De Amore by Andreas Capellanus

De Amore, written by Andreas Capellanus, is a treatise about the art of courtly love, reflecting also the thought of the 12th century.

With scholastic precision, Andreas answers questions like “ What is love, and what are its effects?”, “Between whom can it exist, and how is it acquired, augmented or diminished, retained or terminated ?” or “What is the duty of one lover when the other proves unfaithful ?” His chief concern is showing whom the lover should choose for his love, how he may win her, and how her favor may be retained.

He answers his questions by means of eight imaginary conversations between model lovers of various ranks. He deals with the love of clerks, monks, courtesans, and rustics, condemning love which is acquired by means of money, as well as that obtained easily.

Chapter seven of the second book contains twenty-one decisions rendered by noble ladies on disputed points of love. Chapter eight gives the thirty-one rules stamped by the authority of the God of Love himself. Besides the rules, there is also a short code of twelve, revealed to a knight during his vision of the Palace of Love. These two codes sum up the whole doctrine of Andreas.

His third and last book is entitled De Reprobatione Amoris, and is modeled on Ovid's Remedia. Throughout the work there are references to Eleanor of Aquitaine, Ermengarde of Narbonne, and the Countess Marie of Champagne, whose theories inspired Andreas to write his treatise. Overall, the book offers the means to understand the principles and laws governing the art of courtly love.

The principles outlined in “De Amore” are as follows:

1.Courtly love is sensual. Andreas Capellanus defines love as a passion arising from the contemplation of beauty in the opposite sex, and it is on this definition that the whole system rests. The sensual element contrasts with the high ideals of conduct and character presented in parallel throughout the book, but this discrepancy is according to the love as it was practised by the courtly society. Though essentially impure, it was yet exalted as ennobling of every virtue.

2. Courtly love is illicit and, for the most part, adulterous. In the courtly love system marriage has no place. It is the first law of the longer code, which frankly states that a woman cannot plead marriage as a sufficient excuse for denying a lover's petition.

3. A love, sensual and illicit, must be secret and furtive. The shorter code lays this down as a law. The longer version adds, as the reason, that a love which is divulged rarely lasts. Despite the moral laxness of the society out of which the courtly love grew, there were many to whom these ideas were morally repugnant.

4. In order to meet the requirements of the courtly system, love must not be too easily obtained. This principle is seen at work when the capriciousness of the lady is causing all the lover's woes as they are described in the poems of the troubadours.

According to Capellanus, love should always be associated with courtesy and largess, being always banished from the domicile of avarice. He believes that love makes the rude excel in grace, and those of low birth show a noble character.

No breach of the rules could be more serious than for a lover, woman or man, to be unfaithful. This idea also appears in other erotic literature of the period, as well as in the following centuries. Supplanting was also strictly forbidden.

Sensualism aside, the high position held by woman in the society of the time, and the reverence with which she was regarded caused the high ideals of the courtly system. This stands, not only in matters of etiquette, but of honor as well. Though sensual love underlay the system, voluptuousness was regarded as killing the real love, and the lover was required to show nobility of character and moderation in all his conduct.

De Amore by Andreas Capellanus not only describes the principles and laws of the art of courtly love, but also offers an insight into the medieval society of the 12th century.