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It would be false to conclude that love involved nothing but suffering. Medieval love involved two main components: suffering and pleasure. I would first argue that love was pleasurable because it involved the sating of ones desires. When one loves something, one desires it.

Therefore, when one is with the object of one's love, then the desire is being sated. The sating of one's desires is clearly a source of pleasure. Hence, when one sates the desire that is involved in one's love, one is pleasured.

In addition to the larger characteristic of pleasure, there are three "mini-elements" of love in the Middle Ages. These three "mini-elements" support the fact that pleasure is a characteristic of love in the medieval period.

Sexual Pleasure

The most obvious "mini-element" of love is sexual pleasure. This element clearly supports the idea that love involved pleasure. Andreas Capellanus touches on this element of love when he quotes the Queen (of the so called "court of love") as saying that women prefer young men for lovers because of "physiological reasons".

The "physiological reasons" that she is referring to are clearly sexual. Apparently, "medieval ideas were far from the Victorian notion that women did not enjoy sex". In fact, "thirteenth-century German scholar, Albertus Magnus" believed that "greater [sexual] pleasure and appetite belonged to the woman". Whether or not this was the case, it seems that sexual pleasure was enjoyed by both partners involved in the love affair.

Fantasy

The second "mini-element" of love in the Middle Ages will be termed fantasy. Though it is not certain exactly what role courtly love played in medieval life, it is certain that it existed in the fantasies of the medieval people. The songs and poetry of the time period often centered on themes of love: "courtly love, the pure love a knight felt for his lady whom he sought to win by military prowess and patience; or the love he felt for the wife of his feudal lord; or carnal desires seeking satisfaction".

Whatever the exact theme, love was often the topic of these works. Also, these works often involved fantasy. In fact, fantasy was especially involved for those who read or sang the songs or poems. This is because the enjoyment of these things is predicated upon imagining that what they describe is actually taking place.

This imagining, I think, can be called fantasizing. Clearly, then, love was often the topic of these fantasies. In this aspect, love is again found to be pleasurable. For what are our fantasies if not creative imaginings for the purpose of pleasure.

Heightening of Honor and Worth

The fact that love involved the heightening of honor and worth conveys the final "mini-element" of love. Andreas Capellanus wrote about the effects of love which, according to him, included this characteristic:

Love causes a rough and uncouth man to be distinguished for his handsomeness; it can endow a man even of the humblest birth with nobility of character; it blesses the proud with humility; and the man in love becomes accustomed to performing many services gracefully for everyone. O what a wonderful thing is love, which makes a man shine with so many virtues and teaches everyone, no matter who he is, so many good traits of character!

The Countess Marie seems to agree with Capellanus. In a letter to him, she writes about the necessity of love to increase a man's honor and worth of character.

Certainly, pleasure is involved in the increasing of a man's honor and goodness of character. But is this pleasure only afforded to men? Georges Duby suggests that the answer is no. He believes that courtly love "gave a woman a definite [though confined] power". Duby also writes that women engaged in love affairs "were entitled to certain marks of respect".

Additionally, this characteristic of love is applicable to women in that love "compensated the medieval lady for the brutalities of marriage and recognized her existence as an individual".

The respect and compensation that love offered to women of the Middle Ages prove that love was pleasurable to women as well as men in that it involved the heightening of honor or worth of character.

Source: westminstercollege.edu
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