amor) of the troubadours, which focused on the poet's devotion to an unattainable lady of equal or higher rank. This concept is known as amor de lohn (distant love, or love from far away). At the end of the 12th century, Andreas Capellanus composed a Latin treatise commonly known as The Art of Courtly Love (ca. 118486). According to Andreas, the love of a lady can ennoble a man's character and enable him to accomplish great deeds: "[T]he man in love becomes accustomed to performing many services gracefully for everyone" (book 1, ch. 4). Courtly love could only exist outside of marriage, and its code dictated that the man must initiate the love affair by pledging himself to a woman and by submitting to her desires. The lady, meanwhile, had the power to accept or reject her suitor, although he would continue to serve her faithfully, regardless of her decision. Thus, the courtly love relationship mirrored the feudal oaths sworn between a knight and his liegelord. Recent critical analysis has demonstrated the homosocial, if not homosexual, intent behind the "love triangles," whereby the competition between the lover-knight and the husband supersedes the desire either has for the woman.
The adulterous nature of courtly love stood in direct contrast to the church's teachings on adultery, but many scholars believe that the prevalence of arranged marriages required outlets for the expressions of romantic love denied within the context of marriage. Generally, courtly love was considered an idealized state and an achievable one, though consummation was not strictly excluded. It was, of course, reserved strictly for nobility and became tied to chivalry.
Petrarch borrowed from these conventions, leading to the revitalized cult of courtly love celebrated by the early modern writers of sonnets. Renaissance courtly love relied more heavily on chaste or platonic love, although quite often the desire for (or intention of) consummation is expressed, without hope of fulfillment. Queen Elizabeth I admired the ideals of courtly love so much that she insisted the rhetoric of her courtiers be expressed in amorous terms, resulting in the politicization of courtly love during the Tudor age.
Modern critics have explored the boundaries of courtly love, and a number have linked it to masochism. In particular, the early modern version features an abject lover suffering mightily at the hands of his "cruel fair" lady, who delights in his torment. Medieval courtly love, more dependent on formal interrelationships, tokens, and exchanges, is more closely aligned with fetishism.
See also lovesickness.
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