During the Middle Ages, Courtly love was a code which prescribed the conduct between a lady and her lover (Britannica). The relationship of courtly love was very much like the feudal relationship between a knight and his liege. The lover serves his beloved, in the manner a servant would. He owes his devotion and allegiance to her, and she inspires him to perform noble acts of valor (Schwartz). Capellanus writes, in The Art of Courtly Love, “A true lover considers nothing good except what he thinks will please his beloved”. The stories of Marie de France and Chr?©tien de Troyes llustrate the conventions of courtly love.
According to Capellanus, “Good character alone makes any man worthy of love”. In Lanval, the fairy lover chooses Lanval because he is “worthy and courtly’ (Lawall 1319). Lanval gladly accepts the fairys love. He promises to “abandon all others for [her]” (Lawall 1319). Capellanus also says that “a true lover does not desire to embrace in love anyone except his beloved”. Therefore, Lanval loves his fairy lover solely. When the Queen offers her love to Lanval, he rejects her because his heart is devoted to his fairy lover. His beloved is one whom he “prized above all others” (Lawall 1320). Lanval desires no one more than his fairy lover.
She provides him with “great Joy and pleasure” that he can forego the other pleasures of the world (Lawall 1320). The claim she has on him is like that ofa kings. A good, chivalric knight should hold ladies in esteem. He should do all in his power to serve and protect ladies. Perceval’s mother instructs him to never “withhold [his] aid” from a lady or a “maiden in distress” (Lawall 1333). She says that “he who does not yield honor to ladies, loses his honor” (Lawall 1333). If Perceval wishes be honored, he should “serve ladies and maidens” (Lawall 1334). Perceval obeys his mother’s words.
At his first encounter with a maiden, he greets her and seeks to please her, albeit clumsily. When the maiden at King Arthur’s court is struck by Kay, Perceval pledges that “she will be well avenged” before he dies (Lawall 1340). When the maiden Belrepayre comes to him at night, pleading for protection, Perceval comforts her and promises to “restore peace to all [her] land” (Lawall 1348). Perceval sees the maiden’s request as “an opportunity for [him] to win fame” (Lawall 1347). His love for inspires her to do bold, daring deeds. He therefore boldly defends the castle against the besiegers, winning the love and heart of the maiden.
Perceval is kind to every maiden he meets. When he encounters a maiden weeping over a dead knight, he inquires after the matter. When he meets the maiden whose lover has forced her into penance, he seeks to comfort her. A good lover also treats his beloved with respect. Perceval’s mother tells him that the man “who wins a kiss from a maiden receives much” (Lawall 1334). She advises Perceval not to take more than a kiss from a maiden. Perceval takes her advice too literally when he kisses the first maiden he meets “willy-nilly twenty times without stopping” (Lawall 1335).
However, when the maiden at Belrepayre comes to him in the nlgnt partlally unclotnea, Perceval does notnlng more tnan KISS ner. Capellanus further states that “every act of a lover ends with in the thought of his beloved”. Perceval’s mind is often on his lady love. When he sees the three drops of blood on the snow, he is reminded of “the fresh hues of his ladys face” (Lawall 1366). The gazes at the snow in deep reverie, because “the sight pleased him so much that e seemed to behold the fresh color of his fair lady’ (1366). Lanval cannot cease to think of his fairy lover.
He is always “impatient to hold his beloved, to kiss, embrace and touch her” (Lawall 1320). When he is at the kings house and sees all the beautiful damsels, he finds no pleasure in them, for he thinks of his fairy lover. Lanval is so disinterested in other women that people believed that he had “no desire for women” (Lawall 1320). Lanval’s thoughts are always of his fairy-lover. The most interesting aspect of courtly love is that it exists outside of marriage. Medieval marriages were often arranged and were not based on love (Schwartz).
Lanval and Perceval are never united in marriage to their lady love. La??stic is a prime example of the extra-marital aspect of courtly love. The two knights are neighbors in the St. Malo. One knight “loved his neighbor’s”. He “persistently’ requested her love that she also fell in love with him. However, since she was married, they “loved each other prudently and well, concealing their love carefully to ensure that they were not seen, disturbed or suspected” (Lawall 1324). They could see each other from their indows and would talk and toss gifts to each other.
They continue to love and talk to each other until the ladys husband suspects his wife and is Jealous. At that point, the lady can never stand at the window and see her beloved. Capellanus states that, “when made public love rarely endures”. The best courtly love is one that is secret. Lanval, likewise, enjoys a secret love. In fact, if he ever reveals his love, he would “lose [her] forever” (Lawall 1319). Indeed, when Lanval tells the Queen that he is loved by a lady more worthy than the Queen, Lanval loses his beloved. He calls “his beloved epeatedly, but to no avail” (Lawall 1321).
She leaves him once their love is made public. Courtly love defined the romance between a knight and his lady love. A knight must be worthy of love. A knight must be sworn to complete devotion to his beloved. He must hold her in high esteem and do all he can to protect her. A knight must desire no one above his beloved and the thought of her must continually be in his mind. Furthermore, courtly love must be a secret love; it does not exist within marriage. The conventions of medieval courtly love directed a knight towards servitude to his beloved.