The Book of the City of Ladies

From the wide array of works that Christine has written, I chose The Book of the City of Ladies as the work to most concentrate on. This book is perhaps Christine's most read book and the book most attached to her name. It also happens to be a book that is rich in philosophy and that states rather completely the history of women. Christine used Boccaccio's De Mulieribus Claris (Concerning Famous Women) as her source. Boccaccio's book briefly went through "lives of notable women from mythology and antiquity" [1] The book can be termed "feminist" in that it "pleads for education for women, she gives s her reason education's close correlation with good conduct." [1]

Christine uses real historic examples in The Book of the City of Ladies to show how woman have been unjustly oppressed. The book is a chronicle of Historic woman who have contributed to society. In a sweep of pages, Christine covers women as wives, mothers, leaders; she speaks of women in the legal system, in the social system , and in marriage. She cleverly disguises her insight under three personas that she invented, Lady Reason, lady Rectitude, and Lady Justice.

By proving her point she denounces some credibility of some well known, men like Aristotle and Ovid for their views. An example of this is in section nine. Christine had asked Lady reason why Ovid attacked women so much in his books. Reason replied that Ovid was a man who lead a promiscuous life with many women during his youth. Along the way, Ovid lead "others through his own acts and words" to lead a life like his. This finally lead the Romans to exile him for his promiscuity. Ovid had friends who managed to get Ovid called out of exile. When he stepped out however, he went back to his old way of life, which lead to his castration. Reason holds that since he could not lead the pleasurable life he wanted to live, he began to attack woman in hopes of making women less attractive to others. [2]

Regarding male philosophers who attack women for reasons of jealousy, Pizan says that they turned "‘philosophy', the love of wisdom into ‘philofolly', the love of folly" thus turning the whole lie-filled content of his book into philofolly. [3]

The Book of The City of Ladies is a very philosophical book even though by it's title it sounds more fictitious. There is one part where it screams out Christine's philosophy. Lady Reason gives four reasons why men attack women: 1. Because of men's own vices, 2. Men who are impotent or have physical disabilities fin it the only way to defend their physical problem, 3. Some men attack women out of jealousy, and 4. Some men slander women because it's their nature and they slander both men and women, "...out of a great wickedness of heart." [4]

In section eleven of the book, Christine asks Lady reason why woman aren't in the seats of the Legal counsel. In a commons sense manner Reason, who is really a persona through which Christine may speak, say, that:

...just as a wise and well ordered lord organizes his domain so that one servant accomplishes one task and another servant another task, and that what one does the other does not do, god has similarly ordained man and woman to serve Him in different offices and also to aid and comfort one another, each in their ordained task, and to each sex has given a fitting and appropriate nature and inclination to fulfill their offices.
[5] The reasons that Christine offers as to why women are more equipped for legal positions is that men are given strong and hardy bodies for coming and going as well as speaking boldly. Woman because of their education and the way they are brought up are not capable of assuring that justice be met.

Christine refers to a Latin book called Secreta mulierum, The Secrets of Women in which it speaks of all the defects of woman's bodies. Lady Reason states that God made Adam from mud of the field of Damascus, and that after he was created Adam was taken to The terrestrial Paradise. While he slept, "God formed the body of woman from one of his ribs, signifying that she should stand at his side as a companion and never lie at his feet like a slave, and also that he treat her as his own flesh." [6] There for when someone slanders the body of a woman, he or she is slandering God.

To best wrap up The City of Ladies is to say, that the book "is part of Christine's ardent campaign to rehabilitate her sex in her contemporaries eyes." [7] Christine seemed to have wanted to put in print all the injustices done to woman and denounce them in clear, common sense ways, so that every woman who picked up her book, and every man, could see how wrong and unjust men and history have been.

Christine is a true feminist in that she saw that men and women both deserve equality. For her their was no revolution between the sexes. The best was not determined by his or her sex, but by who holds more virtue. "The Man or the woman in whom resides greater virtue is the higher; neither the loftiness nor the lowliness of a person lies in the body according to the sex..." [8] I wish I had more time to work on Christine's web page. She has so much to be said. Time and work make me have to cut out certain portions I would have liked to discuss.

For the manuscript cover to Le Livre de la Cite des Dames go to www.lcweb.loc.gov/exhibits/bnf/bnf030.jpg

1. Willard, Charity Cannon. Christine de Pizan: Her Life and Works. (New York: Persea Books, 1984), 135.

2. Warner, Marina, foreword to The Book of the City of Ladies, by Christine de Pizan, trans. Earl Jeffrey Richards (New York: Persea Books, 1982), xv.

3. Pizan, Christine de. The Book of the City of Ladies, trans. Earl Feffrey Richards (New York: Persea Books, 1982), 21.

4. Ibid

5. Pizan, Christine de. The Book of the City of Ladies, trans. Earl Jeffrey Richards (New York: Persea Books, 1982), 18-20.

6. Pizan, Christine de. The Book of the City of Ladies, trans. Earl Jeffrey Richards (New York: Persea Books, 1982), 31.

7. Pizan, Christine de. The Book of the City of Ladies, trans. Earl Jeffrey Richards (New York: Persea Books, 1982), 23.

8. Warner, Marina, foreword to The Book of the City of Ladies, by Christine de Pizan, trans. Earl Jeffrey Richards (New York: Persea Books, 1982), xiii.

9. Pizan, christine de. The Book of the City of Ladies, trans. Earl Jeffrey Richards (New York: Persea Books, 1982), 24.

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