The Art of Courtly Love
Capellanus translates as "Chaplain," but this revealing work
takes a distinct turn away from the religious worldview that
dominated the twelfth century in which Capellanus lived.
Indeed, The Art of Courtly Love -- the name is entrenched in
English, although it is a poor translation of De Amore -- is
intriguing for the clash of perspectives in its pages. The
religious point of view sometimes surfaces, but it is usually
trumped by secular concerns, matters of etiquette, romantic
conceits and the delights of sheer fantasy. This fantasy
element, driven by shimmering dreams of bold knights serving
fine ladies, continues to haunt the modern imagination even in
our age of "hooking up" and "friends with privileges," and
Capellanus's work offers perhaps our most penetrating
insights into how this role-playing infused the psychology of
the late Middle Ages. The rules of courtly love demanded that
the knight serve his lady (who may, inconveniently be married
to someone else) with all the devotion and fidelity that he
owes to his liege-lord. But sometimes the formality (surprise!)
of these relationships needed to make room for more carnal
concerns. Capellanus tries to navigate through these waters,
and comes up with many shocking suggestions along the way.
The twists and turns are so peculiar that scholars have
sometimes suggested that the work should not be taken
seriously. But whether viewed as a guide to behavior or as a
imaginary exercise in role-playing, The Art of Courtly Love is one
of the essential books for anyone interested in probing the
intricacies and contradictions of the medieval mind.
The rules of courtly love are summarized on this web page --
here you learn, for example (in rule #31) that "Nothing forbids
one woman being loved by two men or one man by two
women" or (in rule #15) that "Every lover regularly turns pale
in the presence of his beloved."
This YouTube video presents four of the rules of courtly love.
Warning: production values are very, very low.
Oddball scholarship . . . Let's use Capellanus's work to assess
a collection of suicide notes from folks literally "dying for love."
This curious thread finds some young pups turning to
Capellanus for guidance in their quest to understand why
chivalry is dead and why boys don't bother to bring flowers
TIPS FOR READERS
John Jay Parry passed
away in 1954, but more
than a half century later,
his translation of The Art
of Courtly Love continues
to delight and enchant
A MODERNIST TWIST
José Ortega y Gasset's On
Love is seldom read to
day, but it ranks with the
works of Stendhal, Plato
and Capellanus as one of
the great studies of the