"Richard, Duke of Aquitaine, son of the King of England,
remained with Philip, the King of France, who so honored him for so
long that they ate every day at the same table and from the same
dish, and at night their beds did not separate them. And the King
of France loved him as his own soul; and they loved each other so
much that the King of England was absolutely astonished at the
vehement love between them and marveled at what it could
Public avowals of love between men were common from antiquity
through the Middle Ages. What do these expressions leave to
interpretation? An extraordinary amount, as Stephen Jaeger
Unlike current efforts to read medieval culture through modern
mores, Stephen Jaeger contends that love and sex in the Middle Ages
relate to each other very differently than in the postmedieval
period. Love was not only a mode of feeling and desiring, or an
exclusively private sentiment, but a way of behaving and a social
ideal. It was a form of aristocratic self-representation, its
social function to show forth virtue in lovers, to raise their
inner worth, to increase their honor and enhance their reputation.
To judge from the number of royal love relationships documented, it
seems normal, rather than exceptional, that a king loved his
favorites, and the courtiers and advisors, clerical and lay, loved
their superiors and each other.
Jaeger makes an elaborate, accessible, and certain to be
controversial, case for the centrality of friendship and love as
aristocratic lay, clerical, and monastic ideals. Ennobling
Love is a magisterial work, a book that charts the social
constructions of passion and sexuality in our own times, no less
than in the Middle Ages.
Subjects: Language & Literature
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