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The Book of the City of Ladies

Christine de Pizan

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full title ·  The Book of the City of Ladies

author · Christine de Pizan

type of work · Philosophical dialogue

genre · Feminist allegory

language · French

time and place written · France, 1405

date of first publication · 1405

publisher · Unknown

narrators · Christine de Pizan, Reason, Justice, and Rectitude

point of view · Christine addresses the three allegorical figures in the first person. Reason, Justice, and Rectitude often use the first person, but mostly relate their stories of the lives of women in the third person. They objectively relate the incidents that make up their narratives but often interject their strong opinions regarding the proceedings.

tone · Christine adopts a tone to reflect her meekness, disbelief, and uncertainty about the status of women. The three allegorical figures are more passionate and emotional in their defense of their sex.

tense · Past

setting (time) · The early 1400s

setting (place) · The site of the future City of Ladies

protagonist · Christine de Pizan

major conflict · The major conflict occurs before the book begins. Christine is responding to the claims of numerous authors, and one in particular, that women are immoral and unvirtuous.

rising action · The three Virtues help Christine to construct her symbolic sanctuary for women, the City of Ladies, but instead of employing bricks, the community is built using stories and examples of the deeds and lives of virtuous women.

climax · The city is completed and populated with notable women from the past and present as well as from literature, the Bible, and mythology.

falling action · Christine addresses the residents of the city, encouraging them to stay steadfast in defending their honor and virtue.

themes · Misrepresentation vs. truth; physical vs. spiritual; writing as repossession; the universality of human experience

motifs · Allegory; philosophical dialogue; storytelling

symbols · Justice’s vessel of gold; Reason’s mirror; Rectitude’s ruler

foreshadowing · Reason’s tale of Dido foreshadows Rectitude’s tale relating the lovesick queen’s tragic end. Similarly, Reason discusses Medea’s ability to enchant and to cast spells. Later, Rectitude shows how these abilities made her vulnerable to the manipulations of Jason.

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