Medieval Love Poetry

Question: How do any of the following poets’ views on love compare? – Ibn Zaydun, Arnaut Daniel, Guido Guinizzelli, Guido Cavalcanti, Petrarch, and Louise Labé.

While all the medieval poets listed above mainly wrote poetry about courtly love, their interpretations of the process and their thoughts on love itself varied quite dramatically. Ibn Zaydun and Petrarch were very similar in their thoughts on love. Their poetry definitely embodied the idea of courtly love, in the sense that the males in the poetry longs very emotionally for their loved ones. However, in both cases, those loved ones were incredibly distant from the males and were seen mostly as objects for adoration. Love was written exclusively on an emotional level, which is strange given that both poets completely ignored one half of a relationship, by never really giving any perspective on the distant females that were being adored by the poets. Louise Labe, a female medieval poet, was unique in that he explored almost the same emotions that the previous poets did, except from the female perspective instead. However, despite writing about females, most of the characters in her poetry had the same emotional ties to their loves as the characters talking about their loves ones in Zaydun’s and Petrarch poems.

Arnaut Daniel, unlike the previous poets, does not refer to loves ones as being distant, but simply unreachable due to position. Daniel also seems to disagree with Guido Guinizzelli. Guinizzelli wrote heavily about how love could “always repair” the “noble heart.” He seemed to imply even unfulfilled love had its benefits. However, Daniel mentions in his poetry that if his love is not reciprocated, his love “murders” him and “sends herself to hell.” Guide Cavalcanti was another poet who disagreed with Guinizzelli in that he saw love as a neutral yet powerful emotion whose results were dictated by those in love. He did not simply see love as always beneficial. As shown, there were clearly many different interpretations of love by medieval poets.


2 thoughts on “Medieval Love Poetry

  1. I found it interesting how the emotional relationships you describe in courtly love persists in today’s culture as well, particularly in “romantic songs”. In today’s culture, songs revolve primarily around sex, love and romance, and at the romance level songs do tend to focus on the male aspect of adoration and love as opposed to emphasizing the female’s emotions, unless it was written by a female artist. This is particularly evident in classic old songs from the 1980s and 90s. It seems courtly love has impacted the way that we perceive love even today, although the whether or not that is all bad is debatable.

  2. No matter what time period one lives in, love is valued differently by everyone on earth. Due to positive and negative past experiences, the way that they were brought up, or their surroundings. Love has different effects on people where it can either make you a better person (as Cavalcanti believes), ruin your life (as Guinizelli believes), or when a relationship is one sided, it may just kill you (as Daniel believed). Overall, love cannot have one true definition but there are multiple meanings depending on each individual.

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