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Courtly Love

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The idea of courtly love, as we understand it, began during the Romantic revival of the nineteenth century, when there was "a period of general mythologizing about the Middle Ages" (Jordan 134). According to the Romantics, courtly love describes an ideal of adulterous love between medieval aristocratic men and women, and relationships of this nature being more genuine than the common arranged marriage. Scholars believed this idea of love was characteristic of aristocratic culture in the Middle Ages because a great many texts of the period expressed a longing for fin'amors. Fin'amors, according to William Chester Jordan, is "the closest medieval term to courtly love" and "means something like Ð''unblemished love' Ð'- love which, because it cannot or should not be fulfilled, achieves a certain purity and poignancy" (Jordan 134).

The doctrine of courtly love was designed to teach courtiers how to be lovely, charming and delightful. Its basic premise was that being in love would teach you how to be loveable and pleasing; so love taught courtesy. This kind of love is a social phenomenon, designed for communal living at a wealthy court where people had plentiful leisure and desired to entertain and be entertained delightfully. When properly applied, courtly love refers to "an extravagantly artificial and stylized relationship Ð'- a forbidden affair that was characterized by five main attributes" () being:

v Adulterous,

v Aristocratic,

v Literary,

v Ritualistic, and

v Secret.

Courtly love began in the late eleventh century with William IX of Aquitaine. William was a well-known troubadour in southern France, and his influence on granddaughter Eleanor (and in turn, her influence on her daughter, Marie) led to the Courts of Love.

The Courts of Love were presided over by Marie de Champagne and Eleanor D'Aquitaine. With many scholars and theologians present, the Courts of Love gave women a new standing and brought a note of elegance into the stark medieval picture. The ladies of the court were the subject of poems, present at courtly debates, and helped to free women from the role of inferior, destructive Eve and take on some of the status and elevation of the beatified Mary. Here, a woman instead of being the property of man, which was the case in feudal Europe, is the mistress of a man who is her creature and property. Marie and Eleanor had a court of perhaps 60 elegant noble ladies who would hold a Court of Love where they would dispute, jury and judge questions of love according to their code of courtly love. Of course, all of these Court of Love judgments are based on a code and ideals that have little to do with the realities of woman's position in the feudal society. This was a social court, not a legal one.

Marie had Andreas Capellanus, a cleric at the Court of Poitiers, write a formal code of love that would instruct people in the proper behavior of lovers as part of her attempts to civilize Poitiers. Capellanus wrote The Art of Courtly Love based on his time at the court. According to Capellanus, love may be retained by being associated with good men and avoiding the wicked; being generous and charitable; being humble, not proud; being wise and restrained in conduct; doing what is pleasing to your loved one; jealousy increases love; keeping it secret; and offering service to all ladies. Love decreases when there is blasphemy and anti-religious behavior; sudden loss of property; too much exposure to the beloved; too much privacy for love; and uncouth behavior. Love ends when one of the lovers breaks faith, and when one of the lovers strays from the

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