Love, Marriage and Gender Relations in the Postclassical Era

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Throughout the postclassical era, there were many approaches to the idea of love and to the sanctification of love. While some people focused on love as merely a sign of infatuation, others used it as a means of attaining spiritual closeness, and a way of sexual gratification. The countries of Europe, India and Japan proved to be no different. With an emphasis on courtly love, Medieval Europe defined love by romantic gestures and refraining from intercourse, while India defined love in terms of a sexual and spiritual connection and Japan defined love as a means of acting upon desire in an elegant fashion. These vastly different meanings of love were reflected in marriages and gender relations of the era.

Through its emphasis on courtly love, Medieval Europe was able to achieve a more romantic ideal of love. In European society, civil courtship was stressed as well as the high value placed on women. This can be seen through the works of Ulrich von Liechtenstein in his autobiography, In the Service of Ladies, where he writes “that the greatest honor and happiness for a knight lay in the service of a beautiful and noble woman (Reilly, 317).” In addition, for many male suitors “the quest is what kept [them] going. [Their] real reward was in the suffering and yearning (Reilly, 318).” These mindsets influenced the notions of Andres Capellanus, in his book, A Treatise on Love and Its Remedy, that “love [was seen] as a sickness (Reilly, 320).” Capellanus also asserts that “…there is no torment greater [than love] since the lover is always in fear that his love may not gain its desire and that he is wasting his efforts (Reilly, 331).” With this outlook, many males focused the majority of their time and effort in the servitude of thei...

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...ves. Courtly love was also only practiced in the upper class which meant that it was unconsummated. In India, love was associated with sex and religion. It was believed that the only way to attain the penultimate spiritual relationship with the god Krishna was to participate in poly-amorous relationships and orgies. Through this practice, class distinctions were nearly nonexistent. In contrast with India and Europe, Japan “invented stylized sex rather than romantic love (Reilly, 324).” There was a clear separation of social classes as well as numerous relationships being polygamous. All in all, the differing interpretations of love throughout Europe, India, and Japan directly influenced marriage and gender relations throughout the postclassical era.


Reilly, Kevin. Worlds of History: a Comparative Reader. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2010. Print.

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