A comparison of the courtly lady and the major female characters in Spenser's The Faerie queene



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Courtly Love, with its idealized lady who is disdainful of an abject and despondent lover, is important in much of the lover literature of the Middle Ages. In the troubadour songs, Andreas Capellanus' The Art of Courtly Love, Chretien de Troyes' romances, Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun's The Romance of the Rose, and Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, a basic figure of the courtly lady is present. The ways in which she is used, however, differ greatly. At certain times her favor implies social security and acceptance by the class in power, while at other times the lover's courtship of her is suggestive of man's concern with his spiritual condition. In The Faerie Queene Edmund Spenser denies Courtly Love as a valid basis for a relationship between a man and a woman ridiculing its artificiality, its unnaturalness, and its incompleteness of purpose through various episodes in the poem in which he writes specifically of Courtly Love, In other episodes in which his concern lies with other matters, Spenser reverts to the usages of the courtly lady as suggestive of social and spiritual goals and the means by which these goals may be attained. Spenser addes significantly to the relationship which existed between the courtly lady and her lover by emphasizing the spiritual dimension of romantic love and the proper exercise of that love within the framework of Christian marriage.