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Effects Of Courtly Love On Medieval Women

1514 words - 6 pages

This is an essay for my Women's History in Medieval Europe sophomore-level course. It discusses the effect of troubadours and courtly love practices on women of the High Middle Ages. Women were both empowered by these practices and also were made vulnerable.References to texts used in the course are made in parantheticals- not necessary to understanding the essay.Love overcomes both great and small,Love rules, for Love is lord of all."Fealty to Venus" by an unknown Goliardic poetChristine de Pizan was partially right when she said that women who allowed themselves to be wooed by lovers put themselves in a vulnerable position, but that is only half of the story. Troubadour love poetry and the practice of courtly love empowered women to a certain extent. The poetry of the Goliards and the court of Eleanor of Aquitaine are two very different groups of people and yet they praised women and allowed them power over men's hearts (and loins). The poetry of Bernart de Ventadorn both praised and despised women for their beauty and power. Courtly love gave birth to chivalry but it also gave birth to the tradition of putting women on an inaccessible pedestal that they would perch on, unable to move, for centuries to come. Anderson and Zinsser see the positive and negative aspects of courtly love and much information can be drawn from them as well as troubadours of the time.There are many ways in which courtly love allowed women a modicum of power in a world where otherwise they were supposed to be dependent, obedient and chaste wives and daughters. Troubadours waxed poetic about women's beauty saying, "no one who looked at her / was not warmed with joy," and, "...her eyes bright, her face white, / a beautiful mouth, a well-set nose...," (Anderson and Zinsser, 311). For one of the first times in this period women were worthy of something--love. A woman's beauty and virtue combined made her something men strived for; her qualities made her something men wanted not just because she could provide them with heirs.These beloved women made the men who loved them run the gamut of emotions. Women had power over the way men acted, felt and spoke; at the drop of a hat the lover would do anything for his beloved. These men would risk being caught by jealous, angry husbands just to spend a night of pleasure in the arms of their beloved all done in the name of the all-encompassing love. In the epic Nibelingenlied one man tells another, "she is to me as my soul and as my body, and I will do anything to deserve that she become my wife," (Anderson and Zinsser, 333). Chivalry and women's role in keeping it alive were important reasons men kept their honor and did their duty towards their beloved. The idea of "honour[ing] and lov[ing] all women" was held high by the chivalrous men of the court.It almost seems as if women at the time had so much power over their lovers that the men (mostly young) were pawns in their games of love. These women could use the men to their...

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