full title The Book of the City of Ladies
author Christine de Pizan
type of work Philosophical dialogue
genre Feminist allegory
time and place written France, 1405
date of first publication 1405
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.
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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