http://www.millersv.edu/~english/homepage/duncan/medfem/fact3a.html

The Main Characteristics of Courtly Love

A. Kleinbach

Courtly Love
Main characteristics:
1. The poet sings the joy of his love, which is an exalted feeling.
2. He praises and extols the woman he loves, who is superior and can be approached only with veneration and restraint.
3. Love is a passion that affects the lover's body and soul and tends to unbalance him (love-sickness). Points 1-3 are sort of general and could be made about love poetry in many different cultures. What gives medieval "courtly love" its peculiar character is the following:
4. The lover becomes his lady's servant. Her love must be difficult to obtain, and he must prove his valor and faithfulness. The relation between lady and lover is envisioned, often in the poetic imagery used as well as in manuscript illustrations, as a transfer of the feudal relationship between lord and vassal (homage). NB: In the early nineteenth century, Italians still cultivated a very similar relationship in which the male lover became the "cavaliere serviente" of a lady, usually not his wife. Notice the medieval wording.
5. The effect of this love is that the male lover becomes ennobled in his whole being, including his fighting power, social mores, and moral and religious attitudes. "Courtly love" thus becomes the force that generates courtliness or courtesy.
6. In some cases, this ennoblement is caused by the very thought of the beloved lady.

Courtly Love

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