By Lisa Perfetti
Chapter 4 of Women and Laughter in Medieval Comic Literature, by Lisa Perfetti (Ann Arbor, 2003)
Introduction: She was still on her horse, that paragon; many knights and pages were standing next to her. It was with them she had her playful game. I held the strirrup for her. She said, “You are not strong enough, you won’t be able to lift me down. You are weak, and worthless on top of it.” People laughed at the joke there.
Ulrich von Lichtenstein’s lyric narrative Fraunendienst (ca.1255) tells the comic story of a married noblewoman who becomes exasperated with the unwanted attentions of her foolish suitor and demands he abandon his overblown lyrics and leave her in peace. While the refusal of the consummately beautiful courtly lady is standard fare in the courtly lyrics of the Minnesang or troubadour tradition, it is the form of the lady’s refusal, her derisive jest that commands center stage in this work. With her joke, the lady publicly humiliates Ulrich in front of his male peers, who recognize her joke and laugh. The lady dominates, using the joke to ridicule the source of her irritation in front of an appreciative audience.