The Conventions of Courtly Love

"Courlty Love" is conventionally associated with Chivalry. The ideas of "Courtly Love" were probably first expressed in the love lyrics of the 11th century Troubadours of southern France, there may also be ties to Arabic love literature. Courtly Love was eventuially codified and defined in the court of Eleanor of Aquitaine by Andreas Capellanus (Andrew the Chaplain) in his Latin text The Art of Courtly Love (c.1174). Scholars still do not agree as to whether any individuals ever accepted Courtly Love as a serious way of life or it was merely a court game or pleasant literary convention. It seems that lovers were tried and judged under the rules of Courtly Love in Eleanor of Aquitaine’s court, but the seriousness of the trials is certainly in question. Some of the cases were more hypothetical proofs or examples of how a lover should behave than cases involving the actions of actual individuals.

Whether seriously accepted in every day life or not, the rules of Courtly Love have found expression in numerous medieval texts and lovers had expectations for proper action of the part of themselves and their beloved based on many of these ideas. Sometimes Courtly Love seems especially chivalric, but at times (Guinevere/Lancelot/Arthur) its short comings are made quite explicit. Andreas’s text often reads like a medieval seduction manual, but it also contains many commonplaces applied to love throughout medieval literature. A similar type of love is used in Renaissance sonnets and sonnet cycles. Women could be the lovers and men the beloveds, but that was more the exception that proves the rule.

Some of the Conventions are: