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Oaths, Vows and Promises in the first Part of the French Prose Lancelot Romance

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Lisa Jefferson

This book examines the narrative use made of oaths, vows and promises in a thirteenth-century work of fictional literature, reviewing the textual prominence accorded them by the writer in the light of legal texts of the Middle Ages that deal with the same subject. Medieval society had to deal with highly complex problems that arose out of the central importance accorded the given word. Jurists wrestled with the problems in an attempt to solve them; the writer of a work of narrative fiction can explore such problems in terms of human drama. The writer of the prose Lancelot was clearly aware of the legal debate, and he used both the characters and plot of his fictional text to construct narrative sequences that allowed him to depict the moral and psychological perplexities that faced both society and individuals over these matters.