Bisclavret is a very beloved and noble lord who lives in Brittany with his beautiful wife. He is very dear to the King and all the people who live around him. His marriage is happy except for one thing, he leaves for three days every week and disappears, telling no one where he goes. This bothers his wife greatly and she finally breaks down, begging him to tell her where he goes when he leaves for she tells him she fears he has another lover. He doesn’t want to tell her because he fears he will lose her if she finds out the truth.
Bisclavret tells her “I’ll suffer great harm if I tell you: I’ll drive you off, right out of love, And lose my own self if I do. ” The wife doesn’t accept his answer and asks him again on many occasions until he finally tells her that he turns into a garwolf when he leaves and lives in the forest. Bisclavret’s wife doesn’t let on to him that she is bothered by his being a garwolf and asks him many questions about where he goes and if he wears clothes. She nags at him until she finally persuades him she is true to him and would never harm him.
He explains the whole process of becoming a garwolf to her and she finds out he must have his clothes to turn back into a man. She wears him down until he reveals that he hides his clothes in an old chapel by the woods. Bisclavret’s wife is very frightened by what she has found out and decides “she didn’t want ever to share his bed. ” She calls for a knight that has loved her for a long time. She had never loved him before now but tells him if he will steal Bisclavret’s clothes when he hides them in the chapel that she will “grant you my love and my body, too: Take me, make me your lover, you! The knight gratefully accepts her offer and steals her husband’s clothes trapping him in garwolf form. A year passes until one day the King is out hunting where Bisclavret used to stay. The huntsmen and hounds chase him all day and finally corner him. In fear of being killed he runs to the King for mercy kissing his leg and foot. The king is amazed by this animal that shows human qualities and orders him spared and takes him back to the castle to be cared for by everyone. He’s decided that the garwolf is “a marvel of nature” and “it would never do what isn’t right”.
The King holds court one day and the knight who married Bisclavret’s wife shows up. The garwolf tries to attack him but is called off by the King. This happens several times and everyone begins to wonder if the knight has done some kind of harm to the garwolf because he is always so docile. The garwolf attacks him because he is the one who stole his clothes and stole his wife away from him. Not long after this the King returns to the woods to hunt and brings Bisclavret with him. Bisclavret’s wife hears of the King being close by and decides to pay him a visit and bring him a gift.
When Bisclavret sees his wife enter he lunges for her and “tears her nose right off her face. ” He is surrounded and about to be killed when a wise man points out the connection with his attacks – that it’s the wife of his dear friend Bisclavret and her new husband that have been attacked by the garwolf and no one else. The King tortures and questions the wife until she tells the truth of everything that’s happened. He then orders her to return the clothes so Bisclavret can become a man again. At first Bisclavret ignores the clothes because he is embarrassed and ashamed to get dressed in front of his beloved King.
The King puts him in his room and gives him time to make the change. When he comes back in he finds the knight asleep on his bed. He runs to him and hugs and kisses him many times. He gives him all his land and fiefs back and orders the wife and her new husband expelled from the land. The poem states that “more than one woman of that family was born without a nose to blow, and lived denosed! ” One of the author’s messages is comparing true-love and selfish-love, condemning selfish-love. The wife has a selfish-love for her husband. She is not concerned with his safety or well-being but only by the physical change he undergoes.
Bisclavret’s shame over his change means nothing to her nor does the fact that he tried to protect her by not telling her about it for fear it would drive her away. She has no concern for his feelings and her repulsion of him is physical – “she didn’t want to ever share his bed. ” She doesn’t show fear of him hurting her or betraying her but is mainly repulsed by his physical body becoming a garwolf. The King on the other hand shows a true-love for Bisclavret as the knight does him also. The King still loves Bisclavret even after he finds out that he turns into a garwolf.
The King welcomes him back with open arms and holds no grudges or shows fear of him. He welcomes him back and returns all his property to him. Bisclavret chooses to bite his wife’s nose off to harm her vanity. She was too concerned with physical appearance in the poem and it is the reason she turns against him. She can’t accept that 3 days a week he turns into a repulsive garwolf. She calls upon a knight that has loved her for a long time and uses her beautiful body to convince him to do as she bids him to steal her husband’s clothes and trap him as a garwolf.
The wife has used her beauty to betray Bisclavret so in biting her nose off he takes away her beauty. It is also a constant reminder she must see every day when she looks into the mirror or at her daughters who were born without a nose. She will never be allowed to forget the treachery and betrayal she did to her loving husband. The author is also sending a message about moderation. She tells us that Bisclavret becomes an animal that hunts in the woods to show his beast side.
She feels we all have an inner beast but wise and noble people make that beast ruled by our reasonable human side. Bisclavret remains loyal and attempts to act in a virtuous way and control his beastly tendencies and in the end he is rewarded and given all his lands and possessions back. The King and his people all welcome Bisclavret back and still love him. The wife does not control her devious side or show moderation. She uses her body to gain what she wants and has no concern for her husband’s feelings. For this betrayal she is expelled from the lands.