affair is uncovered and she is put to death for her infidelity. Applying the definition of “lycanthropy” from the Medieval Disability Glossary, I can see how other characters’ reactions to Bisclavret’s form drive the story; I am left wondering, however, the reason for his being a werewolf at all. If the moral is simply to “stand by your man,” the story is absurdly one-sided. Is there anything else going on that explains or implies why Bisclavret carries his curse?

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