The treasure of the city of ladies, or, The book of the three virtues

by de Pisan Christine

Paper Book, 1985





Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England ; New York, N.Y., U.S.A. : Penguin, 1985.


This is the sequel to the classic Book of the City of Ladies. A medieval instruction book for women of all classes--from peasant to princess--it provides a firsthand glimpse into how women of the Middle Ages lived.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Medievalgirl
Christine de Pisan was an accomplished author who wrote a number of works on subjects including warfare and politics. The Book of the City of the Ladies largely explored the subject of women’s roles, position and the social expectations placed upon them. For those interested and wishing to learn more about such things, I would strongly recommend this title.
Pisan does indeed make some interesting, fascinating and perhaps surprising statements.
‘A woman should adopt the heart of a man’ is a sentiment repeated more than once, meaning in this sense to adopt a strong, wise and constant heart. Amongst other things she advised noblewomen to take an active interest the management of their husband’s estates, but more than this ‘she ought to know how to use weapons and be familiar with everything that pertains to them, so that she may be ready to command her men if the need arises’.

Yet those expecting this work to reflect modern feminist ideals may be in for a disappointment. Whilst Christine certainly believed women could and should be strong, it may not be in the way some today expect. She argued for instance that a woman should be obedient, loyal and constant even to an unfaithful or unloving spouse, perhaps because by doing so they would still be held in honour and esteem.

Honour and reputation was indeed a big deal for Christine, in keeping with the time. Perhaps this was why she had little time for the notion of courtly love, already outmoded in her day, as something which favoured only men, allowing them ‘pursue’ a women to the cost of her dishonour, shame and disgrace. In her view, it was best for women to discourage, be wary of and shun such advances from men, and for their chaperones or attendants to do their best to prevent them from becoming involved in emotional entanglements which might cause them to be compromised.
Yet for admonitions against of sinful or immoral behaviour, the author seemed to think it was acceptable for such women to lie, engage in deception and never reveal the truth which may bring their mistress ‘dishonour’.

Women of the lower and peasant classes also get a mention, and some helpful advice, and even prostitutes are mentioned, the admonition being that they repent, abandon their immoral lifestyle and find respectable employment as soon as they can. Some may disagree with the author’s attitude or outlook towards the poorer classes, but with this work as others it may be wise to appreciate it in the context of the time instead of expecting it to measure up to modern standards.
Though as a modern Protestant I could never agree with or consider acceptable some of the things the author says which are contrary to the teaching of Scripture, such as praying to Mary or her sentiments that celibacy was preferable to marriage because all procreation even within it was supposedly ‘unspiritual’. Hence the four stars…
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Original language

French (Middle)
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