Love is all around us. We write about it, we engage in it, and we search for it desperately if we don't have it. We fall into deep depression when we lose it. Love can make us crazy.
Is it possible that early rules for courtly love written down in the 12th century formed the basic characteristics for relationships that we have today?
Some experts certainly believe so.
There is evidence that the “Treatise on Love” written by Andreas Capellanus defined for the first time the intricate relationships between men and women. Capellanus’ work lays down the building blocks of romantic behavior in a sense.
Bet you didn’t know that the ideas and beliefs about love and romance we have today originated in Medieval courts of French, German and English knights and ladies, kings and queens.
Though some principles have changed somewhat over time, for the most part the fabric of courtly love has remained the same. The hearts of the characters in our romance books revolve around these rules. We see them used over and over in novels, movies, TV shows and even in music.
(But not only do our characters use the Rules of Courtly Love. We all use them in one way or another in our personal relationships whether we know it or not.)
The ideas that resonate are that good character is an essential quality of lovers. Heroes and heroines must be worthy of each other and their love must show it. They have an intense desire to impress and please each other. Sound familiar? We read stories about characters who practice this behavior. And we show these things in our personal relationships. They are timeless themes. True love cannot be bought. It comes from the heart out of grace and a selfless desire to please our mates. We ask nothing except that we are loved in return.
Capellanus believed, and I agree, that love taken by force isn’t love at all. He also felt that fidelity was the key to happiness and fulfillment. Men and women, and certainly characters in romance novels, are totally miserable as they work toward the relationships they want. They can’t sleep, eat, or keep their minds off their love interest. It consumes them.
Here are 10 of Capellanus’ 31 Rules of Love:
He who does not feel jealousy is not capable of loving.
No one can love two people at the same time. (Some people seem to do so.)
Whatever a lover takes against his lover’s will has no savor.
It is unseemly to love anyone whom you would be ashamed to marry.
A true lover does not desire the passionate embraces of anyone else but his beloved.
Love easily obtained is of little value; difficulty in obtaining it makes it precious.
On suddenly catching sight of his beloved, the heart of the lover begins to palpitate.
A man tormented by the thought of love eats and sleeps very little.
Love can deny nothing to love.
A true lover is continually and without interruption obsessed by the image of his beloved.
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So, I’m just curious. Did men and women know these things long before Andreas Capellanus came along? I’m sure they must’ve. After all, Adam loved Eve with all his heart, even though she ate that durn apple. Maybe they just didn’t know how to put these thoughts into words. Maybe it took one man sitting down and really pondering about love and how it felt to express what others had in their hearts.