Abstract

While we tend to define empowerment in terms of confrontation and competition, and read medieval texts for affirmation that women are disempowered by their patriarchal culture, redefining empowerment might help us see another side to the story and appreciate more fully that, as today, female voices cannot be so easily pigeonholed. Close analysis of three strong female characters—Lucrece, Melior, and Urake—from the twelfth-century French romance Partonopeu de Blois demonstrates that these characters are empowered in the sense that they are in control of their own choices, confident in their pursuit of their own desires, and successful in achieving those goals. The titular hero, Partonopeu, is one of their projects and he is shaped by each of these women as they educate him and cultivate his innate potential. They play to their strengths in using extensive planning, covert action, manipulation, and deception as they strengthen the social system. They are depicted as positive figures who achieve both private and public success.

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