Christine de Pizan
- The protagonist. Christine is a successful writer and scholar who is
visited by three women representing Reason, Rectitude, and Justice. They help
her to counter the sexist claims popularly made by male writers of the day. They
also debate and discuss the merits and accomplishments of notable women, thereby
constructing the titular City of Ladies.
in-depth analysis of Christine de Pizan.
- The narrator of most of Part One. Reason helps Christine de Pizan lay
the foundation for the City of Ladies and constructs the exterior walls for the
city’s buildings. She discusses women who have distinguished themselves
intellectually, politically, and militarily. She also provides numerous examples
of the prudence that women display.
in-depth analysis of Reason.
- The narrator of most of Part Two. Rectitude celebrates women as
prophets, wives, and daughters, defends women against the horrors of rape, and
pleads the case for the constancy of her sex. She completes the various
structures that make up the City of Ladies and populates it with noble and
in-depth analysis of Rectitude.
- The narrator of most of Part Three. Justice finishes the construction
of the city—roofing the structures, adding the doorways and gates, and then
ushering in Mary, the Queen, and other holy women. She discusses the lives of
women who have martyred themselves for their faith.
in-depth analysis of Justice.
- The Queen of Caria. Artemisia was praised for her moral insight and
wisdom and known for her strength as a leader both in the palace and on the
battlefield. She conquered the Rhodians and then defeated Xerxes and the
Persians to help defend Sparta. In honor of her husband, King Mausolus, she
built the first mausoleum.
- The Queen of France and mother of Saint Louis. After the death of her
husband, Blanche kept the realm unified and ruled France until her son
could come of age. Known for her goodness, wisdom, and integrity, her son’s
enemy became enamored of her and composed many love poems in her
- The daughter of Urban. Christine’s patron and namesake, Saint
Christine refused to worship her father’s gold and silver idols, which she
smashed and gave to the poor. Imprisoned, beaten, burned, covered in boiling
oil, crushed on a torture wheel, thrown into the sea with a stone tied to her,
beset with snakes, her tongue and breasts cut out, and shot with arrows, she was
martyred to her faith and responsible for thousands of conversions by the
example she set with her unshakeable love of God.
- The Queen of Carthage. Also called Elissa, Dido fled her cruel
brother, Pygmalion, and founded a great city in North Africa. Known for her
cunning, physical prowess, and nobility, she welcomed the warrior Aeneas and
fell deeply in love with him. When he left her secretly in the night, she
- The Queen of France. Cruel and severe, Fredegund ruled France until
her son was old enough to assume the throne. A brilliant military strategist,
she brought her infant son into battle to urge the men to secure victory for
their future king at all costs. She had her men camouflage their horses with
branches. Then she instructed them to tie bells to their mounts, which the enemy
mistook for grazing animals, allowing Fredegund’s forces to penetrate the enemy
- A Roman noblewoman. Lucretia was propositioned by Tarquin the Proud,
son of the king. When he threatened to ruin her reputation with false
accusations, she submitted to his demands, later confessing the violation to her
husband, father, and family before taking out a dagger and plunging it into her
- The daughter of the king of Colchis. Beautiful and noble, Medea had
extensive knowledge of herbs and botanicals and, through her enchantments, could
control the elements and provoke spontaneous combustion. She fell in love with
Jason and through her spells helped him secure the Golden Fleece. Soon after, he
left her for another woman.
- A scholar also known as Carmentis. Nicostrata named the Palentine
hill and in a vision predicted it would be the future site of the Roman Empire.
She laid the city’s first stone, instituted a system of laws for the surrounding
region, and invented the Latin alphabet and language.
- A Greek poet and scholar. Beautiful, intelligent, and articulate,
Sappho won the praise of Greece’s leading literary lights for her talents as a
writer. She invented new poetic forms and was honored as one of the leading
figures of her times with a bronze statue erected in the city in which she
- The daughter of a nobleman. When Thisbe fell in love with Pyramus,
her mother grew alarmed and locked her in her bedroom, the wall of which
adjoined Pyramus’s chambers. Finding a crack in the wall, Thisbe made a hole and
was able to arrange to meet her lover. When Pyramus arrived, he found her
handkerchief soiled with a lion’s vomit. Thinking she had been mauled and eaten,
he took his life. Thisbe emerged from her hiding spot, found her lover dead, and
then committed suicide as well.