The Challenge of the Medieval Text: Studies in Genre and Interpretation

By W. T. H. Jackson; Joan M. Ferrante et al. | Go to book overview
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used as a guide to what modern critics call "courtly love" in literature. It represents much more what might be called current practice rather than theory, social conditions rather than those in literature.

But if Andreas was writing for a sophisticated court circle, why did he add the utterly contradictory third book? The answer, I think, lies in the attitude so well described by Huizinga in the Waning of the Middle Ages, 9 the attitude which could combine the coarsest sensuality with the sharpest asceticism, the strictest moral code with the crassest deviations from that code. The representation of two sides of life, or of any problem, is one of the most marked features of all types of medieval literature. All of the love lyric of the High Middle Ages depicts a tension, a struggle between two emotions or points of view. The romance is capable of the same type of analysis. It should not surprise us that Andreas felt the need to express both sides of the question he was discussing. His audience probably felt no incongruity in his treatment. I have no doubt that the ladies for whom he wrote were perfectly capable of the sincerest protestations of repentance in church after their games of love and just as capable of a light-hearted return to the games afterwards. Such attitudes are not, after all, entirely unknown in our own day. It may be added also that the third book is a kind of Remedium amoris in the tradition of master Ovid.

As I have already said, any statements about Andreas' intentions must remain conjecture. But we would do well to remember when reading the De amore that it is a reflection of the behavior of a small segment of the culture of the time, not a milestone along the road of the history of ideas. Andreas was not overserious and there is no reason why we should be.

Andreas Capellanus, De amore libri tres, E. Trojel, ed. ( Copenhagen, 1892). All subsequent references are to this edition.
Andreas Capellanus, The Art of Courtly Love, J. J. Parry, ed. and tr. ( New York: Columbia University Press, 1941).
De amore, p. 3.
Hugo of St. Victor, Expositio in hierarchiam coelestem S. Dionysii, Book III, Patrologia latina, CLXXV, 981.
De amore, p. 14.
Carmina Burana, A. Hilka and O. Schumann, eds. ( Heidelberg), Vol. I,


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The Challenge of the Medieval Text: Studies in Genre and Interpretation


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