Courtly love was a greatly explored topic of medieval Europe, in which a man would pine over a woman for his entire existence, hardly speaking to each other, if the woman even recognized the man at all. The woman was seen as an unearthly being, nothing even comparing to a human form.
|Dante and Beatrice (in the yellow).|
Dante was a great proponent of this movement. La Vita Nuova centers entirely around Beatrice, the woman whom Dante truly spent is entire life writing and living for. The short book contains forty-two chapters, and was abruptly left unfinished when Beatrice died. Dante discusses their first meeting as children, and it culminates in the grief of her death. Dante sets out to write more of Beatrice than any woman in history.
Is it strange that a man can live his entire life lusting over a woman that he hardly speaks to? I have truly been in debates about this, and as a result formed the Dante Appreciate Club (haters gonna hate). Is Dante a stalker, insane, or just plain wrong?
Well, a much more well known story of courtly love would be that of Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet experienced very much the same instant love, and Juliet even compares Romeo to the heavens in Act 2, Scene 2:
Give me my Romeo; and, when he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
However, Romeo and Juliet do not pine over each other for the entirety of their lives. They give in. They marry secretly, they rush their passions and defy the wishes of their parents. Is it a coincidence, then, that they both die in the end?
Courtly love is an interesting approach to the chivalry of love in the medieval times. It may seem unusual at first, but what it holds is the most heightened devotion and love in all of literature.