The Princess Of Cleves: Jealousy Character Analysis

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Madame de Lafayette examines the theme of jealousy stemming from self-love in her novel, The Princess of Cleves. This idea of self-interested jealousy was studied by multiple intellects of the time, including Thomas Hobbes and Francois de La Rochefoucauld. These men greatly contributed their ideas to the incredibly introspective age of the 1600s, illustrating the idea that the actions a person takes in everyday life are fundamentally ingrained in their own self-interest. Despite being self-motivated, these jealous actions are counterproductive and result in the inability for a person to be satisfied and happy. Madame de Lafayette proves in her revolutionary psychological novel, The Princess of Cleves, that jealousy is a dangerous and destructive …show more content…
Lafayette examines the causes and effects of extreme jealousy in regard to a young heiress, the Princess de Cleves, who marries an affluent suitor, the Prince de Cleves, but quickly falls in love with another man, the Duke de Nemours. As she begins to subject herself to the Duke’s love, the Princess embarks on a journey through first love’s giddy joy, as well as its hardships. The Princess finds a romantic letter in the Duke’s possession and believes that another woman in the court must have written it to him. The Prinecess’ once joyous love quickly turns into a highly destructive force against herself. The Princess believes that “the writer of [the letter] seemed clever, distinguished, worthy of love, and more controlled,” which pushes her into a mental state of paranoia and disillusion as she recognizes that she may lack the qualities that the other woman possesses (Lafayette, 92). This forces the Princess into a “stinging distress,” forming a crisis of identity and self-worth because the mere idea that the Duke could be in love with someone else disrupts her own sense of comfort, stability, and self-worth (92). Upon her initial arrival to the court, “she was received with the greatest kindness […] and with such admiration by everybody” and was content because of her continual validation (14). Now that her sense of self-worth is being questioned, jealousy emerges out of selfishness. If she views herself in such a negative way, it is unlikely that she can raise, or even maintain, her social position in comparison to the other women of the court. While she becomes overwhelmed with self-doubt and self-interest of her own status, the Princess’ once sincere love for the Duke turns into a quest for validation, thus shifting her love for him into love for herself. This notion of vanity and

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