The chastity, the innocence and the faithfulness of Mrs. of Cleves in the novel The Princess of Cleves fascinate many readers because they feel that she is a real role model for married couples of all times as she proves that feelings may be suppressed in order to keep the marital bed pure from adultery. Nonetheless, others are to the opinion that she was simply a coward for revealing her feelings to her husband. Was Mrs. de Cleves really weak?
In the relationship involving Mrs. of Cleves and the Duc of Nemours; though the two loved each other, this love was not concretize. Although some of the characteristics of “courtly love” are found in their relationship; what they shared was “precious love”;” for example, the lady made the man suffer by not concretizing the love and the man had an ennobling force. We cannot classify their relationship as “courtly love” considering that love was not its supreme value, and that love, which appears to be “courtly” is mixed with rationality. This is why we rather call it “precious love” which describes better what existed between them.
Mrs. of Cleves rationalization is that her mother taught her to love her husband and to remain faithful to him. Her conviction that being in love with another man was unfaithful convinced her to stop herself from getting to a path that was against the values instilled in her or against her education. Honesty, sincerity and respect came to play a great role in her decision making in reference to pursuing a love affair with the Duc. It is evident that The Tender Geographies of the Map of Loveland written by Mademoiselle de Scudery had to be used by Mrs. de Cleves to help her keep away from love. She moved from being on the unsafe side of the road of the map where she was “Tender” and started having esteem, inclination and gratitude for the Duc to being on the safe side, by displaying qualities such as sincerity and faithfulness to her husband, until she got to “Oubli” where love totally faded.
It is then accurate to express that the status of good and faithful wife was more important to the Princess of Cleves than her feeling for the Duc of Nemours. This is why many times she fakes being ill so she could avoid the salons, and by extension the Duc. Despite the death of her husband, Mrs. of Cleves, submerged with the feelings of guilt, and dedicated to stay faithful to her husband beyond death; chose to get to the road of “Oubli” by deciding to move to a retreat. Being away at the retreat helped both her and the Duc to stop nourishing the love. Thus, we notice here a different dimension of rationalization through her actions, which has the purpose of helping her to escape from, or totally forget this love.
Considering the facts; was Mrs. of Cleves a coward or was she weak for telling her husband about her feelings for another man? Although some may misjudge her attitude; the personage of Mrs. of Cleves should be appreciated for having high moral standards and for respecting principles that are in line with biblical values instructing that the marital bed should be free from adultery. It is necessary to admit though that the princess ‘virtue’ exceeded the normal considering that no human law or religious principles suggest that a woman should continue remaining faithful to her husband beyond his death. Nevertheless, the Princess of Cleves is far from being a coward because only a very courageous woman will admit to her husband that she has feelings for another man and only a strong woman is capable of controlling her emotion and not let love direct her path.