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Courtly Love

Page history last edited by Lindsey Bell 11 years, 11 months ago



To get the best understanding of the progression of love poetry within the middle age you must follow medieval courtly love.

 Before starting it is important to first understand a few terms. First the term “author” as it is know today, as the sole originator of the text, is not how the term author was seen in the middle ages The field of authorship was male dominated and many works by women would be attributed to male authors. Now this can be attributed to a few different reasons: careless scribe, careless translators, or compilers who tried to establish authority to the text.


To go along with authorship the term “literacy” is an important term to understand the meaning in medieval times. To quickly understand the term is means that a person cannot read and write in Latin. Many women were able to read and write in their vernacular language, language of their region, though have been thought to be illiterate because they utilized the use of scribes and secretaries.


Coming back to Courtly Love the term it self must be addressed. The term “courtly love” has continually been questioned because a person can be courtly to another person with out loving that person. Yet the cultural concept of love left no room to ignore courtly manors when in love. So to best understand what is being spoken about here the term “courtly love” references toward the culture of love within the Middle Ages.


By the end of the crusades in the early 12th century men had come back and found that they had more time on their hands. In the South of France when the men came back they found that they did not need to fight for their king and God but had time to court a lady they chose. For the first time life was beginning to originate outside of the church. Through their connection with the east the eastern riches influenced the knights. The eastern influence brought forth to the knights a need for a life of luxury.  Soon these secular ethics of love found their way to Northern France.


At this time there were three forms of poetry that formed. The most popular being Fin Amors’, or adulterous love. This type of poetry shows the superiority of love outside marriage  and is always written and preformed for a married woman. In this poetry the lover is always submissive to the woman even though it is always depicted that God is on the side of the lover, not the husband. With this it is also depicted that there is more reliance on fate than free will.


The next type of poetry would be Passionate Love. The Passionate love poetry often ends with tragedy, which is why it is often connected with the myth of Tristian and Isodel. This type of poetry impacted the Arthurian legends.


The third type of poetry is Conjugal Courtly Love, or love inside marriage. Conjugal Courtly Love follows the concept of Courtliness were the woman becomes and lady and the man becomes a knight. This was the least used form of poetry due to the lack of interest at this time.


With every rise there is a fall, though courtly love did not necessarily fall out completely. In the late 12th century and early 13th century Pop Innocent III called for anoter crusade. This crusade was against the Albigensians or the Cathers. The Cathers was a religious sect that renounced the earthly pleasures. Being seen as a threat to the church first Pope Innocent II tried to convert the Cather’s before initiating the crusades.

            At this time Mary worship was on the rise and after the crusade the only way Courtly Love could be demonstrated was if it was toward Mary. After this happened the conception of “Courtly Love” as it was known in the Middle Ages faded out.





"Albigensian Crusade (1209-1255)." Xenophon Group. 14 Apr. 2009



Kelly, Douglas. Medieval Imagination: Rhetoric and the Poetry of Courtly Love. Madison: The University of Wisconsin P, 1978


Lazar, Moshe. "Cupid, the Lady, and the Poet: Modes of Love at Eleanor of Aquitaine's Court." Eleanor of Aquitaine. Austin: University of Texas P, 1976. 35-59.






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