Term Paper, 2011, 16 Pages
The concept of courtly love is combined with the code of chivalry which forms the ideal medieval world of “brave and elegant knights, often in love with beautiful ladies who might be loving or cruel in return” (Rudd 2001:30) and “all in this world are musical, compose verses with ease in English, French, or Latin, and are of noble blood” (Rudd 2001:30). Courtly love embraces a beautiful lady, married or unobtainable, who was the object of love for a knight. In general courtly love was secret and between man and woman of noble status and it was not practiced between husbands and wives. Such relationships did not exist in real medieval life. Marriages were mostly arranged and women were seen as property to their husbands. It was more an “available fiction which informed the cultural climate, much as the wider conventions of chivalry did” (Rudd 2001:33).
This is a relatively vague definition of the topic of courtly love and it only summarizes the most important points. This paper will work out the origins and the meaning of courtly love more intensive, watching its first origins and its appearance in the Romance of the Rose, and it will mention and describe every important characteristic. These characteristics will be a guideline to show Chaucer’s treatment of the topic in his work The Canterbury Tales. Elements of courtly love appear in the Prologue, the Knight’s Tale, the Merchant’s Tale, and in the Franklin’s Tale. These elements will be shown and explained. Finally a conclusion will summarize the most important points.
The south of France in the eleventh century is the starting point of the courtly love tradition. The first ideas of courtly love can be found in the literature of the troubadours. They belonged to a society in which women held a supreme place, where a high importance was attached to social etiquette and decorum, and where definite rules governed the genders in all their relations, especially in matters of love (Dodd 1958:1). In the poetry of the troubadours love was described as an art to be practiced, rather as an emotion or a feeling. Through the influence of Eleanor of Aquitaine these ideas were introduced into northern France. The woman was interested in the doctrines and practices of courtly love and at the northern court, where she became queen, she introduced the new doctrines. Her daughter, Marie of Champagne, followed her ideas. She was rendering decisions on questions which were argued before the mock Courts of Love and these decisions became regarded as definite rules and regulations of the courtly system (Dodd 1958:2). These influences finally were included in the contemporary literature, like in Chrètien de Troies’ romances of the Round Table. The romances became representatives of the chivalrous and courtly ideal of the twelfth century society (Dodd 1958:2). The ideas of love in his works are conform to that of the troubadours, but he has transformed them into own and so developed formal doctrines (Dodd 1958:2).
There are many works, contemporary with that of Chrètien, treating love as an art and scientifically categorizing the principles and laws of it, which have its origin in the erotic writings of Ovid (Dodd 1958:3). One of the most important of this works is “De Arte Honeste Amandi” by Andreas Capellanus. The book deals with the questions: What is love? , What are its effects? , Between whom can it exist? , How is it acquired, retained, augmented, diminished, terminated? , What is the duty of one lover when the other proves unfaithful?, and mainly is concerned with showing whom the lover should chose for his love, how he may win her, and how her favor may be retained (Dodd 1958:4). Furthermore the book states principles and laws, underlying the courtly system: 1) Courtly Love is sensual.
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