Abelard And Heloise Essay, Research Paper
The twelfth century was divided into two phases: Early Middle Ages or Dark Ages and the High Middle Ages. It’s during the High Middle Ages when things started to take a turn both mentally and physically. Churches developed more stamina and papal bureaucracy was created. The government was revived. Urbanization increased and most of all a sudden increase was brought in cultural revitalization and courtly love was an important aspect of this awakening. Courtly love is defined as humility, courtesy, adultery and religion of love. This is what I believe Abelards’s and Heloise’s relationship was based on in Abelard’s Historia Calamitatum and his letters to Heloise.
Abelard was a well-known figure of the twelfth century that taught dialectic philosophy. Abelard was in his late thirties when he first met Heloise in Paris. And it was her knowledge and gift for writing letters, which was so rare in women at the times that attracted Abelard to her.
Heloise was the niece of one of the Cannons. She was about seventeen when she met Abelard; this was not considered a big deal for back then it was pretty common to have big age difference in marriages. Heloise was considered atypical because women were rarely educated at all back then. She was strong willed and she had a pretty good sense of logic and this is what brought them together.
Heloise struck a deal with Heloise’s uncle to educate her and gained full access to her pleasures. Their relationship encompassed the maximum in personal freedom.
“Her studies allowed us to withdraw in private, as love desired and then with our books open before us, more words of our love than of our reading passed between us, and more kissing than teaching. (Radice 67).
Later Heloise became pregnant and Abelard could not successfully sidestep the rules of the society because the society of a time just wouldn’t accept a premarital sexual affair. I believe Abelard and Heloise got engaged in the first “modern” love affair. Because they enjoyed each other both sexually and intellectually, just as how it’s perceived in today’s world. Though Heloise’s attitude towards marriage and love was quite different from the other women of the twelfth century. She resisted the idea of marriage because she thought it was more of an economical and political idea than real love and that she would rather be called a whore or a mistress instead of a wife. (Radice 74). This tells us about her individuality and also that she didn’t consider marriage part of love unlike most of the women of her time.
Love is portrayed in many forms in this book. Like for example love of learning. The first thing Abelard does in his writing of Historia Calamitatum is portray himself as an individual just like Heloise. He denounced the popular and glorious life of a soldier and in order to study words and philosophy. I believe in writing this he shows his clever and different way of thinking by referring to dialectic.
“I chose the weapons of dialectic to all the other teachings of philosophy and armed with these, I chose the conflict of disputation instead of trophies of war.” (Radice 58).
In the beginning Abelard’s and Heloise’s relationship was based heavily on passionate love. So later after their entry into religion, Heloise accused Abelard of lust rather than love for her, which I believe, is not true. “It was desire, not affection which bound you to me, the flame of lust rather than love. This is not merely my opinion, beloved, it is everyone’s.” (Radice 116). I wouldn’t agree with Heloise here. Abelard was mostly attracted to her because of her knowledge and because of her gift of writing letters. Also he worried about her as much as he was concerned about himself and his career. He agreed to marry Heloise even though it would put his career and reputation in danger. Also at one time he says “all our laments were for one another’s troubles and our distress for each other, not for ourselves.” (Radice 69). I don’t think this would fall under lust because if he had only desired sex then he wouldn’t have cared for her the way he did.
Abelard and Heloise’s relationship was based on courtly love of their time and also I believe that their love was the creation of modern ideal of marriage which was founded on the voluntarily shared tenderness of a couple who shelter each other from the harshly competitive world, just like today’s.
the letters of Abelard and Heloise by Betty Radice