The Art Of Courtly Love Essay, Research Paper
The Art of Courtly Love
What Is Love?
What is love? The question as to what love is, is an age-old question that men and women have pondered since the beginning of time. Dictionary.com tells us that love is “A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness.” We still wonder if love can be described in a simple dictionary definition. In The Art of Courtly Love Capellanus gives us a straightforward definition much like this one in the beginning of the book. It says “Love is a certain inborn suffering derived from the sight of and excessive meditation upon the beauty of the opposite sex. Which causes each one to wish above all things the embraces of the other and be common desire to carry out all love’s precepts in the others embrace. As we read on there are many more definitions, some more complex, some that would be seen as ridiculous in the twenty-first century and some that contradict them selves. Capellanus leaves it up to his readers to decide for themselves the true definition of love.
Before we look at what love is, how to approach it and how to keep it Capellanus gives the reader specific guidelines on who can love. He tells us that there can be no love between people of the same sex or men or women whom have not reached full maturity. (p.30) Later, he also says that love may not exist within religious officials and that love from a woman who is too concerned with greed and money is a “deadly enemy” (p.145). From these statements one would fall under the impression that there is no love between a mother and a daughter or a father and a son. No person under God, even in the High Middle Ages has the right to judge on whether or not love between homosexuals is proper or improper. All of these statement that Capellanus has made leads the reader to believe that there is only one kind of love, the love between a man and a woman who are physically attracted to eachother.
A common theme in The Art of Courtly Love is the way that love should be approached. For, with out approaching love one may never find it. Capellanus makes it very clear that the man, regardless of social class must approach the woman. From there the woman may “grant” or “reward” the man with her love. From there he explains how love will then take its course in the four stages of love (p.42). The first stage is “the giving of hope,” this means that the woman must let the man think that there is a chance for him to receive her love, if she does not do this than the man must give up. The second stage is “the granting of a kiss.” the third is “the enjoyment of embrace” and the fourth is “the yielding of the whole person.” In the first dialogue the man tells the woman that one must choose a lover differently depending on which stage she chooses him in.
Also, when approaching love a man must be aware of his social class and the social class of his love interest and act accordingly to those classes. It would take to long to name how each social class should act toward another social class but, for example a man who is of a higher nobility will show less respect to a woman of lower nobility or the middle class when approaching her than a man of the middle class would show to a woman of any nobility or higher. Regarding things as simple as asking permission to sit beside the woman. (p. 62) Regardless of class many of the techniques Capellanus suggests still apply in the search for love today. Suggestions such as, “lovers should not immediately begin talking about love.”(p.36) Or, “be careful not do overdo the praise of beauty.”(p.44) Although these examples, along with many others, still ring true today many of the additional things that Capellanus recommends do not, such as the theory that it is acceptable to “take what you seek and embrace them by force,” (p.150) when it comes to the love of a peasant woman. For, Capellanus says that a man must use “a little compulsion” in order to break through the “outward inflexibility” and “shyness” of a peasant woman.
Approaching love is the first step, but it is difficult to approach love without knowing exactly what it is or what makes love. Besides the definition of love that Capellanus gives us on page twenty-eight, there are many other things that he says love is and things that love does to a person. For example, on page 72 in the dialogue between the nobleman and the noblewoman the man says, “one can find nothing in the world more desirable than love, since from it comes the doing of every good thing and with out it no one would do any good thing in the world.” And Good deeds equal love and love is the origin and cause of all good. (p.40) At the same time he says, Love is suffering, love is a reward, love is a palace, love is a court, love is a weight that is handed out unevenly among lovers, jealousy is the “nurse of love”(p.153) and “he who is not jealous can not love.” (p.107) These are just a few, but all of these definitions of love seem to contradict themselves but at the same time fit together to describe real love because, depending on the situation, love can bring joy or pain. Of these examples that Capellanus gives, they all seem to be relatively realistic, but there are some that are not.
What one must do to keep love I think is where Capellanuses chief contradictions fall into place. On page 151 Capellanus says that love, in order to remain strong, and must remain hidden. On the same page he also says that a lover must be wise all the time, do nothing annoying or disagreeable and agree with what his lover wants, even if he knows it is unreasonable. I agree that love can be pain, suffering and carry unequal weights in each lover’s hand but these statements seem to make love out to be something fictional, instead of the true emotional fixation that love is. I do agree in the theory that absence does make the heart grow fonder but I do not think that that absence is the only way that love can last. I also agree that a man should occasionally succumb to the wishes of his lover, no matter whether he agrees or not but if he is to do this all of the time it will create a monopoly in the relationship that need not be there. Even taking into consideration the time period in which The Art of Courtly Love was written does not help justify these fallacies that Capellanus states to be the sole way to retain love.
What is love? This question cannot be answered using any book and certainly not in The Art of Courtly Love, or one hundred other books written by different people on the subject. Love is something different to every person who experiences it. You can give advice on how to obtain love and try to explain how it feels to be in love. But, the main problem in The Art of Courtly Love is that love is written about as something that people choose to do or can be persuaded to do while it is not. Love is something that just happens to people