Plot Overview Summary Plot Overview In her study, taking a break from her work, Christine de Pizan picks up a slim volume someone has given her. A flash of light startles her, and three women, allegorical figures representing Reason, Rectitude, and Justice, appear to her. They tell her she is to build the City of Ladies and populate it with the noblest and most accomplished women the world has known. The city is to serve as a safeguard against the cruel accusations of men as well as a reminder of the true and laudable nature of women. Lady Reason takes Christine to the Field of Letters, a fertile plain where the city is to be built, and encourages her to use her pen to start excavating the earth so they can lay the foundations that will support the City of Ladies.
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Family[ edit ] Christine de Pizan was born in Venice , Italy. She was the daughter of Tommaso di Benvenuto da Pizzano. Her father worked as a physician, court astrologer and Councillor of the Republic of Venice.
In Christine de Pizan married the notary and royal secretary Etienne du Castel. By , she was writing love ballads , which caught the attention of wealthy patrons within the court. Her involvement in the production of her books and her skillful use of patronage in turbulent political times has earned her the title of the first professional woman of letters in Europe. Of Queen Isabeau she wrote in "High, excellent crowned Queen of France, very redoubtable princess, powerful lady, born at a lucky hour".
In the illumination Christine is kept from rest by the Three Virtues. France was ruled by Charles VI who experienced a series of mental breakdowns, causing a crisis of leadership for the French monarchy.
Christine published a series of works on the virtues of women, referencing Queen Blanche and dedicating them to Queen Isabeau. Texts were still produced and circulated as continuous roll manuscripts , but were increasingly replaced by the bound codex. Members of royal family became patrons of writers by commissioning books.
As materials became cheaper a book trade developed, so writers and bookmakers produced books for the French nobility, who could afford to establish their own libraries. Christine thus had no single patron who consistently supported her financially and became associated with the royal court and the different fractions of the royal family — the Burgundy, Orleans and Berry — each having their own respective courts.
Romance of the Rose satirizes the conventions of courtly love while critically depicting women as nothing more than seducers.
In the first person narrative she and Cumaean Sibyl travel together and witness a debate on the state of the world between the four allegories — Wealth , Nobility , Chivalry and Wisdom. When praising the efforts of Charles V in studying Latin , Christine lamented that her contemporaries had to resort to strangers to read the law to them.
The earliest of the three works has been lost. In Livre du Corps de policie The Book of the Body Politic , published in and dedicated to the dauphin,  Christine set out a political treatise which analysed and described the customs and governments of late medieval European societies.
Christine favoured hereditary monarchies, arguing in reference to Italian city-states that were governed by princes or trades, that "such governance is not profitable at all for the common good".
Christine also referenced classical writers on military warfare, such as Vegetius , Frontinus and Valerius Maximus. Christine opposed trial by combat ,  but articulated the medieval belief that God is the lord and governor of battle and that wars are the proper execution of justice.
Nevertheless, she acknowledged that in a war "many great wrongs, extortions, and grievous deeds are committed, as well as raping, killings, forced executions, and arsons".
Christine addressed Louis of Guyenne directly, encouraging him to continue the quest for peace in France. In arguing that peace and justice were possible on earth as well as in heaven, Christine was influenced by Dante ,  who she had referenced in Le Chemin de long estude. Christine urged young princes to make themselves available to their subjects, avoid anger and cruelty, to act liberally, clement and truthful. In Christine presented Queen Isabeau with a lavishly decorated collection of her works now known as British Library Harley Noted for its quality miniature illuminations, Christine herself and her past royal patrons were depicted.
As a mark of ownership and authorship the opening frontispiece depicted Queen Isabeau being presented with the book by Christine. Instead she expressed the view that the soul was trapped in the body and imprisoned in hell. The previous year she had presented the Epistre de la prison de vie Humaine to Marie of Berry ,  the administrator of the Duchy of Bourbon whose husband was held in English captivity. Her works include political treatises, mirrors for princes , epistles, and poetry.
The exchange between the two authors involved them sending each other their treatises, defending their respective views. She constructed three allegorical figures — Reason, Justice, and Rectitude — in the common pattern of literature in that era, when many books and poetry utilized stock allegorical figures to express ideas or emotions.
She enters into a dialogue, a movement between question and answer, with these allegorical figures that is from a completely female perspective. Only female voices, examples and opinions provide evidence within this text. Through Lady Reason in particular Christine argues that stereotypes of women can be sustained only if women are prevented from entering into the conversation. Among the inhabitants of the City of Ladies are female saints, women from the Old Testament and virtuous women from the pagan antiquity as portrait by Giovanni Boccaccio.
She took the position that all women were capable of humility, diligence and moral rectitude, and that duly educated all women could become worthy residents of the imaginary City of Ladies. Drawing on her own life, Christine advised women on how to navigate the perils of early 15th century French society.
Through secular examples of these three virtues, Christine urged women to discover meaning and achieve worthy acts in their lives. She makes special mention of a manuscript illustrator we know only as Anastasia , whom she described as the most talented of her day. Translated into English and printed in by William Caxton. Christine published 41 known pieces of poetry and prose in her lifetime and she gained fame across Europe as the first professional woman writer.
She achieved such credibility that royalty commissioned her prose and contemporary intellectuals kept copies of her works in their libraries. Portuguese and Dutch editions of it exist from the 15th century, and French editions were still being printed in Anne of France , who acted as regent of France, used it as a basis for her book of Enseignemens, written for her daughter Suzanne Duchess of Bourbon , who as agnatic heir to the Bourbon lands became co-regent.
Among the possessions of the English queen were tapestries with scenes from the City of Ladies. A writer who had been forgotten in France but noted elsewhere. Her activism has drawn the fascination of modern feminists.
The Book of the City of Ladies
This text was a biographical treatise on ancient famous women. Boccaccio believes that young girls need to be taught about life and virtues before they are consecrated to God. While he does not say women should have a formal education, he is still advocating for women to have a say in their lives and the right to be well informed about their possible futures. This text is the French translation of the historical portions of Speculum Maius, an encyclopedia by Vincent of Beauvais that was begun after
Christine de Pizan