Courtly love was a popular theme in literary works and poetry in thirteenth century Europe. Andreas Capellanus, chaplain to Marie de France and author of the classic The Art of Courtly Love defines courtly love as "...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 by common desire to carry out all of love's precepts in the other's embrace." In reality, courtly love was no more than an explicit court of rules for committing adultery. However, in literary works, the basis of chivalry became the presentation of lover's passion for one another and their consideration for others. I will be examining Geoffrey Chaucer's literary masterpiece, Troilus and Criseyde in light of this courtly love tradition.
The origins of courtly love are obscure. It is claimed to have come from Moorish influence as the Arab poets brought lyrics of lady love to Europe, or to have been European in origin, influenced by the Celts, Cathars, and Neo-Platonists. From this tradition, however, many popular ideals originated which are still common beliefs and practices. For instance, ideals about sex and society such as love at first sight, fidelity, secrecy in love, the faultless woman, and the superiority of the lover all seem to have come from this courtly love tradition. Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde is often considered to be a classic example of this courtly love tradition.
It is a subject of controversy today as to whether or not courtly love actually existed in England in the Middle Ages. Many critics believe that it did not actual...
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