Le Roman de la Rose is an allegorical dream-vision, written in two parts by two authors 1230-75. Guillaume de Lorris (d. 1237) composed the first 4058 lines to present 'the whole art of love'. Jean de Meun added another 17,622 lines expounding the topic in social, moral and philosophical perspectives. One third of the poem was translated into Middle English as The Romaunt of the Rose probably by Geoffrey Chaucer.

Throughout the poem nearly all aspects of courtly and philosophical love are presented in the form of personified allegories. The text is one of the most influential works in the Middle Ages setting the pattern of the dream-vision form and allegorical conventions.

In the first part, Idleness admits the dreamer to a walled garden ruled by the God of Love and his entourage. The dreamer falls in love with a rose, the thinly veiled allegorical representation of a courtly lady. The Lover submits to the commands of the god of Love, i.e. the code of courtly love. After endless efforts to reach the rose the Lover is allowed a kiss by the intervention of Pity and Venus. Immediately, the rose is strictly guarded and protected by a wall.

In the second part, Jean de Meun keeps the allegorical framework, but radically changes both the discursive style and the pragmatic perspective. Now, the poem follows an encyclopedic line and reveals an obvious bourgeois point of view. Although the plot still follows the allegorical quest of the Lover, the author touches upon nearly every philosophical and political issue of the time. In numerous, very often satirical digressions Jean de Meun presents topics, such as the role of women, good government, the mendicant friars, royal power, property and pauperism, prognostication, sorcery, etc.

Throughout the Middle Ages the poem gained an enormous popularity often causing public controversial debates, such as la querelle, the quarrel about Le Roman de la Rose, between Christine de Pisan and Jean Gerson, Chancellor of the university of Paris, as adversaries and as supporters the clerics Jean de Montreuil and the brothers Gontier and Pierre Col from 1401 to 1405. Reflexes of these disputes can be detected in Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Prologue, his Legend of Good Women, in Hoccleve's Letter of Cupid, an adaptation of Christine's Epistre au Dieu d'Amours, and many other instances.


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Le Roman de la Rose