Traditions of Courtly Love and the Canterbury Tales
Dickson State University, Senior Project Spring (2005)
Courtly love is a classic literary genre that once reigned as the most popular and most practiced form of literature. Some would argue that love has always had its place in literature throughout all periods. This may be true; however, anyone who has ever read a courtly love tale would recognize immediately that the behaviours of the characters in love are rather peculiar, and that the experience of love, with all of its desire and heartache, is taken to the utmost extreme beyond that of what we would consider “ordinary” or everyday love. Love, in the courtly manner, is an art to be practiced. it is passionate, yet extremely disciplined, and its power is elevated to the point of worship.
Chaucer was greatly influenced by the courtly romances of his predecessors and uses many of the standards and conventions of courtly love in various stories in the Canterbury Tales. In this paper, I will provide a brief history of courtly love, study what constitutes a love tale as courtly, and then discuss the influence that the courtly love tradition had on Chaucer and how this influence in reflected in specific pieces of the Canterbury Tales.