Romantic love as it occurs in our civilization, inextricably bound up with ideas of monogamy, exclusiveness, jealousy, and undeviating fidelity, . . . is a compound, the final result of many converging lines of development in Western Civilization, of the institution of monogamy, of the ideas of the age of chivalry, of the ethics of Christianity.
Giovanni Arnolfini and His Wife by Jan van Eyck depicts an ideal marriage of early fifteenth-century Europe. The young couple is exchanging vows in their bridal chamber surrounded by symbols signifying the sacredness of marriage. The bridegroom has removed his shoes because he stands on holy ground. The little dog is a symbol of faithfulness; the single candle signifies Christ who is an all-seeing guest.
What strikes the modern eye first, however, is the bride's protruding abdomen suggesting pregnancy. The idea that a marriage is not truly consummated until the wife has conceived is more appropriate to the fifteenth century. Today sterility may be grounds for divorce in some states and married couples are expected to have children, but even so, we do not find it appropriate that a bride should come to her wedding so great with child.
In this chapter we will trace the evolution of the concept of love in our Western tra-