Backgrounds to Romance: "Courtly Love"



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Backgrounds to Romance: "Courtly Love" - Debora B. Schwartz
The term "Romance" originally referred to the local native French language which was called romanz .

In the 12th century, literature written in the native French was referred to as "romance" to distinguish it from "real" literature, written in Latin.

Gradually, "romance" began to refer to narrative literature stories of the chivalric adventures of knights and their ladies popular among the French-speaking court audiences.
The audience for these early narratives was largely women of her court.

"Romances" tended to did not focus on the fighting and male-bonding emphasized in epic poetry.

In “romance” the Middle English knight is motivated by love for his lady.

Accordingly, women play an increasingly important and active role in these stories.


Two women had a particular influence on the development of romance: Eleanor of Aquitaine, queen of France and later queen of England, and her daughter Marie, Countess of Champagne.

“Romances” written for and/or dedicated to Eleanor emphasized the sort of love seen in troubadour poetry which was called fin'amors, or “refined love,” or "courtly love."

In the "courtly love" the knight serves his courtly lady 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.

"Courtly love" was originally 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 was not between husband and wife because it was an idealized relationship.

Medieval marriages amongst the nobility were based on practical and dynastic concerns rather than on love.

Marriage based on love was a radical notion.

The audience was perfectly aware that these romances were fictions.



The point was to explore the potential influence of love on human behavior.


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