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Love in the English Medieval Period Essay


The romance of Courtly Love practiced during the Middle Ages was combined with the Code of Chivalry. There were strict rules of courtly love and the members of the courts practiced the art of courtly love across Europe during the Middle Ages. The romance, rules and art of courtly love allowed knights and ladies to show their admiration regardless of their marital state. It was a common occurrence for a married lady to give a token to a knight of her choice to be worn during a medieval tournament. There were rules, which governed courtly love, but sometimes the parties, who started their relationship with such elements of courtly love, would become deeply involved. Examples of relationships, which were stirred by romantic courtly love, chivalry and romance, are described in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Chaucer’s Wife of Bath. Many illicit court romances were fuelled by the practice and art of courtly love. The most fertile field of the romance genre was the Arthurian romance.

Closely related to the romance tradition were two idealized standards of behavior: chivalry and courtly love. Many modern people think of chivalry as referring to a man’s gallant treatment of women, and although that sense is derived from the medieval chivalric ideal, chivalry includes more than that. Many modern people think of chivalry as referring to a man’s gallant treatment of women, and although that sense is derived from the medieval chivalric ideal, chivalry includes more than that. Broadly speaking, chivalry, derived from the old French term for a soldier mounted on horseback, was a knight’s code of conduct.

There was no single set of chivalric rules, but the existence of popular medieval chivalric handbooks testifies that chivalry was a well-known concept. Knights formed a distinct segment of medieval society, which was often thought of as being composed of three classes: those who pray (the clergy), those who fight (the nobility), and those who work (the peasants). Most knights belonged to the nobility, if only because a knight’s equipment horses, weapons, armor, required considerable resources to fund. Violence, often bloody and horrific violence, was at the heart of what knights did. As highly skilled and well-armed fighting men, knights could be a force either for creating social chaos or for maintaining public order.

Unit 1- Background research on courtly love and chivalry

1.1 Courtly love developed in the twelfth century among the troubadours of southern France, but soon spread into the neighboring countries and eventually colored the literature of most of Western Europe for centuries. It originated in the writings of the poet Ovid Ars Amatoria (‘The Art of Love’). André the Chaplain (or Andreas Cappellanus), took as his model, Ovid’s ‘Ars Amatoria ‘ (the Art of Loving). Ovid’s work concerns how to seduce a woman, and among its rules are appropriate forms of dress, approach, conversation, and toying with a lady’s affections, all designed to amuse. In the Ars Amatoria, the man is in control, and the woman is simply his prey.

But André turned the Ars Amatoria upside-down. In his “Liber de arte honeste amandi et reprobatione inhonesti amoris” (“Book of the Art of Loving Nobly and the Reprobation of Dishonourable Love”), the woman becomes the mistress of the game. It is she who sets the rules and passes judgment on the hopeful suitor. In Ovid’s work the lover sighs with passion for his pursuit, but in le Chapelain’s Liber the passion is pure and entirely for the love of a lady. The rules outlined in André’s work are in many ways far from the reality of the times. In the medieval world, women rarely had any power to speak of. The nobility were warriors, and the arts of war, leadership and politics occupied their minds.

More often than not, a noblemen thought of his wife, (or future wife) as a breeder, a servant, and a source of sexual gratification (his, not hers). Fidelity on her part was absolutely necessary to ensure the validity of the bloodline. Fidelity on his part wasn’t an issue. Under any other circumstances, le Chapelain’s Liber might have remained an interesting literary exercise (as Ovid’s Ars Amatoria was intended to be); or it might have been ignored or laughed out of serious literary circles. But with the historical background at precisely the right stage of development, in the court of Eleanor and under the guidance of Marie, André’s ‘Art of Loving Nobly’ was literature to be lived.

Two women who had a particular influence on the development of romance were Eleanor of Aquitaine, queen first of France and then of England, and her daughter Marie, Countess of Champagne (in Eastern France). Eleanor brought to the English court her interest in poetry, music and the arts, all of which were cultivated at the court of Aquitaine where she grew up (her grandfather William was the first known troubadour poet). In the vernacular narratives that were written for and dedicated to Eleanor-early ‘romances’-we find an emphasis on the sort of love relationship that is depicted in troubadour poetry, commonly known as ‘courtly love’ (fin’amors in Provençal, the language of troubadour poetry). The ‘courtly love’ relationship is modeled on the feudal relationship between a knight and his liege lord.

The knight serves his courtly lady (love service) with the same obedience and loyalty, which he owes to his liege lord. She is in complete control of the love relationship, while he owes her obedience and submission (a literary convention that did not correspond to actual practice!) The knight’s love for the lady inspires him to do great deeds, in order to be worthy of her love or to win her favor. Thus ‘courtly love’ was originally construed as an ennobling force whether or not it was consummated, and even whether or not the lady knew about the knight’s love or loved him in return.

The ‘courtly love’ relationship typically was not between husband and wife, not because the poets and the audience were inherently immoral, but because it was an idealized sort of relationship that could not exist within the context of ‘real life’ medieval marriages. In the middle ages, marriages amongst the nobility were typically based on practical and dynastic concerns rather than on love. The idea that a marriage could be based on love was a radical notion. But the audience for romance was perfectly aware that these romances were fictions, not models for actual behavior. The adulterous aspect that bothers many 20th-century readers was somewhat beside the point, which was to explore the potential influence of love on human behavior.

Social historians such as Eric Köhler and Georges Duby have hypothesized that “courtly love” may have served a useful social purpose: providing a model of behavior for a class of unmarried young men that might otherwise have threatened social stability. Knights were typically younger brothers without land of their own (hence unable to support a wife) who became members of the household of the feudal lords whom they served. One reason why the lady in the courtly love relationship is typically older, married and of higher social status than the knight may be because she was modeled on the wife of the feudal lord, who might naturally become the focus of the young, unmarried knights’ desire. Köhler and Duby posit that the literary model of the courtly love relationship may have been invented in part to provide these young men with a model for appropriate behavior, teaching them to sublimate their desires and to channel their energy into socially useful behavior (love service rather than wandering around the countryside, stealing or raping women like the knight in the ‘ Wife of Bath’s tale).

Ovid described the “symptoms” of love as if it were a sickness. The “lovesick” knight became a conventional figure in medieval romance. Typical symptoms: sighing, turning pale, turning red, fever, inability to sleep, eat or drink. Romances often contained long interior monologues in which the lovers describe their feelings. For the troubadours of 12th C France who introduced it into literature, Courtly love had two basic, essential characteristics: Love is irresistible and it is an ennobling force. No one is exempt from the service of the God of love who rules this world and extramarital sexual love, sinful to Christians, is the sole source of worldly worth and excellence. All the other characteristics of love that appear in the Canterbury Tales, for example, are simply trappings decorations. These belong to the general body of love literature. Yet these trappings, so ludicrous when exaggerated, have caused courtly love to be confused with romantic love and have brought it into disrepute.

Since love is irresistible, nothing done under its compulsion can be immoral; since humans are worthless unless they acts under this compulsion, the necessity of practicing love in incumbent on each person. Courtly love not only approves and encourages whatever fans and provokes sensual desire, it not only condones fornication, adultery, and sacrilege, but it represents them as necessary sources of what it calls virtue. Love is a union of heart and mind as well as body. Sensuality for its own sake, the enjoyment of fleshly delights of and for themselves, is contrary to courtly love. The wanton and the promiscuous practice such love. Hence, in the courtly love code fidelity is its greatest virtue and infidelity its greatest vice. Yet the Roman Church formally condemned both principles of courtly love. Archbishop Stephen Tempier at Paris condemned the irresistibility of love and love as the sole source of human worth on March 7, 1277.

1.2 What is Chivalry? Chivalry is a system of discipline and social interaction that is derived from the warrior class of medieval times, especially and primarily the class of trained warriors who participated in the Crusades (12th-14th centuries). Chivalry has a discipline because those ancient soldiers trained themselves daily through learning and practicing the arts of attack and self-defense. These arts gave rise to the idea of control of the body, mind, and speech in the Knight. Further, the idea of social interaction developed because the Knight originally followed carefully the orders of his superiors who were interested only in battle with those who were eligible to fight, that is, civilians were not to be engaged in battle. From this idea of engaging only other Knights developed the idea of treating enemies and friends fairly and equally. Men who excelled in battle were honored with Knighthood, an honor first granted by Knights only.

Then, later, as the honor of being a Knight grew, both Monarchy and the Church (Eastern Orthodox as well as Roman Catholic) began to participate in the selection and creation of Knights. While the ideals of Knighthood were often violated by the Knight warriors themselves, yet the ideals survived as Knighthood came to be thought of as an honor to be bestowed upon those who had proven themselves worthy. When the practice of the volunteer army and the need for Knights as warriors faded away, the concept of the honorable and self-disciplined Knight remained, and the rank and status of Knight began to take on aspects of minor Nobility that one could achieve (rather than having to be born into).

As an honor and status that men sought, Knighthood became a valuable gift and boon for Kings and Church to grant, either individually as a ‘Knight Bachelor’ or as membership in an Order of Chivalry. Chivalry sets a standard of conduct that transcends era or culture. It maintains a code of conduct that traditionally [upholds] a practical guide to living in a changing world, and it provides discipline within an undisciplined environment. Chivalry embraces a spiritual path of personal development that combines bravery and gentleness with a fierce compassion for the welfare of others. The knight’s interest and goal in life is to protect those who cannot defend, be it physical, spiritual, or economical and to fulfill a desire for personal excellence.

UNIT 2 – The chivalrous ideal and courtly love in ’’Sir gawain and the Green Knight’’ and ’’The Wife of Bath ’’

2.1 A knight’s behavior toward women, at least in the romance tradition, was governed by another standard known as courtly love. Medieval writers did not necessarily use that term, but it is a convenient modern label for an idea that appears frequently in medieval literature. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the poet’s term for it is “courtesy.” Scholars have debated whether courtly love was a social reality or purely a literary fiction, but in either case, it was a pervasive and influential notion. The ties between the romance genre and the courtly love tradition were well established even at this time, for when Cappellanus offered his “rules of love,” he brackets them with a story involving a knight on the way to the court of King Arthur. The courtly lover was a man (often a knight) who devoted himself to the service of his beloved lady, making himself her servant; if he was a knight; all of his brave deeds were dedicated to his lady.

Marriage to others was not a barrier to such love affairs, which were to be kept secret, with clandestine meetings and messages between the lovers relayed by go-betweens. The lovers usually exchanged gifts or favors, normally a personal item such as a ring, glove, or girdle, all of which appear in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. True lovers became faint or sick with the strength of their love; sleeplessness, lack of appetite, and jealousy were all symptoms of true love. A lover was expected to have fine manners and display perfect gentility. As with chivalry, the tension between courtly love and Christian morality was unavoidable. Much of the courtly love tradition assumed that the lovers would consummate their relationship sexually, regardless of whether they were married.

A more Christianized version of courtly love placed the lover in courteous but decidedly chaste service to his beloved. Like chivalry, courtly love may have been more of an ideal than an actual practice, but that did not lessen its cultural importance. At first glance, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight seem to be a relatively simple story about the quest of a knight in Arthurian Camelot. Upon further examination, however, it becomes clear that interwoven within the simple plotline is an intricate relationship between men and women with an emphasis on the values of the time.

Throughout this work, we are privy to a variety of literal and figurative dichotomies including those between men and women, court values and church values, girdle and pentacle, the Green Knight and Sir Gawain, Guinevere and Morgan de Fay, and the Virgin Mary and Lady Bertilak. During the medieval period, the court and the church were of utmost importance – codes of chivalry in the court were substantial factors in dictating the etiquette and specific behaviors of people – as demonstrated through its literature.

What seems to have happened in medieval literature is this: the pre-courtly love literature presented a fairly accurate portrait of women’s role in society. Then, with the advent of courtly love some authors felt the need to conform the role of women in literature to that which was assigned to them by the philosophy of courtly love. (Malcor). In a sense, the medieval work in question does not seem to draw exclusively from either the pre-courtly or courtly genres in its discussion of the role of women, rather we see a multitude of different women portrayed in clearly contrasting manners. Most notably, Lady Bertalik becomes a major figure of this work, as well as a symbol of knightly virtues, or lack thereof. In the third part of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the story turns to Sir Gawain and Lady Bertalik; on three successive days, Lady Bertalik meets Sir Gawain in his bedchambers and attempts to seduce him.

During the first two days, though tempting, Gawain manages to remain a model of both courtly and religious restraint and behavior; meanwhile, Lady Bertalik extends herself as the aforementioned ‘’fairly accurate portrait of women’s role in society.’’ While some women of the time succeeded in being entirely pure, it was not uncommon for damsels to try and seduce men as they traveled about the lands. The third morning, however, Gawain succumbs to his own fear of death and accepts the “lesser” of two gifts offered by Lady Bertalik on promises that the magical girdle will protect him from all harm. ‘’[The girdle] was wrought of green silk, and gold, only braided by the fingers, and that she offered to the knight, and besought him though it were of little worth that he would take it,’’ while in reality, Lady Bertalik is knowingly tricking the unsuspecting knight (Weston, Part III).

In addition, Lady Bertalik’s gift is a strong symbol of womanhood and parallels both facets of pre-courtly and courtly literature. Like Lady Bertalik, the girdle is similar to the depiction of pre-courtly realism – in which women maintained their outward appearance, but also had inner, wild sexual desires that were often unleashed – as it is meant to be tied, but then removed to allow for free movement and expression. In slight contrast, the girdle may also illustrate the more courtly and idealistic viewpoint due to its restrictive qualities, which in theory, forces the girdle-clad to appear as a woman. The idea of the girdle enforcing a female façade is lost, however, when Gawain, himself, dons the green article; thereby, excusing the idea that the girdle has any semblance of courtly qualities.

For purposes of this argument – that Sir Gawain and the Green Knight entertains two separate depictions of society through literature, the realistic and the philosophical – it is Guinevere who plays Lady Bertilak’s opposite. Though she appears only briefly in this text, her role in courtly society is quite obvious. Seen at the opening feast given by her husband, King Arthur, Guinevere sits regally, but quietly beside her husband. While she expresses some momentary discontent – when Arthur first offers himself up to the Green Knight – it is almost entirely based upon her role as a woman and the wife of the king.

In this particular piece of Arthurian literature, Guinevere is defined by specific binaries; she is only what the king is not and she behaves the way that Lady Bertalik does not. Given this role, Guinevere exemplifies the pre-courtly disposition of behavior and remains the passive and silent, but “perfect” queen. As demonstrated through the actions and general social conduct of Lady Bertalik and Guinevere, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight displays a variety of women in several blatantly contrasting roles. While this, does substantiate the suggestion that the behavior of women has been projected differently throughout medieval literature.

Like most medieval literature, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight participate in several important literary traditions that its original audience would have instantly recognized. Medieval poets were expected to re-use established source materials in their own works. Modern readers sometimes mistakenly take this as evidence of how lacking in creativity and originality the Middle Ages were. In reality, much of the interest of medieval literature comes from recognizing how one work of literature pulls against those that came before it, makes subtle changes from its sources, and invests old material with new meanings. One can read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as simply a rollicking tale of adventure and magic or, alternatively, as a lesson in moral growth. However, understanding some of the literary and cultural background that Sir Gawain and the Green Knight draws upon can provide modern readers with a fuller view of the poem’s meaning.

2.2 The Prologue and Tale of the Wife of Bath are among the most popular parts of The Canterbury Tales, and also cause a lot of trouble for critics. There are many various opinions about the character of Alison, ranging from utter individuality of the character to her being only a refined archetype of the old go-between. Many consider the disparity of her Prologue and Tale so problematic that there is need to explain the duality of her personality, and again many others focus on the common features of the Prologue and Tale. Probably the only thing about Wife of Bath’s Tale on which the critics agree is that its narrative voice and choice of topic is distinctly feminine, the world of her tale is inhabited by women with occasional obedient men. Alison is a feminist of her own making. Although many say that in the end she still submits to the rule of the patriarchal world, they do not take into account the time of her creation.

When Alison struggles for respect in her own household, there is absolutely no awareness of feminine desire for equality, and it will still need several centuries before the Precieuses movement starts in France, influencing the whole Europe. Alison lives in a patriarchal world with strict views of women, and her domestic revolution seems outrageous in her times. Yet, in her Prologue, she argues that there is need for a distinctly feminine voice and tradition. Judging by Alison’s Prologue, it seems extremely difficult for a woman to accept her position in the male tradition. In her Prologue, she therefore uses the traditional patriarchal ideas and expression, and yet she bends them to suit her purpose. When she argues for marriage as an equally important alternative to virginity, she quotes St. Paul, the major male authority that prefers virginity. But it is obvious that the educated account of texts she shows the reader is only knowledge acquired from her husbands, as the reader is later to realize.

She is incapable of reading the texts for herself; otherwise she would not use Jerome’s interpretation of the encounter of Jesus and the Samaritan woman beside a well. She would use the source text to impeach Jerome’s interpretation. But the Wife of Bath lacks the knowledge that it was not Jesus but the Samaritan woman herself who said she had no husband. Although the mind of the Wife is captured in medieval paradigms about women, she would gladly argue with Jerome just like she argued with her clerk husband, had she the knowledge of the original biblical text. The Wife also draws a decisive line between the biblical texts, which in no way express any obligation concerning the number of marriages, and the Church tradition created by men with no experience of marriage.

What St. Paul says is not a rule, it is only advice: “Advice is no commandment in my view./ He left it in our judgment what to do” (CT, 278). After her biblical lecture where the Wife uses many examples from the Old Testament to show there are no strict rules established about marriage, she moves on to what she promises at the beginning of her Prologue, to experience: If there were no authority on earth Except experience; mine, for what it’s worth, And that’s enough for me, all goes to show That marriage is a misery and a woe; (CT, 276) Yet, as she has also shown, women’s reputation for zealous confessing paradoxically opened up opportunities of empowerment, as a number of female sham mystics, working with their attend- ant priests, created a lucrative theatre of spirituality in which the woman was the center of attention. The Wife of Bath’s Tale itself is another genre-experiment, which enacts the Wife’s speculation: By God! If women had written stories, As clerkes han withinne hire oratories, They wolde han written of men moore wikkednesse Than al the mark of Adam may redresse. (III (D), 693–6)

The Tale is the retelling of a fairy mistress tale in which a knight finds that he can save his life only if he can find the answer to the question of what women want most. He goes on a quest in search of the answer and meets a loathsome old hag who tells him that women most want to have control over men. The knight escapes death at the hands of his enemies, but in return must marry the old hag. In bed on their marriage night, she persuades him to face her, whereupon he finds that she has transformed into a beautiful young girl. She asks him whether he would prefer to have her beautiful by day or by night, but tired by now of trick questions, the knight leaves the decision in her hands. Because he has capitulated to her, she promises to stay young and beautiful always, and they live happily ever after.

What a synopsis effaces is the way in which this story can be adapted to prompt various responses. In the anonymous Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the narrative framework is deployed to allow Gawain, as hero, to demonstrate extreme chivalric behavior and win audience approval. Chaucer’s adaptation is more radical. The hero is a rapist, forced into the bargain set by the ladies of the court to save his life. There is no indication that he is remorseful, nor that the quest is penitential. He comes upon the hag because he spies on some young girls dancing in a wood, and much less emphasis is put on the grotesque appearance of the hag than in other romance versions. The radical change, however, is that he walks into the bargain with the hag without knowing his part in advance. She accompanies him back to the court where the bargain is uttered in public. The quest is, therefore, manipulated so that instead of being morally enhanced, the hero is humiliated. He has no chance to demonstrate Florent’s stoicism as all his opportunities for displaying bravery and chivalry are pre-empted by powerful and cynical women.

The values of chivalry are transposed ironically into a lecture given by the transformed hag to her husband on their wedding night in bed. The relationship between Prologue and Tale is not so much the simple matter of the Tale being adapted as the wish-fulfillment of the invented narrator; rather the two sit in parallel, drawing attention through their internal juxtapositions of authorities and lived experiences, to the gap between official society and its mores, as enshrined in textual traditions, and the operation of other behaviors and performances. Her struggle is not one for domination in the relationship, as both her Prologue and Tale show. It is a struggle for love. She wants to be treated like a beloved lady in the courtly tradition, and repay her loving husband with respect and obedience.

The essentially better view is that “as a kind of special representative of Chaucer in the matter, she believes in harmony between partners, however it is arrived at” (Stone, 85). Of course, it is difficult to pass judgment on Chaucer’s personal views, as Chaucer was very careful about revealing his opinions, but the choice of the topic, and the portrayal of the shrewish wife as an understandable and rather likeable character might be a certain sign of Chaucer’s own attitude. For all the problems in her first four marriages, Alison does not lose hope yet. In her climactic marriage with Jankin, the only one that ends up as a success, she is looking for love. She already has enough money and a good social standing, she could be very satisfied as a widow, a woman no longer subjected to any man’s whim, and yet she decides to marry again.

Alison needs her own money and the independence it gives. The General Prologue suggests that she also needs her own work and the status that goes with success. But she wants love as well and, in her relationship with Jankin, is romantic enough to believe that it will make money irrelevant .When Alison finds out she lost not only her money, which by the right of marriage now belongs to her husband, but also her integrity as her young husband tries to change her into an obedient wife with no life of her own, she starts to fight him. But before the physical struggle is described, Chaucer gives us a mental picture of Alison’s state, a picture of a tormented woman who lacks the words to defend herself, while her husband has all the available verbal weapons.


The poet positions Gawain at the center of the unresolved tensions between chivalry, courtly love, and Christianity. Gawain is famed as the most courteous of knights. In one sense, this creates the expectation that his behavior will be irreproachable; in another, it assumes that he will be the most delightful of lovers for the lady who can snare him. The Lady of Haut desert exploits this tension to the fullest as she attempts to seduce Gawain. But the poet has also made clear that the beloved lady whom Gawain serves first is the Virgin Mary. As a thoroughly Christianized knight, he is forced to walk a fine line in defending himself. He cannot offend a lady, but neither can he give his hostess what she wants, because in doing so, he would be committing a sexual sin, as well as breaking chivalric loyalty and honor by betraying his host.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight cannot, therefore, be called a straightforward romance. It makes use of most of the conventions and ideals of the Arthurian romance, yet also points out its contradictions and failings. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is not an anti-romance, however, nor is it a parody, despite its lightness and good humor. When Chaucer laughs at Sir Thopas, he is mocking a tired genre, but when the Gawain-poet laughs, it is the generous laughter of friendship. The poet’s conservative and traditional approach to his timeworn material is what allows him to make it so engaging: He understands and thoroughly appreciates the conventions of his genre. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight manages to highlight the weakest points of the chivalric tradition while still appreciating everything that makes chivalry so attractive, especially its uncompromising devotion to the highest ideals, even if those ideals are not necessarily attainable (accomplished).

Andreas got the Christian world to accept his concept of love by the device of the “double truth.” Although Christian teaching and his De Amore are basically irreconcilable, they may exist side by side each in its own sphere. His main purpose was to provide a pseudo-psychological and logical basis for the ideas and ideals of the troubadours. Reasoning and building on the nature of love and of humanity, he showed that love is the greatest good in this world, that it constitutes earthly happiness, and that it is the place of origin of all earthly good. Andreas proposed logically that if humans are viewed solely as rational and natural creatures, subject only to the laws of nature and reason, then they must enroll in the army of the god of love and seek the pleasures of the flesh so that they may be ennobled and grow in virtue and in worth. Aware of the immoral and heretical implications of his work, Andreas wrote On the Rejection of Love where he condemned Courtly love and implicitly retracted all he had written.

A strong possibility exists that Chaucer knew of the so-called double truth. He would have been aware of the dangers involved in writing romances of Courtly Love, the risk of an accusation of upholding immorality and heresy. He possibly set out to meet these dangers: 1. He is not interested in giving Courtly love a logical and philosophical grounding; he simply uses it as a vehicle for his love stories. 2. Andreas suggests he writes from experience. Chaucer states again and again that he is not writing on love from personal knowledge from experience or from his own feelings on the subject. Chaucer’s status is always as a non-participant in love–a rank outsider. His relationship to love and lovers is to be their clerk, their servant and instrument to gladden them and advance them in their individual cause. He doesn’t participate because he is unsuitable. Chaucer did strive for religious orthodoxy when, in the words of the Parson’s Tale, he protests that he “will stand for correction.”

If his repudiation is not in fear, it might be a salve to a Christian conscience revolted at the utter incompatibility of Courtly Love with the tenets of Christian morality and faith. SUFFERING Love brings with it love melancholy or suffering. This was studied and in fact written on at length during the Renaissance, but it was known and made part of the fictional lover during Chaucer’s time. All in all, Chaucer’s attitude to women in The Canterbury Tales can hardly be judged as anti­feminist. His portrayals of women are splendid and still attractive centuries after. He does not assert the male dominance in all his tales but he realistically employs different narrators to express different attitudes. Some of the tales question the medieval system of authorities, yet none of them is openly subversive.

Chaucer’s female narrators cannot be judged by today’s standards of feminism and when they are looked at from the medieval point of view, the undertone of feminism in their behavior and tales emerges. They are concerned with bettering the conditions for women; they challenge the authorities in their tales. And although the women of the male tales are no revolutionaries, they are still humane enough for a modern reader to enjoy. Chaucer does not portray women’s struggle for self-assertion, he unfolds the complex web of his society. Chaucer’s attitude to women as shown in his works is more complex than that of his contemporaries, and at the same time remains within the borders given by the society. Chaucer is a very careful poet and as such may be found inconvenient by some modern feminists.


Primary sources:

Sri Gawain and the Green Knight

Wife of Bath

Secondary sources:

Umbetro, Eco. Cum se face o teza de licenta, Polirom, Bucuresti, 2006

Dutu, Carmen. Eseuri si dizertatii. Metodologia crearii unei lucrari stintifice, Editura Universitara Bucuresti, 2012

G. C. Thornley and Gwyneth Roberts. An Outline of English Literature, Longman, Essex, 2008

Chretien de Troyes. Arthurian romances, Penguin Books Ltd, Englad 1991

Andreas Capellanus, The art of courtly love, Columbia University Press, New York 1960

Bruce J. Douglas. Evolution of Arthurian romance from the beginnings down to the year 1300, Gloucester, Mass Peter Smith 1958

Michel, Pastoureanu. La vie quotidienne en France et en Angleterre au temps des chevaliers de la Table Ronde, Hachette, Paris, 1976

[ 1 ]. Courtly love. Modern term popularized by C. S. Lewis to describe the various kinds of love between man and woman described in the works of *trou- badours and others between the 11c and the 13c. The range of feeling ran from the dutiful respect owed a lord’s wife, to the adulterously sexual. One relationship was excluded, that between husband and wife. The genre first appeared in Provence and then spread through Europe. Appearing at much the same time as Arthurian tales, the two created a potent and memorable mix of *chivalry and romance. The French phrase amour courtois is a 19c coin- age. – Cf. Aubade; Pastourelle [ 2 ]. b. 43 BCE, Roman who wrote a parody on the technical treatises on loving. [ 3 ]. The Ars amatoria (English: The Art of Love) is an instructional book series elegy in three books by Ancient Roman poet Ovid. It was written in 2 AD. It is about teaching basic Gentlemanly male and female relationship skills and techniques. [ 4 ]. Andreas Capellanus was the 12th-century author of a treatise commonly known as De amore (“About Love”), and often known in English, somewhat misleadingly, as The Art of Courtly Love, though its realistic, somewhat cynical tone suggests that it is in some measure an antidote to courtly love. [ 5 ]. Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in Western Europe during the High Middle Ages . As well as being Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right, she was queen consort of France (1137–1152) and of England (1154–1189). She was the patroness of such literary figures as Wace, Benoît de Sainte-Maure, and Bernart de Ventadorn. She belonged to the French House of Poitiers, the Ramnulfids. [ 6 ]. Marie of France, Countess of Champagne (1145 – March 11, 1198) was the elder daughter of Louis VII of France and his first wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. [ 8 ]. French bishop of Paris during the 13th century. He was Chancellor of the Sorbonne from 1263 and bishop of Paris from 1268.He is best remembered for promulgating a Condemnation of 219 philosophical and theological propositions (or articles) that addressed ideas and concepts that were being discussed and disputed in the faculty of Arts at the University of Paris. [ 9 ]. Chivalry is as much about the skills and manners of a warrior class as with a literature derived from the deeds of those warriors, but presented in an idealized fashion which returned to define the manners of the warriors.
Chivalry was a collocation of qualities made into a coherent ideal: skill and courage, and a craving for glory or fame acquired through knightly skills and its necessary courage. [ 10 ]. Linda Ann Malcor Ph. D is an American scholar of Arthurian legend. She was selected as an Overseas Associate Member of the Late Antiquity Research Group.

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