Q&A: To what extent did courtly love exist in England during the medieval times?

Posted by admin | Posted in Love | Posted on 10-01-2011-05-2008

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Question by lovablexox: To what extent did courtly love exist in England during the medieval times?
I know that English poetry and literature is filled with references to the forbidden affair, but was it simply a form of entertainment, or did courtly love actually exist on a large scale? Religion was really important to the English, so wouldn’t everything courtly love represented go against their beliefs?

HELP PLEASE!

Best answer:

Answer by JEM
I don’t believe there has been a lot to support the real existence of courtly love except as a literary device, but many books of “courtesy” addressed it, sometimes in a negative way urging more control over illicit urges. So it may well be that some used the literary device to justify their actions. I’d be interested in hearing of something definitive if you find it out. Commentary about courtly love (Christine de Pizan) seems about the closest to establishing any real world evidence. I believe that research into court records and other such documents have not lead to any evidence of this in actual practice, but I haven’t studied this in a while. I look forward to hearing additional comments.

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Comments posted (2)

The idea of “courtly love” and stories known as “romances” (not the same as modern romance stories) gradually influenced English writing towards the end of the 12th century, originating in France.

Prior to that time, English literature was generally concerned with morality tales, heavily relying on Christian teachings, for example taking the Bible story of Solomon’s wisdom and creating further (fictional) examples of how this was put into practice.

It is significant that the King Arthur stories only began to be written down at the time, although they already had a very long oral history. The ideas of knights errant protecting the honour of virtuous maidens in these stories came from French ballads rather than real life – everyone recognised the stories as fiction, but they were still very popular.

As you say in your question, the idea of courtly love was more about entertainment than reflecting real life. Religion was extremely important in everyone’s life, but even the Church recognised that living an idealised life devoted to love and protecting the weak was a noble ideal.

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Courtly love was not against Christian Religion. Preachers were not against love, that conduct to marriage and to giving children, enlarging the numbers of Christians (On the contrary, having many children was a God’s blessing) , but they were against show off both of Men and of Women, as also it was seen as a sort of praising of God’s work (Who didn’t give enough beauty …) . However Courtly Love was not the standard of relationships, in a society in which often family decided or deeply influenced marriages, but a sort of aim, of ideal. However in comparison to our average brutal ways of acting, Middle ages men would look quite refined…

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