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Literature / The Art of Courtly Love

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"Love is an inborn suffering proceeding from the sight and immoderate thought upon the beauty of the other sex, for which cause above all other things one wishes to embrace the other and, by common assent, in this embrace to fulfill the commandments of love..."
Andreas Capellanus

The Art of Courtly Love is an essay written by the 12th-century scholar Andreas Capellanus. Styled after a scholastic philosophic argument, it describes what love is, how one may obtain it, its value to society, and its drawbacks. Its most famous section is its 31 "Rules of Love", which are supposed to describe the proper behavior of people in love. Sounds simple enough, right?


Wrong. It becomes apparent when reading Capellanus' essay that his "Rules of Love" are not relevant to real-life relationships; indeed, in the context of a real relationship, many of them would be quite nonsensical, especially given the prevalent social atmosphere of the time. Rather, the "Rules of Love" are a tongue-in-cheek catalogue of some of the tropes common in romances and tales of courtly love of the time period, such as the works of Chrétien de Troyes and Marie De France.

In other words? He did exactly what we are doing. This is one of the oldest Books on Trope, surpassed only by Aristotle.


Capellanus' Rules of Love

  1. Marriage is no excuse for not loving.
  2. He who is not jealous can not love.
  3. No one can be bound by two loves.
  4. Love is always growing or diminishing.
  5. It is not good for one lover to take anything against the will of the other.
  6. A male cannot love until he has fully reached puberty.
  7. Two years of mourning for a dead lover are prescribed for surviving lovers.
  8. No one should be deprived of love without a valid reason.
  9. No one can love who is not driven to do so by the power of love.
  10. Love always departs from the dwelling place of avarice.
  11. It is not proper to love one whom one would be ashamed to marry.
  12. The true lover never desires the embraces of any save his lover.
  13. Love rarely lasts when it is revealed. invoked
  14. An easy attainment makes love contemptible; a difficult one makes it more dear.
  15. Every lover turns pale in the presence of his beloved.
  16. When a lover suddenly has sight of his beloved, his heart beats wildly.
  17. A new love expels an old one.
  18. Moral integrity alone makes one worthy of love.
  19. If love diminishes, it quickly leaves and rarely revives.
  20. A lover is always fearful.
  21. True jealousy always increases the effects of love.
  22. If a lover suspects another, jealousy and the effects of love increase.
  23. He who is vexed by the thoughts of love eats little and seldom sleeps.
  24. Every action of a lover ends in the thought of his beloved.
  25. The true lover believes only that which he thinks will please his beloved.
  26. Love can deny nothing to love.
  27. A lover can never have enough of the embraces of his beloved.
  28. The slightest suspicion incites the lover to suspect the worse of his beloved.
  29. He who suffers from an excess of passion is not suited to love.
  30. The true lover is continuously obsessed with the image of his beloved.
  31. Nothing prevents a woman from being loved by two men, or a man from being loved by two women.


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