Places: Cligès

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Cligès: Ou, La Fausse morte, c. 1164 (English translation, 1912)

Type of work: Poetry

Type of plot: Romance

Time of work: Sixth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Athens

*Athens. CligèsGreek city in which the Greek prince Alexander is born and where he dies; a place of rich tradition and heritage, but also one that harbors deception and deceit in this work. Alexander wishes to take leave of his family to be properly trained as a knight in Britain under the tutelage of King Arthur. He returns to Greece after his father dies to reclaim his rightful place as emperor; however, that place has been taken from him by his brother Alis.


*Brittany. Province of Celtic origin in what is now the western part of France that has been an important trading center throughout history. Alexander leaves Brittany with King Arthur and his retinue along with the Queen and Soredamors.


*Windsor. King Arthur’s knights do battle with Count Angrés and his traitors. Alexander and Soredamors are wed here, and Alexander is made king of a large kingdom in Wales. In addition, this is a place of historical interest, in terms of beauty, culture, and diversity.


*Cologne (kah-LOHN). German city with roots going back to the Roman era. It serves as the foreign location to which Alis descends in order to fulfill his own needs, while simultaneously breaking an oath with his brother in order to marry the eldest daughter of the German emperor.


*Wallingford. Ancient English borough near present Oxford where knights go for a tournament. This setting is also the location of many tragedies.

Underground tower

Underground tower. Place where Fenice is kept after she and Cligès feign her funeral and burial. The setting symbolizes secrecy and that which is hidden.

BibliographyFrappier, Jean. “Chrétien de Troyes.” In Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages, edited by Roger Sherman Loomis. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1959. This is a good starting point for a study of Chrétien de Troyes, dealing mainly with sources and characterization.Haidu, Peter. Aesthetic Distance in Chrétien de Troyes: Irony and Comedy in Cligès and Perceval. Geneva, Switzerland: Droz, 1968. This is an examination of the style and structure of two of Chrétien’s romances. Haidu concludes that the major theme of Cligès is the difference between appearance and reality.Loomis, Roger Sherman. Arthurian Tradition and Chrétien de Troyes. New York: Columbia University Press, 1949. Loomis shows how Chrétien’s romances were influenced by Celtic mythology. Although his conclusions have been challenged, his work is very stimulating, especially when he deals with the Sword Bridge.Noble, Peter S. Love and Marriage in Chrétien de Troyes. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1982. This book examines the theme of love and marriage in all of Chrétien’s romances, concluding that he prefers in Cligès a more self-controlled love than that seen in the Tristan legend.Polak, Lucie. Chrétien de Troyes: Cligès. Critical Guides to French Texts 23. London: Grant and Cutler, 1982. This is the best critical study on Cligès. Polak examines the themes of war and love, and she makes a detailed comparison of Cligès to the Tristan story. She points out that, according to Chrétien’s epilogue, Fenice is not regarded with favor by posterity and argues that she had been overly obsessed with appearing to be blameless.
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