Love Letters Essay

1517 words - 7 pages

The love letters of Abelard and Heloise have instated this couple as the real life Romeo and Juliet. However, these letters convey much more than the passion one man had for a particular woman. The letters of Abelard and Heloise illustrate the power of the Christian church and how it influenced societal ideals in every regard, most especially those about sex and the role of a woman. The letters were written during the 12th century, during this period, religion and ethical views went hand in hand. The feudal society’s system of estates ensured that the clergy were revered, and their ideals were taken as true. This meant that the bible was taken literally, and used in everyday life. The tale of these two lovers reveal a deeper look into the controversial topics of sex within and outside of marriage, the idea of virginity, and the subordinate role of a woman in society.
The idea of sex during the Medieval age would have made any “good” person shiver with disdain. Religion played a major role in the way of thinking during this era. People had been taught to live piously, because this as well as obedience to the church would bring a sinful soul to the eternal afterlife. Therefore, it was also taught that sex was an immoral that was only acceptable in a marriage for the purpose of procreation, but even in marriage there were rules towards Sex. Although the church believed that God sanctified sex within marriage, there were certain limitations, such as on what days it could be done. In the letters, Abelard confesses his guilt on making love to his own wife, because they did so on dates that were unacceptable: “you know the depths of shame to which my unbridled lust had consigned our bodies, until no reverence for decency or for God during the days of our lord’s passion”. The church’s “acceptance” was not extended towards sex outside of marriage. The church took an open hostility towards bodily pleasures and revered the act of abstinence. Since the act of sex outside a marriage was not for the intention of creating a child, but rather for the satisfaction of lust, it was unacceptable and condemned. This hostility caused great pains for Abelard and Heloise, as the majority of their physical relationship occurred before marriage: “need I recall our previous fornication and the wanton impurities which preceded our marriage”. Christians believed that God would punish those who took their pleasures outside of marriage, as Heloise goes to write: “the Lord in his anger laid his hand heavily upon us, and would not permit a chaste union though he had long tolerated one that was unchaste”. Even Abelard who was a radical thinker of this time adopted the church’s belief of sexual union, reminding Heloise that it was not love but lust that willed him to act in such a sinful way. This is significant as it reflects on the strength of societal beliefs, that Abelard is willing to condone his sinful actions by revoking his love for Heloise. Through this, Abelard...

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