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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: February ::
Re: Courtly Love in Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0396  Monday, 11 February 2002

[1]     From:   Jim Lake <
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        Date:   Friday, 8 Feb 2002 10:53:54 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 13.0388 Courtly Love in Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Friday, 8 Feb 2002 09:58:46 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0388 Courtly Love in Shakespeare

[3]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
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        Date:   Friday, 8 Feb 2002 23:18:53 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0388 Courtly Love in Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jim Lake <
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Date:           Friday, 8 Feb 2002 10:53:54 -0600
Subject: 13.0388 Courtly Love in Shakespeare
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.0388 Courtly Love in Shakespeare

For starters you might take a look at William Meader's COURTSHIP IN
SHAKESPEARE: ITS RELATION TO COURTLY LOVE, originally published in 1952.

Good luck!

Jim Lake

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Friday, 8 Feb 2002 09:58:46 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0388 Courtly Love in Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0388 Courtly Love in Shakespeare

Yes, I do believe that the tenets of courtly love permeate the plays in
all of their genres. It is particularly interesting to see that it
manifests itself in so many different ways throughout the plays.  One
can even say that the positioning of Juliet at a window is a positioning
of her, literally, in a space above Romeo and his comparisons of her to
the sun places her out of his reach. When he obtains her, like Icarus,
he will fall, bringing her with him. It also makes the sonnet wooing in
I. v. so much more precious, because they are trying to position the
other lover in the place of holy shrine, perhaps unattainable to the
other.

Many of the comedies you mentioned (especially Two Gents, Much Ado and
LLL) brilliantly challenge the concepts of courtly love, often with
stimulating results. A bizarre and provocative reordering of this
concept of courtly love occurs in All's Well That Ends Well. The roles
of male in pursuit of the unattainable female reverse themselves. Here,
Helena is in the pursuit of the unreachable:

                            'Twere all one
   That I should love a bright particular star
   And think to wed it, he is so above me.
   In his bright radiance and collateral light
   Must I be comforted, not in his sphere.
   (I. i. 84-88).

Helena goes on the quest and obtains her match in the second act. But
Bertram runs away, "married" if you will to his military life and
bachelorhood. It is only when Bertram himself seeks an unobtainable
woman, ironically named Diana, that Helena creates her opportunity to
get her love.

She who was dead returns to life in the final scene. Although many
productions have successfully staged Bertram's unrepentant rejection of
Helena in this final scene, I can't help but see the opposite occurring.
Bertram does ask for pardon, and although he prefaces his commitment
with an "if", we know that Helena will be able to explain all. I
envision Bertram dropping to his knees and emphatically repeating a vow:
"I'll love her dearly, ever ever dearly".

The courtly love roles have returned to their proper places with the
male subjugated to the female.  The male has indeed even satiated his
lust with the "married" female. The rules of the courtier are put to the
test in this play and Helena inevitably redeems her man, despite
himself. She also provides a pointed mockery of the rules of courtly
life and love.  Parolles ("words") and the Clown provide the satire of
courtly behavior and conduct and Helena exposes the fact that in this
play, the woman is the best courtier of all.

Brian Willis

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Friday, 8 Feb 2002 23:18:53 -0000
Subject: 13.0388 Courtly Love in Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0388 Courtly Love in Shakespeare

Tue:

Can I play devil's advocate with this?

>I think there are many, many references to the conventions of "courtly
>love" throughout most of WS's works. However, I very rarely see this
>mentioned in the literary criticism. Is this because analysts do not see
>it, or because they do not consider it significant? Or is it just that
>they take it for granted?

The +only+ play of Shakespeare's which draws on the "courtly love"
convention and idiom is (towards the beginning) _Two Gentlemen_.

_R&J_ might be a paradigmatic case -- Romeo's feelings towards Rosline
as the play begins are couched in the (post-courtly-love) Petrarchist
tradition, and when he orients <g> on Juliet are (re)couched in a
[blurred] Platonic idiom.

Throughout his work, if there is an interplay, it's between the
Petrarchist and Platonic conventions of love

Robin Hamilton

[HEALTH WARNING:  The above remarks are both exaggerated and
oversimplified.]

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