Essay About Courtly Love In The Middle Ages

Effects Of Courtly Love On Medieval Women

This is an essay for my Women's History in Medieval Europe sophomore-level course. It discusses the effect of troubadours and courtly love practices on women of the High Middle Ages. Women were both empowered by these practices and also were made vulnerable.

References to texts used in the course are made in parantheticals- not necessary to understanding the essay.

Love overcomes both great and small,

Love rules, for Love is lord of all.

"Fealty to Venus" by an unknown Goliardic poet

Christine de Pizan was partially right when she said that women who allowed themselves to be wooed by lovers put themselves in a vulnerable position, but that is only half of the story. Troubadour love poetry and the practice of courtly love empowered women to a certain extent. The poetry of the Goliards and the court of Eleanor of Aquitaine are two very different groups of people and yet they praised women and allowed them power over men's hearts (and loins). The poetry of Bernart de Ventadorn both praised and despised women for their beauty and power. Courtly love gave birth to chivalry but it also gave birth to the tradition of putting women on an inaccessible pedestal that they would perch on, unable to move, for centuries to come. Anderson and Zinsser see the positive and negative aspects of courtly love and much information can be drawn from them as well as troubadours of the time.

There are many ways in which courtly love allowed women a modicum of power in a world where otherwise they were supposed to be dependent, obedient and chaste wives and daughters. Troubadours waxed poetic about women's beauty saying, "no one who looked at her / was not warmed with joy," and, "...her eyes bright, her face white, / a beautiful mouth, a well-set nose...," (Anderson and Zinsser, 311). For one of the first times in this period women were worthy of something--love. A woman's beauty and virtue combined made her something men strived for; her qualities made her something men wanted not just because she could provide them with heirs.

These beloved women made the men who loved them run the gamut of emotions. Women had power over the way men acted, felt and spoke; at the drop of a hat the lover would do anything for his beloved. These men would risk being caught by jealous, angry husbands just to spend a night of pleasure in the arms of their beloved all done in the name of the all-encompassing love. In the epic Nibelingenlied one man tells another, "she is to me as my soul and as my body, and I will do anything to deserve that she become my wife," (Anderson and Zinsser, 333). Chivalry and women's role in keeping it alive were important reasons men kept their honor and did their duty towards their beloved. The idea of "honour[ing] and lov[ing] all women" was held high by the chivalrous men of the court.

It almost seems as if women at the time...

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Medieval Courtly Love

Facts and interesting information about the life and times of the
Medieval Knights of England - Medieval Courtly Love

Medieval Courtly Love
The romance of Medieval Courtly Love practised during the Medieval times of the Middle Ages was combined with the Code of Chivalry and the art of Chivalry. There were strict rules of courtly love and the art of Medieval Courtly Love was practised by the members of the courts across Europe during the Medieval times and era. The romance, rules and art of Medieval Courtly Love allowed knights and ladies to show their admiration regardless of their marital state. It was a common occurrence for a married lady to give a token to a knight of her choice to be worn during a Medieval tournament. There were rules which governed Medieval Courtly Love but sometimes the parties, who started their relationship with such elements of Medieval Courtly Love,   would become deeply involved. A famous example of a relationship which was stirred by romantic Medieval Courtly Love and romance is described in the Legend of King Arthur, and the Knights of the Round Table, where his Queen, Guinevere fell in love with Sir Lancelot. Many illicit court romances were fuelled by the practise and art of Medieval Courtly Love.

The Origins of Medieval Courtly Love
The origins of Medieval Courtly Love were believed to be in Aquitaine in France in the 12th century and spread to other European countries. The art of Medieval Courtly Love was practised in English courts from the 1300's to the 1500's.  During this period of time marriages were arranged and had little to do with love. A successful marriage was perceived as one that brought material advantages to the participants and their families. As love was clearly unrelated to marriage the requirement for romance could be gained outside marriage - as long as the rules relating to chastity and fidelity were strictly adhered to.

The Rules of Medieval Courtly Love
The violence and wars of the Middle Ages were tempered by the Rules of Medieval Courtly Love. The following rules and elements of Medieval Courtly Love during the Medieval times of the Middle Ages were written by the 12th Century Frenchman, Andreas Capellanus:

  • Marriage is no real excuse for not loving
  • He who is not jealous, cannot love
  • No one can be bound by a double love
  • It is well known that love is always increasing or decreasing
  • That which a lover takes against the will of his beloved has no relish
  • Boys do not love until they arrive at the age of maturity
  • When one lover dies, a widowhood of two years is required of the survivor
  • No one should be deprived of love without the very best of reasons
  • No one can love unless he is impelled by the persuasion of love
  • Love is always a stranger in the home of avarice
  • It is not proper to love any woman whom one would be ashamed to seek to marry
  • A true lover does not desire to embrace in love anyone except his beloved
  • When made public love rarely endures
  • The easy attainment of love makes it of little value; difficulty of attainment makes it prized
  • Every lover regularly turns pale in the presence of his beloved
  • When a lover suddenly catches sight of his beloved, his heart palpitates
  • A new love puts to flight an old one
  • Good character alone makes any man worthy of love
  • If love diminishes, it quickly fails and rarely revives
  • A man in love is always apprehensive
  • Real jealousy always increases the feeling of love
  • Jealousy, and therefore love, are increased when one suspects his beloved
  • He whom the thought of love vexes eats and sleeps very little
  • Every act of a lover ends in the thought of his beloved
  • A true lover considers nothing good except what he thinks will please his beloved
  • Love can deny nothing to love
  • A lover can never have enough of the solaces of his beloved
  • A slight presumption causes a lover to suspect his beloved
  • A man who is vexed by too much passion usually does not love
  • A true lover is constantly and without intermission possessed by the thought of his beloved
  • Nothing forbids one woman being loved by two men or one man by two women

The above rules of Courtly love demonstrate how playing this game could lead to all kinds of problems within the court circle.

Medieval Courtly Love Poems and Songs
The ideals of Medieval Courtly Love was publicised in the poems, ballads, writings and literary works of various authors of the Middle Ages. Geoffrey Chaucer, the most famous author of the Middle Ages, wrote stories about Medieval Courtly Love in his book Canterbury Tales. The Miller's Tale describes the art of Medieval Courtly Love. Geoffrey Chaucer exhibited Medieval Courtly Love for the beautiful Blanche, the wife of John of Gaunt. Whereas his marriage to Phillippa de Roet was seen as a good but practical match. The wandering minstrels and troubadours of the Middle Ages sang ballads about Medieval Courtly Love and were expected to memorize the words of long poems describing the valour and the code of chivalry followed by the Medieval knights. The Dark Age myths of Arthurian Legends featuring King Arthur, Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table further strengthen the idea of a Knights Code of Chivalry and Medieval Courtly Love.

Medieval Courtly Love
The Medieval Times website provides interesting facts, history and information about these great people and important historical events which scatter the Medieval History books including Medieval Courtly Love. The Medieval Times Sitemap provides full details of all of the information and facts about the fascinating subject of the lives of the people who lived during the historical period of the Middle Ages. The content of this article on Medieval life and times provides free educational details, facts and information for reference and research for schools, colleges and homework for history courses and history coursework.

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