Courtly Love

In the chapter “Vendange” (Part 1), the young Sophie is met in the vineyard by Guy Lorrain, Louis Barat’s boyhood friend and the narrator of half of the novel. She is twelve years old; he is a twenty-two-year-old law student in Paris and has come home to help with the grape harvest. The work has almost ended for the day, and he approaches the imaginative young girl, asking her who she is for the day.  She answers that she is Marie de Champagne–the daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine–whose Court of Love in the 12th century spawned the famous rules of “Courtly Love,” probably penned by her chaplain Andreas Capellanus in 1184.

These rules, which presuppose a passionate but unfulfilled (and thus increasingly passionate . . . ) relationship between a man and a woman, informed the literature and music of the day.  Dante’s obsession with Beatrice Portinari (to whom he may never even have spoken!) provides an excellent example of this. And in Dante’s case, his beloved acquires a spiritual status: Beatrice becomes for him a theophanic object—a way for Dante to access God. (This is an idea that was popular with Sufi poets of the period as well.)


It is logical that the imaginative and story-loving Sophie would have been drawn to these rules, growing up as she did in the part of France that spawned them. (Champagne borders Burgundy, and in fact the town of Joigny was at one time part of Champagne!) She and Célestine have been reading Capellanus’ De Amore in the Lorrain family library. In this scene, Guy falls readily into Sophie’s game by identifying himself as the chaplain, and the two go on to recite several of the rules from memory.  Guy, as we might expect, recites those rules which embody the life-long (but unexpressed!) love he will feel for Sophie; Sophie predictably responds with a rule that asserts the requirement for love to be based in good character.

The full set of 31 rules is below:

1. Marriage should not be a deterrent to love.

2. Love cannot exist in the individual who cannot be jealous.

3. A double love cannot obligate an individual.

4. Love constantly waxes and wanes.

5. That which is not given freely by the object of one’s love loses its savor.

6. It is necessary for a male to reach the age of maturity in order to love.

7. A lover must observe a two-year widowhood after his beloved’s death.

8. Only the most urgent circumstances should deprive one of love.

9. Only the insistence of love can motivate one to love.

10. Love cannot coexist with avarice.

11. A lover should not love anyone who would be an embarrassing marriage choice.

12. True love excludes all from its embrace but the beloved.

13. Public revelation of love is deadly to love in most instances.

14. The value of love is commensurate with its difficulty of attainment.

15. The presence of one’s beloved causes palpitation of the heart.

16. The sight of one’s beloved causes palpitations of the heart.

17. A new love brings an old one to a finish.

18. Good character is the one real requirement for worthiness of love.

19. When love grows faint its demise is usually certain.

20. Apprehension is the constant companion of true love.

21. Love is reinforced by jealousy.

22. Suspicion of the beloved generates jealousy and therefore intensifies love.

23. Eating and sleeping diminish greatly when one is aggravated by love.

24. The lover’s every deed is performed with the thought of his beloved in mind.

25. Unless it please his beloved, no act or thought is worthy to the lover.

26. Love is powerless to hold anything from love.

27. There is no such thing as too much of the pleasure of one’s beloved.

28. Presumption on the part of the beloved causes suspicion in the lover.

29. Aggravation of excessive passion does not usually afflict the true lover.

30. Thought of the beloved never leaves the true lover.

31. Two men may love one woman or two women one man.

For more on Courtly Love, see

Further listening:  Bel que m’eus chant, a troubadour song written by Raimon de Miraval, a Provençal knight of the late 12th / early 13th century.

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