This essay seeks to show the existence of romantic love in the 12th century through various its manifestations in the letters of Peter Abelard and Heloise, as well as show how the idea of romantic idea was different from the ways in which we think of it today. These letters are filled with information on the beliefs and practices of twelfth century France. Their discussions range on a variety of matters, issues of theology, regulations concerning nuns, and most importantly debates on the nature of love. To them, romantic love was free of the constraints of marriage, yet it had to deal with the dominant religious piety of the time. Romantic love had to have a religious ends, the love of God, in order for it to be expressed at all. Abelard and Heloise show these beliefs in their writings, in which they attack their desires for each other and try to overcome them through religious discussion.
[...] Abelard tries to downplay the romantic love between them, sending his letters addressed, Heloise, his dearly beloved sister in Christ” (119) and the bride of Christ, Christ's servant” (137). Eventually Heloise's attitude changes, a shift seen in the changes of her address to Abelard, her only one in Christ, she who is his alone in Christ” (127). Seeing that Heloise has accepted their new relationship, he directs his Confessions of Faith towards, “Heloise my sister, once dear to me in the world now dearest to me in Christ” (270). [...]
[...] Heloise argued against marriage to Abelard on this ground as well, who can concentrate on thoughts of scripture or philosophy and be able to endure babies crying?” Nonetheless, He married Heloise in private and Abelard sent Heloise away to give birth to their child. This latter act was misinterpreted by Fulbert as Abelard trying to get rid of Heloise. Enraged, Fulbert's men seized Abelard one night and castrated him. After the incident, Abelard and Heloise lived apart in religious communities. [...]
[...] These included a downplaying and occasional outright repression of sexuality, often bringing religious themes into the relationship, and the fact that marriage often did not equal love in the minds of the couple, the institution was viewed as a civil and religious, not personal, institution. For intents and purposes, “romantic love” is defined, as love that is not entirely erotic, but does constitute a physical as well as a “spiritual” component. This contrasts with other Medieval conceptions of love, including Platonic love, which is non-physical, and erotic love, which is purely sensual. [...]
[...] Yet, the fact that their love can still move and inspire us in this age is a testament to the universality of romantic love, that its existence transcends time and space, and is recognizable in its shape and form to modern readers though, they may be removed from the passions which inspired the words exchanged between Abelard and Heloise, by a ocean and several centuries. Works Cited Backman, Clifford R . The Worlds of Medieval Europe. New York: Oxford University Press Heloise and Abelard, Peter. [...]
[...] Yet, she came to suspect Abelard of not being truthful in the motives he had in romancing her, as his writing to Heloise became less and less sympathetic, she accuses that, was desire, not affection which bound you to (116). Romantic love existed then, as it does now, in a precarious situation. It is was under pressure from those who believed in the superiority of purely spiritual and intellectual attachments, and was criticized and not trusted by those who saw everything driven by nothing more than physical desires. [...]
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