The twelfth century was divided into two phases: Early Middle Ages or Dark Agesand the High Middle Ages. Its during the High Middle Ages when things startedto take a turn both mentally and physically. Churches developed more stamina andpapal bureaucracy was created. The government was revived. Urbanizationincreased and most of all a sudden increase was brought in culturalrevitalization and courtly love was an important aspect of this awakening.
Courtly love is defined as humility, courtesy, adultery and religion of love.
This is what I believe Abelardss and Heloises relationship was based on inAbelards Historia Calamitatum and his letters to Heloise. Abelard was awell-known figure of the twelfth century that taught dialectic philosophy.
Abelard was in his late thirties when he first met Heloise in Paris. And it washer knowledge and gift for writing letters, which was so rare in women at thetimes that attracted Abelard to her. Heloise was the niece of one of theCannons. She was about seventeen when she met Abelard; this was not considered abig deal for back then it was pretty common to have big age difference inmarriages. Heloise was considered atypical because women were rarely educated atall back then. She was strong willed and she had a pretty good sense of logicand this is what brought them together. Heloise struck a deal with Heloisesuncle to educate her and gained full access to her pleasures. Their relationshipencompassed the maximum in personal freedom. “Her studies allowed us towithdraw in private, as love desired and then with our books open before us,more words of our love than of our reading passed between us, and more kissingthan teaching. (Radice 67). Later Heloise became pregnant and Abelard could notsuccessfully sidestep the rules of the society because the society of a timejust wouldnt accept a premarital sexual affair. I believe Abelard and Heloisegot engaged in the first “modern” love affair. Because they enjoyed eachother both sexually and intellectually, just as how its perceived intodays world. Though Heloises attitude towards marriage and love was quitedifferent from the other women of the twelfth century. She resisted the idea ofmarriage because she thought it was more of an economical and political ideathan real love and that she would rather be called a whore or a mistress insteadof a wife. (Radice 74). This tells us about her individuality and also that shedidnt consider marriage part of love unlike most of the women of her time.
Love is portrayed in many forms in this book. Like for example love of learning.
The first thing Abelard does in his writing of Historia Calamitatum is portrayhimself as an individual just like Heloise. He denounced the popular andglorious life of a soldier and in order to study words and philosophy. I believein writing this he shows his clever and different way of thinking by referringto dialectic. “I chose the weapons of dialectic to all the other teachings ofphilosophy and armed with these, I chose the conflict of disputation instead oftrophies of war.” (Radice 58). In the beginning Abelards and Heloisesrelationship was based heavily on passionate love. So later after their entryinto religion, Heloise accused Abelard of lust rather than love for her, which Ibelieve, is not true. “It was desire, not affection which bound you to me, theflame of lust rather than love. This is not merely my opinion, beloved, it iseveryones.” (Radice 116). I wouldnt agree with Heloise here. Abelard wasmostly attracted to her because of her knowledge and because of her gift ofwriting letters. Also he worried about her as much as he was concerned abouthimself and his career. He agreed to marry Heloise even though it would put hiscareer and reputation in danger. Also at one time he says “all our lamentswere for one anothers troubles and our distress for each other, not forourselves.” (Radice 69). I dont think this would fall under lust because ifhe had only desired sex then he wouldnt have cared for her the way he did.
Abelard and Heloises relationship was based on courtly love of their time andalso I believe that their love was the creation of modern ideal of marriagewhich was founded on the voluntarily shared tenderness of a couple who sheltereach other from the harshly competitive world, just like todays.