dogs better pets than cats in medieval European literature

medieval dog attacking murderer of its master

In medieval European literature, a dog was celebrated as man’s best friend. The proverbial cat was commonly associated with the devil.[1] Both dogs and cats were kept within homes as pets. Both had some unfavorable aspects and associations.[2] Overall, dogs had a better medieval reputation as pets than did cats.

Disliked aspects of dogs were bad temper, barking, and attacking. The Distaff Gospels, a French text probably composed in the mid-fifteenth century, explained:

When you hear dogs howling, you must put your fingers in your ears and not listen to them, because they bring bad news … If you don’t want to be attacked or barked at by dogs, by day or night, you should have a piece of good roasted cheese and give it to them while saying: In camo et freno, et cetera {In camo et freno maxillas eorum constringe qui non approximant ad te (with bit and bridle bind fast their jaws who come not near to you)} and they will not disturb you. Lovers should be aware of this trick. [3]

Feeding a dog a piece of bread for the offertory at the following Sunday mass was thought to prevent the dog from becoming bad-tempered. The first brood of puppies from a house dog were to be drowned, for they were sure to grow up to be “vicious and dangerous.”[4] Ancient literature contains a variety of disparaging references to dogs. That in part reflects dogs being non-humans, yet closely associated with humans.[5]

Compared to dogs, medieval cats presented more imaginative dangers. A tenth-century Latin allegorical poem referred to “the cat, drunken and immersed in wickedness.”[6] A twelfth-century Latin literary text describes a man as:

like THE CAT, which at one moment has the sweetest face and softest, smoothest fur on the outside. But pull its tail, then it will show its claws on all four feet and tear your hands to shreds unless you quickly let it go.[7]

The Distaff Gospels declared:

If you don’t want to be on your guard against your male cat, you must cut a piece, the size of your palm, out of its tail because, once it is four years old, it thinks night and day about how to strangle its master.[8]

At the gates of the Greco-Roman underworld was the multi-headed dog Cerberus. Unlike dogs, cats tend to lurk and spring unsuspectingly. That may have encouraged the medieval association of cats, rather than dogs, with the devil.

Dogs were working animals and beloved pets in medieval Europe. Dogs were valued for hunting, herding, and guarding. Long before the Middle Ages, stories told of dogs loyalty and devotion to their owners. The eleventh-century Latin romance parody Ruodlieb included an account of a noble hunting dog that sensed and attacked a person who stole from his master.[9] Another story originating in ancient India told of a dog that saved a baby from a snake. The dog was wrongly killed through mistaken belief that he had killed the baby. In thirteenth-century Europe, such a dog was venerated as a martyr-saint.[10] Small dogs were the “medieval pet par excellence.”[11] They were given names, sometimes overfed with fine food, and loved as loyal companions.

Cats were also valued in medieval European households. Cats killed house mice and provided companionship. Late in the sixteenth century, Cesare Orsini praised his cat in an epitaph:

The cat is described as his light and dearest companion, who is always around day and night. Even when the owner {Orsini} is called to supper, the cat wanted to give “a thousand caresses” and coaxed tidbits from the dishes. The cat is described as constantly following him whenever he steps into the hall and is ready to lie down in front of the owner whenever it detects that he is melancholy. … The cat follows him into his study, prowling and pawing around his books and letters. It thus becomes the perfect scholar’s companion, rousing him from unhappy thoughts, and sitting on his desk and leaping over his books to provide amusement. … The cat jumps into his lap with gentle paws, climbs up on his shoulders, licks his face, purrs to the delight of his owner’s ears and playfully bites his hand.[12]

Orsini’s epitaph applies equally well to a scholar and cat in the medieval period. Suggesting a context of animosity toward intrusive and jealous cats, the Distaff Gospels advised:

Young men should not hate cats because they are the cause of great happiness and can assist in achieving success in matters of love with young and charming ladies. [13]

Cats were thought to protect their caretakers from bears, cows, and husbands who turn into goblins at night. The Distaff Gospels counseled:

If you have a good cat and you don’t want to lose it, you must rub its nose and four legs with butter for three days, and it will never leave the house.

A specific cat that purred, played, and pleased could easily overcome the abstract association of cats with the devil.

While the relative merits of dogs and cats today is a matter of bitter controversy, dogs were generally regarded as superior in medieval Europe. The great twelfth-century scholar, writer, and public figure Hildegard of Bingen praised the loyalty and perceptiveness of dogs. She also declared that the Devil hates dogs for their loyalty. Hildegard described cats as disloyal and remaining with persons only for food.[14] The fifteenth-century Distaff Gospels offered a more extreme evaluation of dogs versus cats:

another woman said: “Just as has been said before: if you love your dog, you love your own good. If you kill your cat, you kill your trouble.” [15]

Women’s superiority to men is now well-accepted in authoritative literature. When women today acknowledge the superiority of dogs, men will be better loved.

medieval woman holding dog

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[1] Alcuin, Letter 181 (eighth century), from Latin trans. Ziolkowski (1993) p. 242. Walker-Meikle (2012) pp. 12-3.

[2] Images of dogs in medieval art are available here and here. Both posts use “dogs — man’s best friend” as a cliché. Medieval literature actually described a dog as a man’s best friend. Images of cats in medieval art are available here and here.

[3] Distaff Gospels (Paris manuscript), Day II, 45th gospel; Day III, 13th gospel, from French trans. Jeay & Garay (2006) pp. 219, 237.

[4] Distaff Gospels (Paris manuscript) Day III, 10th gospel, 31st gospel, from French trans. id. pp. 235, 243.

[5] Menache (1997) reviews disparaging references to dogs in ancient literature. Id., p. 1. claims, “there is clear opposition to dogs on the part of institutionalized religion.” Perhaps eventually recognizing that claim to be untenable, Menarche (1997) added the ad hoc claim:

When Western society freed itself of the protective bounds of ecclesiastical repression, the canine species was liberated from its religious image and the negative connotations inferred thereby.

Id. p. 39.  The “long journey toward humanism and a more harmonious perception of the universe” allegedly was sufficient completed in the thirteenth-century so that the Christian church no longer opposed dogs. Id. pp. 38-9. That’s ludicrous.

Human religions tend to privilege humans. Dogs, the earliest domesticated animals, serve as a salient figure for non-humans. Calling a person a dog thus serves as disparaging as non-human or sub-human. See, e.g., Revelations 22:15. Institutionalized religions don’t, however, particularly oppose dogs relative to other animals such as pigs and asses. The story of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus / Companions of the Cave, celebrated in early Christian and Islamic literature, has a dog as the loyal companion to religious heroes. Abbot Thierry of St. Trond’s early twelfth-century Latin poem, “Weep, Dogs” laments the death of Pitulus, a “beloved dog.” Ziolkowski (1993) pp. 272-3. The influential, twelfth-century abbess Hildegard of Bingen praised dogs as pets. In medieval Europe, clerics commonly kept dogs as pets. Walker-Meikle (2012) pp. 3, 8.

Menache (1998) documents literary evidence of the long, mutually beneficial association of dogs and human beings. That association encompasses societies in which monotheistic religions have predominated.

[6] Eugenius Vulgarius, Carmen 11 (tenth century), from Latin trans. Ziolkowski (1993) p. 111.

[7] Response to Richard de Fournival’s Bestiaire d’amour, from French trans. Beer (1986) p. 50.

[8] Distaff Gospels (Paris manuscript), Day III, 17th gospel, from French trans. Jeay & Garay (2006) p. 239.

[9] Ruodlieb X, trans. Kratz (1984). Pliny the Elder’s Natural History, Book 8, Ch. 62, praises the loyalty of dogs and describes a dog detecting and attacking his master’s murderer.

[10] Schmitt (1983).

[11] Walker-Meikle (2012) p. 10.

[12] Cesare Orisini (lived about 1570 to 1640), Alla gatta uccisa, summarized in Walker-Meikle (2012) p. 99.

[13] Distaff Gospels (Paris manuscript), Day II, 40th gospel, from French trans. Jeay & Garay (2006) p. 217. The subsequent quote is from Day III, 16th gospel, trans. id. p. 237. On cats providing protection, Distaff Gospels (Chantilly manuscript), Day IV, para. 8-9, trans. id. pp. 251, 253.

[14] Hildegard of Bingen, Physica, cited in Walker-Meikle (2012) pp. 8, 11.

[15] Distaff Gospels (Paris manuscript), Day II, 48th gospel, from French trans. Jeay & Garay (2006) p. 219.

[image] (1) Dog identifying and attacking the murderer of its master. Bestiary and various theological texts. 1st quarter of 13th century, England. f. 21, British Library Royal 12 C XIX. (2) Bernger von Horheim and woman holding dog. Between 1305 and 1340, Germany. fol. 178r, Codex Manesse, UB Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. germ. 848. Thanks to the University of Heidelberg and Wikimedia Commons.


Beer, Jeanette M. A., trans. 1986. Master Richard’s Love bestiary and response. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Jeay, Madeleine and Kathleen E. Garay, ed. and trans. 2006. The distaff gospels: a first modern English edition of Les évangiles des quenouilles. Peterborough, Ont: Broadview Editions.

Kratz, Dennis M., trans. 1984. Waltharius, and Ruodlieb. New York: Garland Pub.

Menache, Sophia. 1997. “Dogs: God’s Worst Enemies?Society & Animals. 5 (1): 23-44.

Menache, Sophia. 1998. “Dogs and Human Beings: A Story of Friendship.” Society & Animals. 6 (1): 67-86.

Schmitt, Jean-Claude. 1983. The holy greyhound: Guinefort, healer of children since the thirteenth century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Walker-Meikle, Kathleen. 2012. Medieval pets. Woodbridge: Boydell Press.

Ziolkowski, Jan M. 1993. Talking animals: medieval Latin beast poetry, 750-1150. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press.

De amore dialogically manipulated men’s protest of women

medieval man and woman playing chess

Discussing injuries that men suffer from women is commonly overtaken by claims that not all women are like that. Andreas Capellanus, writer of the medieval Latin treatise De amore, responded to “not all women are like that” claims with great sophistication. He insistently, categorically declared themes of men’s sexed protest while subtly invoking tedium, insincerity, and lack of reciprocity.

Men’s protest of women is commonly dismissed merely as men showing again and again that all men hate all women and always have. In De amore, Andreas initially demurred from criticizing women:

There is nothing in the world more distasteful or tedious than an over-detailed analysis of the nature or condition of women. Let us therefore pass over this topic at this time, so that we may avoid the reputation of somehow indicting nature because of women, and because the facts are known to any man of sense.

{ Mulieris enim qualitatem sive statum districtius agitare nil foedius vel magis taediosum reperitur in orbe. Sed haec omittamus ad praesens, ne qualitercunque credamur in eis accusare naturam, et quia cuilibet sunt manifesta prudenti. }[1]

After only a few more pages of text, Andreas then recited at length themes of men’s sexed protest in extreme form.[2] According to Andreas, all women are avaricious, envious, slanderers, fickle, disloyal, vainglorious, lustful, liars, drunkards, etc. Andreas repeatedly insisted that his criticisms apply to all women, without exception. For example, Andreas declared:

No woman is ever joined in such ardent love with a man that she does not devote all her brains to draining away her partner’s wealth. This rule of thumb is never found misleading; there are no exceptions to it.

{ nulla mulier in tanto cuiquam amoris zelo coniungitur quae toto mentis ingenio non laboret coamantis substantiam exhaurire. Et haec non reperitur regula fallax sed omni exceptione carere. }[3]

In a constructed dialogue between a man and woman of higher nobility, the woman protests:

If your ire is roused by my words, you ought to level abusive quotations against me alone. It is inappropriate to rage against all women in general because of the annoyance caused by one.

{ Si ex meis dictis vester sit animus concitatus, mihi soli debetis proverbia convitiosa rependere, et pro unius offensa contra omnes non decet vos mulieres generaliter desaevire. }[4]

Andreas warmly engaged as authorities the eminent and powerful near-contemporary women Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, Marie Countess of Champagne, the Countess of Flanders Isobel of Vermandois, Ermengarde Viscountess of Narbonne, Princess Marguérite, and other women. Surely Andreas’s extreme recital of themes of men’s sexed protest would have attracted the concern of friends, family and supporters of these eminent women, along with the women themselves if they were still living. Even if men hating women was so common as to be acceptable, Andreas would have had no interest in showing that he too hated women.

Medieval readers, who were more open and tolerant to diversity of expression than are many readers today, may have perceived in Andreas’s extreme criticism of women issues of sincerity and reciprocity. In disparaging women, Andreas declared:

No man could so rejoice in women’s intimacy or affection as to be able to know the secrets of her heart or the degree of sincerity with which she addresses him, for a woman trusts no man as friend, believing that all are utterly deceivers.

{ Nullus posset homo tanta mulieris familiaritate vel affectione gaudere, qui eius posset animi secreta cognoscere, vel qua sibi fide loquatur. Mulier enim neminem confidit amicum et quemlibet credit penitus deceptorem }[5]

The word “deceiver {deceptor}” echoes back to men Andreas’s categorical claims about women. In one of De amore’s exemplary dialogues, a woman of higher nobility said to a common man:

The mere fact of your ascribing to me the cunning of deceit and lying shows that you are pitted with the infection of the same vice, and that the thoughts enclosed in your heart are different from those you speak with a deceitful tongue.

{ dico enim quod ex eo solo, quod me fraudis dicis et mendacii habere calliditatem, ostendis te eiusdem erroris contagio maculari et aliud in corde retinere conceptum aliudque fallaci lingua proferre. }

This vicious circle of reciprocal deceit destroys trust and makes communication, friendship, and love impossible.

Classification of persons is one possible response to the deadlock of annihilating, reciprocal deceit. Andreas distinguished honorable, praiseworthy women from other women:

I do not state all this with the intention of detracting from honorable women as a class, but out of eagerness to rebuke the lives of those who do not blush basely to dishonor by their deeds the ranks of the venerable band of women and to debase them under the lying pretext of love. God forbid that we should ever wish or be able to make covert attacks on the deeds of praiseworthy women, or in this treatise detract from them in any sense.

{ Non autem haec asserimus quasi honorabilium volentes mulierum generi derogare, sed earum cupientes arguere vitam, quae reverendi mulierum coetus suis turpiter actibus non erubent dehonestare militiam et sub amoris commento profanare. Absit enim nos unquam velle vel posse laudabilium feminarum actibus insidiari vel eis in aliquo praesenti derogare libello. }[6]

Drouart la Vache, who adapted De amore into French verse in 1290, distinguished between good and bad women. He declared that what he said applied only to bad women. Johann Hartlieb, who translated De amore into German about 1440, similarly distinguished between good and bad women.[7] In promoting his French translation and refutation of the Latin Lamentationes Matheoluli about 1385, Jehan Le Fèvre did likewise.

Men’s distinctions between good and bad women in men’s protest are suspect. Sexed protest shouldn’t be necessary among good women and good men. As for bad women and bad men, few are likely to acknowledge themselves as bad. The distinction between good and bad persons in sexed protest tends to generate disjoint understandings of good men protesting bad women versus good women protesting bad men. In practice, distinguishing between good and bad women tends to be associated with men seeking to gain the good will and support of powerful women.

De amore hints at an alternative to classifying persons as good and bad in responding to men’s sexed protest. Andreas began his recital of women’s vices with lack of reciprocity in love:

You could never find the reciprocal love you look for in a woman. No women ever loved her husband, nor can she ever bind herself to a lover with a reciprocal bond of love.

{ Amorem namque mutuum, quem in femina quaeris, invenire non poteris. Non enim aliqua unquam dilexit femina virum nec amanti mutuo se novit amoris vinculo colligare. }[8]

Andreas ended his recital of themes from the literature of men’s sexed protest with a similar lament for love:

For a woman does not love with feelings from the heart. … no woman could be united in so close a bond of love to a partner that she does not begin to grow cold towards the usual consolations, and soon become a stranger to her partner once she gets no homage of presents to acknowledge. So it seems that no man of sense fittingly binds himself to a woman’s affection, because she never continues to reciprocate anyone’s love.

{ Mulier siquidem hominem cordis affectione non amat … nulla praeterea femina tanto posset coamanti dilectionis vinculo colligari, si munerum ipsa semper suffragia non agnoscat, quae circa solita non incipiat tepidare solatia et suo coamanti non fiat cito peregrina. Neminem ergo videtur decere prudentem feminae se affectui obligare, quia nemini mutuum servat amorem }

Andreas’s outrageous, extreme recital of themes of men’s protest of women could easily generate hate for hate. At the same time, De amore’s ideology of men’s servitude to women in love is far from reciprocal. Jesus in the Gospels urges Christians to love their enemies.[9] De amore matches men’s love servitude to women with a challenge to women to love men who treat them as enemies.

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[1] De amore 3.52-3, Latin text and English trans. from Walsh (1982) pp. 302-3. All subsequent translations of De amore are similarly sourced and cited with page number in id.

[2] De amore 3.65-112, pp. 307-21. Book 3, from which this section comes, has received little serious critical analysis in the voluminous scholarship on De amore. For example, in more than 56 pages (pp. 84-5, 393-448) discussing De amore, Robertson (1962) devotes just over one page (p. 447) to Book 3.

[3] De amore 3.72, p. 309.

[4] De amore 1.6.500, p. 189. The man implicitly directed Genesis 3.6 at the woman:

it was the woman rather than the man who is first said to have served her belly against God’s command, and to have transgressed God’s orders through gluttony. And indeed the man himself would never have entered the service of the belly if he had not chanced first to be compelled to do so by the women’s excessive persuasion, deceived at her prompting.

{ ventri primo mulier quam masculus contra Dei mandatum legitur obsequia praestitisse et Dei praecepta propter gulam fuisse transgressa. Immo nec ipse masculus ventris unquam ministerio deservisset, nisi forte primitus ab ipsa muliere fuisset nimia suasione compulsus et ipsa instigante deceptus. }

1.6.499, p. 189. The woman responds that women are naturally “innocent and naive {innocentes et simplices}” and the male is “crafty and guileful in all things {callidus et dolosus in cunctis}.” Therefore the devil approached the woman first.  According to the woman, the devil’s recognition of woman’s innocent and man’s guile explains the fall:

If the temptation had begun with the man and had been completely unsuccessful there, the woman’s resolve would have been strengthened by his example.

{ si incepisset a viro tentatio et in eo omni prorsus caruisset effectu, suum viri exemplo mulier animum confirmasset. }

1.6.502, p. 191. This explanation partially shifts the blame for the fall to (not innocent) men.

[5] De amore 3.86, p. 313. The subsequent quote is 1.6.130, p. 77.

[6] De amore 1.9.19, p. 219.

[7] Wood (2015) pp. 121-3.

[8] De amore 3.65, p. 307. The subsequent quote is 3.110-2, p. 321.

[9] Matthew 5:43-4, Luke 6:27.

[image] King Otto IV of Brandenburg playing chess with a woman. Illustration from Codex Manesse, Zurich, between 1305 and 1340. UB Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. germ. 848, fol. 13r. Thanks to University of Hiedelberg and Wikimedia Commons.


Robertson, D. W. 1962. A Preface to Chaucer; studies in medieval perspectives. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Walsh, P.G., trans. 1982. Andreas Capellanus on love {De amore}. London: Duckworth.

Wood, Lucas. 2015. “The Art of Clerkly Love: Drouart la Vache Translates Andreas Capellanus.” Pp. 113-49 iu Glei, Reinhold and Wolfgang Polleichtner, eds. 2015. Medievalia et humanistica: studies in medieval and renaissance culture. New series, number 40.

varieties of dread game in Andreas Capellanus’s De amore

love scene: woman reading note from man

Dread game is a well-recognized technique in the modern empirical science of seduction. In the seduction literature, faking an extramarital affair is a standard prescription for a husband seeking to rekindle his wife’s sexual desire for him.[1] Dread game can be divided into two types: natural and supernatural. Natural dread game involves dread of losing a lover to another. Supernatural dread game involves dread of other-worldly punishment for not loving a person. Andreas Capellanus’s medieval treatise On love {De amore} indicates that in medieval Europe, natural dread game was more important than supernatural dread game.

Supernatural dread game is well-represented in the ancient, widely disseminated weeping-dog tale. To seduce a married woman reluctant to take on a lover, an old-woman go-between showed her a small dog weeping from being feed meat heavily peppered surreptitiously. The go-between explained that the weeping dog was a beautiful woman who had been transformed into a dog because she refused to accept a lover. The married woman, horrified with facing that fate, agreed to accept as lover the man who had hired the go-between.[2]

In De amore, a nobleman tried to run supernatural dread game on a noblewoman. After she rejected his proposition for sex, he declared, “Then hear the endless punishment awaiting you {Audias igitur poenas tibi sine fine paratas}.”[3] He told the story of a squire who saw a procession of riders. Leading the procession was the god of Love. The god of Love rewards and punishes persons “depending on whether their achievements in life have been good or evil {prout bene vel male gessit in vita}.” A beautiful woman riding an ugly, limping horse explained to the squire that the last group in the procession is women, like her, who refused all lovers. They are “the army of the dead {exercitus mortuorum}”:

those who follow last of all in so mean an assemblage, walking along in miserable garments, deprived of any kind of assistance, and wearied with pains of every sort (you can clearly witness them with your own eyes, and I too have been thrust into their company), are the most pitiable of all women who during life closed the palace of Love on all who wished to enter, and refused to give answer according to their deserts even to those performing good deeds or seeking a motive or support from them for doing good. Instead they repulsed all who asked to serve in the army of Love; they rejected them as though they found them loathsome. They gave no thought to him who is called the god of Love, in whose army those who sought their love were striving to serve.  … Besides this punishment, we have been sentenced to many other kinds of torments which none could know unless schooled by experience. It would be impossible for me to tell them, and quite hard for you to hear them. So women still living in the world should beware not to become our partners in these punishments, for after death no repentance will avail them.

{ Quae vero ultimo loco sequuntur tam vili compositione dispositae et habitu incedentes abiecto et quibuslibet carentes auxiliis omnique poenarum genere fatigatae, ut manifeste potes oculis conspicere propriis, in quarum et ego sum inserta collegio, sunt iliae omnium mulierum miserrimae, quae dum viverent cunctis amoris intrare palatium clausere volentibus nec aliquibus bona facientibus vel ab iis benefaciendi causam et favorem petentibus voluerunt pro meritis respondere, sed omnes amoris postulantes deservire militiae abiecerunt et tanquam sibi odiosos repulerunt, eum non recolentes omnino qui deus amoris dicitur, cui militare quaerebant qui postulabant amari. … Praeterea tot sumus aliis poenarum addictae generibus, quas nullus posset nisi per experientiam scire docentem, quod mihi narrare impossibile tibique satis esset audire difficile. Caveant ergo mulieres in saeculo viventes ne harum sint nobis consortes poenarum, quia post mortem nulla sibi poterit poenitudine subveniri. }

After this lesson in carpe diem, the woman guide showed the squire “greater and sterner punishment {maiores et duriores poenae}” for women who refused all lovers. These women rested in a place of “Dryness {Siccitas}”:

each of the women was prepared there a seat on a bundle of thorns, … which was always being rotated, so that the women were more painfully scratched by the points of the thorns, and their bare soles touched the red-hot earth. Such was the pain and suffering there that I can hardly believe it equaled amongst the very demons of Hell.

{ Ibi autem cuilibet illarum super spinarum fuit sedes parata fasciculo, … deputatos semper fasciculus movebatur, ut acrius spinarum dilacerarentur aculeis, et nudis plantis ignitum pertingebant solum. Tantus quidem dolor tantaque ibi erat afflictio quantam vix crederem inter ipsas Tartareas potestates adesse. }

This depiction of topical torment in a supernatural realm wasn’t enough to prompt the noblewoman to rush to have sex with the tale-teller. She declared that she would test potential lovers for worthiness and accept only a worthy one.

De amore ascribes more effectiveness to natural compared to supernatural dread game. Natural dread game is based on jealousy. According to De amore, sexual jealousy is intrinsic to sexual love: “jealousy is of the nature of love itself and without which true love cannot exist {ipsius amoris substantia, sine qua verus amor esse non potest, scilicet zelotypia}.”[4] Moreover, jealousy increases love:

Love again experiences increase when genuine jealousy preoccupies one of the lovers, for jealousy is called the nurturer of love. In fact even if the lover is oppressed not by genuine jealousy but by base suspicions, love always increases because of it, and becomes more powerful by its own strength.

{ Amor praeterea tunc quoque sumit augmentum, quum alterum amantium zelotypia vera detentat, quae quidem nutrix vocatur amoris. Immo et si amans non zelotypia vera sed turpi suspicione laboret, amor semper tamen inde cognoscit augmentum et sua fit virtute potentior. }

Jealousy is discussed throughout De amore. Three out of the thirty-one rules of love explicitly reference jealousy. De amore describes dread game in the context of testing love:

If a man wishes really to ascertain the good faith and affections of his lover, he should most circumspectly and skillfully pretend to his partner that he desires the embraces of another, and is beginning to visit her neighborhood more than usual. If he sees that his partner is upset because of this, he can assume that her love is secure, and that she is embedded in it with the utmost constancy. For when one of a pair of lovers suspects that the other is thriving on the embraces of a new love, or is contemplating some such, darts at once begin fiercely to assail her heart and mind, and to wound her inwardly with unbearable jealousy; and her face begins at once to show clearly her inner torment of mind.

{ Ad haec qui coamantis fidem atque affectum vera cupit indagatione cognoscere, cautissime et subtiliter simulare debet amanti quod alterius concupiscat amplexus, et eius ultra solitum incipiat frequentare viciniam. Ob quam rem si suam cognoverit coamantem animo turbari, eam vero credat in amore firmatam et in eo constantissime solidari. Nam, quum unus amantium [aspiciatur] novi amoris amplexibus enutriri vel de eo quomodolibet cogitare suspicatur amantem, statim in corde et animo vehementer incipit iaculari et intolerabili quodam zelo intrinsecus vulnerari. Cuius animi dolorem intrinsecum eius statim evidenter incipit facies indicare. }

The use of dread game for invigorating love isn’t explicitly described, but De amore clearly supports it. In De amore, supernatural dread game generates a skeptical, conditional response: “If your assertion is true … whether your account is true or false {Si vera sunt quae tua proponit assertio … Sive igitur vera sint sive falsa quae proponis.”[5] Natural dread game, in contrast, is closely linked to the jealousy necessary for love.

Through false stereotypes of the Dark Ages, the cultural circumstances of medieval Europe have been deeply misunderstood. Shaping human behavior with supernatural understanding is much more difficult than shaping behavior with interpersonal schemes. For economically reinvigorating sexual love, dread game is men’s rational choice.

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[1] Dread game is much less effective for women to apply to men. Men are more likely to respond to dread game with anger and ejection from the relationship. The implications of gender asymmetry in parental knowledge for evolutionary psychology provides a plausible reason for sex asymmetry in effects of dread game.  In any case, women who engage in extra-pair sex should be concerned for secrecy. Secrecy is of considerable concern in De amore. See, e.g. 1.6.5-6, 1.6.269, 2.1.1, 2.8.46.

[2] The Lai du Trot, probably written only slightly before De amore, most likely was the source for the first part of the supernatural dread game in De amore. The Lai du Trot describes a procession of two groups on horseback. One group consists of one hundred and sixty happy alluring maidens with their elegantly dressed, beloved men. They all ride rapidly, smoothly, and happily on richly equipped horses. The other group consists of a hundred miserable maidens on poorly equipped, emaciated, weary horses moving in a slow, painful trot. A hundred men, as miserable as the maidens, follow unloved behind them. For the French text with English translation, Burgess & Brock (1999). Day 5, Story 8 (story of Nastagio degli Onesti) in Boccacio’s Decameron is an alternate version of supernatural dread game. Supernatural dread game is also known as the purgatory of cruel beauties. For discussion of other versions of supernatural dread game / purgatory of cruel beauties, Neilson (1900) and Battles (2003).

[3] De amore, 1.5.229, Latin text and English trans. from Walsh (1982) pp. 104-5.  The subsequent five quotes are from De amore 1.5.240-263, trans id. pp. 109-115.

[4] De amore 1.6.371, trans. id. p. 147. Similarly, De amore 1.6.377 and 1.6.399. The subsequent two quotes are from De amore 2.2.2, p. 229, and De amore 2.5.6-7, p. 237. On the latter, see the case ruling at De amore 2.7.6-8 (case 2), p. 253.

[5] De amore 1.6.276, id. p. 119.

[image] Woman and Alram von Gresten. Illustration from Codex Manesse, Zurich, between 1305 and 1315. UB Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. germ. 848, fol. 311r. Thanks to the University of Heidelberg and Wikimedia Commons.


Battles, Paul. 2003. “In folly ripe, in reason rotten: The Flower and the Leaf and the ‘Purgatory of Cruel Beauties.'” Medium Aevum 72: 238-258.

Burgess, Glyn S., and Leslie C. Brook, trans. 1999. Three old French narrative lays: Trot, Lecheor, Nabaret. Liverpool: University of Liverpool, Department of French.

Neilson, William Allan. 1900. “The purgatory of cruel beauties: a note on the sources of the 8th novel of the 5th day of the Decameron.” Romania 29: 85-93.

Walsh, P.G., trans. 1982. Andreas Capellanus on love {De amore}. London: Duckworth.

De amore: Andreas Capellanus’s second-sophistic rhetoric

Andreas Capellanus, De amore

Amid scholastics engaging in dialectic and courtiers entertaining with romance in France about the year 1180, Andreas Capellanus created a work of attention-seeking rhetoric. He wrote a formally scholastic Latin treatise On Love {De amore}.[1] He leavened it with romance, parable, fabliau, and wisdom. Rhetoric in medieval Europe typically meant eloquence and sense of decorum. Andreas Capellanus’s De amore is ponderous and morally mixed.[2] Superficially learned and provocative, De amore is a brilliant work of second-sophistic rhetoric in high-medieval Europe.[3]

Consider, for example, De amore’s teaching concerning a common man seeking sexual love with a common woman. In this, the first of eight class-distinguished sections on approaching women, Andreas warns against greeting women in a way appropriate for harlots. That’s best interpreted as an in-joke among elite men with some Ovidian learning.[4] Andreas instructs men to allow the woman to speak first. Medieval literature recognized that women tend to be more socially talkative than men. Apart from harlots in the street, women are also less likely than men to initiate conversation with unknown, opposite-sex adults. Andreas’s teaching makes sense as amusing rhetoric, not literal teaching of scientific or practical knowledge.

Andreas deploys scholastic language as amusing rhetoric. He explains that, upon accosting a woman:

Some men so lose their power of speech under the eyes of ladies that they forget those carefully devised remarks which they have arranged in the proper order of their minds, and they cannot develop the topic in its due order.

{ Sunt enim quidam qui in dominarum aspectu adeo loquendi vigorem amittunt quod bene concepta recteque in mente disposita perdunt, nec possunt aliquid ordine recto proponere }[5]

Andreas thus describes trying to chat up a common woman with scholastic terms for an orator’s tasks. Underscoring learned distance from reality, Andreas further and inconsistently counsels:

Their foolishness is clearly deserving of censure, for it is right that only a bold, sagely instructed man should present himself for conversations with ladies.

{ quorum satis videtur arguenda fatuitas. Non enim decet aliquem nisi audacem et sapienter instructum ad dominarum colloquia devenire. }

Andreas’s teaching plays on the surface of scholasticism in the incongruous field of heterosexual seduction.

Andreas also plays on the surface of courtly eloquence in the speech he prescribes for the common man. Imagine the common medieval man declaiming this speech to the common medieval woman:

When the divine Being fashioned you, he left himself with no further tasks. I see that your beauty is flawless, your wisdom also. No single quality in you remains imperfect, except that it seems to me that you enriched no man with your love. But I am most surprised that Love allows a woman so beautiful and so adorned with wisdom to soldier so long outside his camp. If only you begin to serve under Love’s banner, how happy above all others will he be whom you crown with your love! And if by my merits I were to deserve this great honor, no lover alive in the world could rightly be ranked with me.

{ Quando te divina formavit essentia, nulla sibi alia facienda restabant. Tuo decori nihil deesse cognosco, prudentiae nihil, immo nil prorsus in te deficit quidquam, nisi quod tuo, ut mihi videtur, neminem ditasti amore. Miror tamen plurimum si mulierem tam formosam et tanta prudentia decoratam amor extra sua castra diu militare permittit. O si inceperis militare amori, beatus erit ille super omnibus quem tuo coronabis amore! Nam si ego tanto meis meritis essem dignus honore, nullus in orbe vivens recte mihi esset coaequandus amator. }[6]

Men as different as the Roman lawyer Pliny the Younger and the nineteenth-century American philosopher William James addressed beloved women with solipsistic, self-degrading monologues. Andreas, in contrast, constructed a speech completely inconceivable and inappropriate for a commoner addressing a commoner. Andreas wasn’t writing in Latin for commoners. He wasn’t writing a systematic treatise of true knowledge or artful practice on how to chat up women. He was seeking the attention of clerical and courtly elites in their own languages.[7]

The distinction between pure and compounded love in De amore is matter of rhetoric rather than philosophy or ideology. De amore presents that distinction in the style of scholastic thought:

There exists such a thing as pure love, and that which is called compounded love. Pure love is that which joins the hearts of two lovers with universal feelings of affection. It embraces the contemplation of the mind and the feeling of the heart. It goes as far as kissing on the mouth, embracing with the arms, and chaste contact with the unclothed lover, but the final consolation is avoided, for this practice is not permitted for those who wish to love chastely. …. By compounded love is meant that which affords its outlet to every pleasure of the flesh, ending in the final act of love.

{ quod amor quidam est purus, et quidam dicitur esse mixtus. Et purus quidem amor est, qui omnimoda dilectionis affectione duorum amantium corda coniungit. Hic autem in mentis contemplatione cordisque consistit affectu; procedit autem usque ad oris osculum lacertique amplexum et verecundum amantis nudae contactum, extremo praetermisso solatio; nam illud pure amare volentibus exercere non licet. … Mixtus vero amor dicitur ille, qui omni carnis delectationi suum praestat effectum et in extremo Veneris opere terminatur. } [8]

A man utters this love distinction in his wooing of a woman. Pretending that this distinction encompasses all possibilities for love, the man says to the woman:

I approve of both pure and compounded love, but the performance of acts of pure love pleases me more. So you should utterly shrug off empty fear, and choose one or other of the two loves.

{ Ergo tam purus quam mixtus amor mihi probatus exsistit, sed puri amoris actuum magis placet exactio. Vanitatis ergo penitus timore depulso de duobus amoribus alterum vos decet eligere. }

The unstated love object for both types of love is the man. Moreover, engaging in “chaste contact with the unclothed lover {verecundum amantis nudae contactum}” could easily lead to the compounding of sexual intercourse. Recognizing this obvious physiological reality, the woman states:

You utter words strange and unknown, words which one can scarcely account credible. I am startled that in any person such abstinence of the flesh has been observed, that a man was ever able to curb the onset of pleasure, and repress the motions of his body. Everyone accounts it a prodigy if a man is placed on a fire and does not burn.

{ Inaudita et incognita verba profertis, et quae vix ab aliquo credibilia iudicantur. Miror enim si in quoquam tanta sit abstinentia carnis inventa, ut unquam voluptatis promeruerit impetum refrenare et corporis motibus obviare. Monstrosum namque iudicatur a cunctis, si quis in igne positus non uratur. }

The woman works through the man’s rhetorical tactic in scholastic discourse. Modern readers have tended to interpret De amore’s distinction between “pure love {amor purus}” and “compounded love {amor mixtus}” as having great theoretical and practical significance.[9]  That’s a misunderstanding. Like “chaste contact with the unclothed lover {verecundum amantis nudae contactum},” the whole of De amore is rhetoric intended to attract attention.

Seeking attention differs from being funny or ironic. In addition to the apparent contrast between its first two books and its third, De amore has “a great many smaller, more local discrepancies and inconsistencies.”[10] Many are neither funny nor plausibly ironic. Some seem too obvious to be unintentional mistakes.[11] Andreas seems to create for readers opportunities to gain self-esteem through perceiving wrongs in his text. Such perceptions would prompt social communication about the work. That’s a shrewd strategy for attracting attention.

De amore takes for granted men’s subordination to women while angling for attention. Among Andreas’s “chief precepts of love {principalia amoris praecepta}” is this:

Be obedient to mistresses’ commands in all things, and always be eager to join the service of Love.

{ Dominarum praeceptis in omnibus obediens semper studeas amoris aggregari militiae. }[12]

That teaching is appropriate only for masochists and slave men. While medieval misunderstanding of chivalry normalized men’s love servitude, some men rejected servitude and gender abasement. Andreas also gave voice to their view:

The lover is in the bonds of arduous serfdom, fearing that almost everything will damage his love. … He dares no action, presumes no thought even slightly opposed to his lover’s wish, for his is constantly afraid that the whim and loyality of his partner will veer, and whether awake or asleep the lover cannot rid himself of this preoccupation. … The lover fears to do or to say anything which could result in his lover being roused to anger for some reason, or being enraged on some pretext. Who, then, reveals himself such a fool and madman as to try to obtain what forces him with oppressive serfdom to subject himself to another’s dominion, and to be wholly tied to another’s will in all things?

{ Qui amat enim vehementi quadam servitute ligatur et quasi omnia suo nocitura timet amori … Nil enim facere vel cogitare audet quod modice voluntati adversetur amantis, quia semper timet amans ne sui voluntas atque fides alteretur amantis, et hanc cogitationem amanti non potest vigilia neque somnus auferre. … omniaque timet amans agere vel narrare, unde quacunque ratione coamantis animus concitari posset ad iram vel qualibet occasione moveri. Quis ergo tam fatuus reperitur et amens qui conetur illud appetere, quod tam feroci servitute cogit hominem alienae se potestati subiicere et alterius in cunctis penitus arbitrio colligari? }[13]

Andreas playfully obscures that love serfdom is, in current academic cant, “highly gendered.” Among the “love partners {coamantes},” the man is the serf and the woman is the lord. In medieval times, just as today, some persons accepted love servitude, and some didn’t. The individual books of De amore are unified in Andreas’s intention to attract the attention of love slaves and love masters, clerics and courtiers, elite men and elite women.

In constructing a case concerning men’s love servitude, Andreas created a controversia that Seneca the Elder would have appreciated. Here’s the hypothetical case:

A certain man was head over heels in love with a lady, and began to concern himself with her obsessively. When the woman saw him so anxious for her love, she utterly refused it to him. But seeing him none the less preoccupied with longing for her love, one day she made this proposal to him: “I am truly aware that you have toiled for my love for quite a long time. But you will never be able to obtain it unless you are first willing to bind yourself with a firm promise to obey all my commands for ever, and to consent to be utterly deprived of my love if you contravene them in any way.”

{ Quidam dum cuiusdam dominae immoderate ligaretur amore, tota mentis intentione pro ea coepit esse sollicitus; mulier autem, quum istum videret pro suo amore sollicitum, ipsum penitus recusavit amare. Sed quum eum cerneret nihilominus sui amoris sollicitudine detineri, die quadam sibi talia verba proposuit. “In veritate cognosco pro meo amore te diutius laborasse, sed nullo quidem tempore ipsum poteris impetrare, nisi primitus te firma mihi volueris sponsione ligare te cunctis in perpetuum meis obedire mandatis, et si in aliquo contraires, te velle meo penitus amore privari.” }[14]

The man, acting as the woman-serving lover of European romance, agreed to do whatever the woman commanded:

My lady, God forfend that I should ever stray so far as to be found opposing your commands in any way. So I gladly comply with your request as a task most congenial to me.

{ Absit, domina mea, quod unquam in tantum efficiar errabundus ut tuis in aliquo deprehendar obviare mandatis, et ideo quod postulas tanquam mihi gratissimum impendo libenter. }

The woman cleverly responded with a blow-off command:

Then the woman at once commanded him not to toil further for her love, nor to presume to sing her praises in the company of others.

{ Quod quum factum esset, illi mulier in continenti mandavit ut ulterius pro suo non laboraret amore, nec de ea inter aliquos auderet laudes efferre. }

The abject soldier of love soldiered on:

Though this was a most heavy blow, the lover patiently endured it.

{ Quod quamvis gravissimum foret, sustinuit tamen patienter amator. }

He was rewarded for this blow with an opportunity to act as a white knight and champion of his lady:

One day, when this lover was sitting with other knights in the sight of some ladies, he heard his comrades speak very disparagingly of his lady, unjustly slandering her reputation in their gossip, quite unfairly and improperly. At first the lover reluctantly forbore as he observed them lingering further in depreciating the reputation of that lady, but then he attacked them harshly with words of rebuke. He began to to refute their insults as a man should and to defend the reputation of his lady.

{ Sed quum quadam die praefatus amator in quarundam dominarum cum aliis militibus resideret aspectu, suos audiebat commilitones de sua domina turpia valde loquentes et eius famae contra ius et licitum suis inique sermonibus detrahentes. Quod quum graviter prius sustineret amator et eos in praedictae famae dominae cerneret detrahendo diutius immorari, in sermonis increpatione aspere contra eos invehitur et eos viriliter coepit de maledictis arguere et suae dominae defendere famam. }

The woman repulsed the white-knighting omega-man:

When this reached the ears of the lady concerned, she said that he should be wholly deprived of her love because by harping on her praises he had contravened her commands.

{ Quum praefatae istud dominae perveniret ad aures, eum suo penitus dicit amore privandum, quia eius insistendo laudibus contra eius mandata venisset. }

That’s the case set-up in De Amore. It’s the first of twenty-one vignettes setting up “various judgments on love {ad amoris varia procedamus iudicia}.” These aren’t substantial matters for courts of love, real or imaginary.[15] They are cases like the cases of Seneca the Elder’s Controversiae. They indicate sophistic attention-seeking.

The case question is about the woman. The question or quarrel is always about women in gynocentric society. Did the woman act rightly? Because women are the most important judges in society, that’s for a woman to decide:

The Countess of Champagne in her judgment defined this matter as follows. She said that such a lady was too harsh in her command, for she was not ashamed to grind down by an unjust decision the man who had subjected himself utterly to her will …. This lover committed no sin by trying to refute by proper correction those who blasphemed against his lady.

{ Hunc vero articulum Campaniae comitissa suo taliter explicavit iudicio. Ait enim quod talis domina nimis in suo fuit mandato severa, quae ipsum non erubuit iniqua sententia supprimere qui penitus se illius subiugavit arbitrio … Nec enim in aliquo praedictus peccavit amator, si suae dominae blasphematores iusta correctione conatus est arguere. }[16]

Even when men are falsely stereotyped as rapists, imprisoned for doing nothing more than having sex and being poor, deprived by design in concern for gender equality in lifespans, and designated under law as a class to die for their country, men should attack harshly those who “blaspheme” women. That’s a lesson in rhetoric, not teaching about love.

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[1] De amore can with good reason be regarded as having been written in the 1180s in Marie de Champagne’s court in Troyes, France. Walsh (1982) pp. 2-3. Dronke argues that composition in the 1230s is “far more probable than the 1180s.” He also argues that De amore was composed in the royal court in Paris. Dronke (1994) pp. 55-6.

De amore 1.6.385 refers to its author as “the lover Andreas, chaplain to the royal court {amator Andreas aulae regiae capellanus}.” A character named Andreas of Paris apparently was the hero of a lost vernacular romance know about the time De amore was written. Moreover, capellanus may mean “votary” rather than “chaplain.” The name Andreas Capallenus may thus be a clever reference to the lost vernacular romance of Andreas of Paris and the Queen of France. Dronke (1994) p. 55. I refer to the author as Andreas Capellanus only conventionally.

De amore has influentially been described as “one of those capital works which reflect the thought of a great epoch, which explains the secret of a civilization.” Parry (1941) p. 2, quoting in translation Robert Bossuat. That’s closer to true for De amore for the second sophistic (intellectual culture of the early Roman Empire) than for high medieval Europe. The idea that Andreas Capellanus codified the principles of courtly love continues to be taught today.

[2] De amore is famous for its rule that marriage is no excuse for not having an extramarital love affair. It also claims that sexual love cannot occur in marriage. Of equal significance is a noblewoman’s astonishingly indecorous statement to a love-seeking commoner:

Knights should be naturally endowed with slim, long calves and neat feet whose length exceeds their width as if moulded by a craftsman. I observe that your calves are on the contrary podgy, bulging, round and stunted, and your feet are as broad as long, and also gigantic.

{ Quum enim milites ex sua natura subtiles debeant suras habere atque prolixas modicumque pedem quasi artificio quodam per singulas dimensiones inaequaliter pertractum, tuas in contrario suras aspicio grossas rotundeque intensas brevique tractu finiri, pedesve prolixos per singulas dimensiones equaliter et in immensum protractos. }

De amore 1.6.140, from Latin trans. Walsh (1982) p. 79. For the last clause, et in immensum protractos, id. has “and gigantic to boot.” That jarring pun captures a stylistic aspect of the text, but it isn’t in the Latin.

[3] Monson (2005), Ch. 2, discusses medieval rhetoric versus dialectic with respect to De amore. In the influential definition of Boethius, dialectic seeks concessions from an adversary to establish shared understanding of truth. Rhetoric seeks to persuade a judge. In medieval European culture, rhetoric was subordinate to dialectic. Rhetorical concern focused on speaking eloquently. Id. pp. 44, 47-9, 66, 70.

In broader historical perspective, rhetoric can be a means for seeking attention from an impersonal public that “judges” by its allocation of attention. Here’s an insightful discussion of the difference between competition for acclaim and competition for attention. Andreas seems to me to have been engaged in rhetoric directed towards competition for attention.

Judging by surviving documents, De amore was successful in attracting attention over the long term. The first surviving reference to it is by Albertanus da Brescia in 1238. De amore was translated into French as the Livre d’Enanchet in 1252 or earlier. It had attracted enough attention to be condemned by Etienne Tempier, Bishop of Paris, in 1277. Drouart la Vache translated De amore again into French in 1290. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Andreas Capellanus through De amore became a well-known authority on courtly love. De amore has attracted a large amount of modern scholarly attention.

In his preface to Walsh (1982), Walsh describes Andreas Capellanus as “a priest of mediocre talents” and a “dilettante author.” That evaluation vastly under-estimates Andreas.

[4] Ovid, Ars amatoria, 1.343-450 (all women sexually eager); Amores 1.8.43 (the only chaste woman is one that hasn’t been propositioned). The Jealous Husband in the Romance of the Rose misandristically suggests that all men must pay for sex: “all you women are, will be, and have been / whores, in fact or in desire {Toutes estes, serés, ou futes, / De fait ou de volenté putes}.” Romance of the Rose, l. 9155-6, from French trans. Dahlberg (1995) p. 165.

[5] De amore 1.6.23 (including subsequent quote), from Latin trans. Walsh (1982) p. 47. Walsh noted, “bene concepta recteque disposita denotes inventio and dispositio, the first two of the orator’s tasks. See Quintilian, Inst. Or. 3.3.1.” Id p. 46, n. 36. See also Monson (2005) pp. 54-5.

Walsh (1982) provides the Latin text on facing pages to the English translation. All subsequent translations from De amore are from id., cited by page number. I’ve made some minor changes to the translations for clarity. The Latin text of De amore is available online. For an alternate English translation, Parry (1941). Some excerpts of De amore in English translation are available online. The excerpts and associated paratext obscure De amore’s overall rhetorical intention.

[6] De amore 1.6.26-7, pp. 47, 49.  The commoner is subsequently described as a tradesmen. De amore 1.11 shows contempt for farmers / peasants. It analogizes farmers to horses and mules. It tells men seeking sex with peasant women to use “rough embraces” and “some compulsion.” That doesn’t mean that men commonly raped peasant women, or that men weren’t punished for raping peasant women. Medieval scholars have understood rape in medieval literature no better than they have understood rape in the U.S. today.

Andreas seems to ridicule his own love teaching in describing love of peasants:

But sometimes, however rarely, it happens that farmers are roused in a way transcending their nature by the prick of live. But it is not appropriate to instruct them in love’s teaching, in case we find, through their concentrating on behaviour naturally alien to them, that men’s estates which are normally harvested by their toil turn out unfruitful for us through negligence of the cultivator.

{ Sed etsi quandoque licet raro contingat eos ultra sui naturam amoris aculeo concitari, ipsos tamen in amoris doctrina non expedit erudire ne, dum actibus sibi naturaliter alienis intendunt, humana praedia, illorum solita fructificare labore, cultoris defectu nobis facta infructifera sentiamus. }

De amore 1.11.2, p. 223. In other words, if Andreas instructed peasants, they would become so engaged in having sex that they would neglect their field work. That’s ludicrous. The second level of humor is that field work, cultivating, and plowing is a medieval metaphor for having sex. The text also suggest that the peasants would stop having children if they sought love according to Andreas’s teaching. If Andreas actually taught peasants courtly love, peasant men probably would fail to have sex much more often.

[7] Robertson (1962), pp. 403-7, insightfully describes the sophistic quality of the first dialogue. That quality prevails throughout all three books of De amore. Monson (2005) suggests that Andreas Capellanus was a broadly learned cleric who failed to realize fully and consistently his enormous intellectual ambition in writing De amore. From my perspective, Andreas Capellanus’s intellectual ambition was that of a learned sophist seeking attention among diverse elites. He greatly succeeded in that intellectual ambition.

Cherniss (1975) states that De amore “was written as a comic mock treatise.” All three of its books are unified through “inflated, overdone, essentially comic treatments of literary materials which Andreas found ready to his hand.” Id. pp. 224, 237. Attempts to attract attention often appear comic from an external perspective. At the same time, being outrageous and even clownish, if done in a sophisticated way, can be a successful means for attracting attention. See note [15] below.

Drouart la Vache described himself as laughing with “enjoyment and approval” upon reading De amore. Wood (2015) p. 116, including relevant Drouart text, with English translation. Drouart also became interested enough in De amore to translate it into French verse. His claim that he can’t help but write verse doesn’t provide a credible explanation for him translating specifically De amore. Wood (2015) shows that Drouart rendered De amore “more univocally didactic” in support of clerics’ chaste love of worldly women. Id. p. 115. De amore effectively attracted Drouart’s attention. He, however, translated it with much less concern for attracting attention from diverse elites.

[8] De amore 1.6.470-1, p. 181 (from the eighth dialogue between a man of higher nobility and a woman of higher nobility). The subsequent two quotes are from 1.6.475, 476, p. 181. Walsh translates amor quidam est purus as “such a thing as chaste love,” and mixes use of “pure love” and “chaste love” for the same type of love. I’ve consistently used the terms “pure {purus} love” and “compounded {mixtus} love.” For “compounded love,” many scholars use the term “mixed love.” “Compounded love” seems to me a clearer and more witty translation.

[9] Monson (2005) pp. 62-3, 307-10, observes that the relevant exchange is highly rhetorical, but gives relatively little significance to rhetoric in interpreting De amore. Wood describes the man as a “seductive sophist” and a “lecherous sophist.” Wood (2015) pp. 136, 137. Wood insightfully observes:

the nobilior suitor is presented as an immensely resourceful rhetorician who turns verbal somersaults in an ultimately inconclusive effort to coax his interlocutor into bed.

Wood (2015) p. 135.  Drouart la Vache eliminated nearly all of the eighth dialogue in his more narrowly directed, more substantive adaptation of De amore. Id. pp. 136-7. Andreas Capellanus throughout De amore worked much like the suitor in the eight dialogue, but with the objective of bringing his text to the attention of diverse elites.

[10] Monson (2005) p. 161. Id. pp. 161-3 discusses some of these inconsistencies. Monson observes:

if he {Andreas} was trying to be funny or ironic, he went about it so clumsily that a great many people, from Bishop Tempier {condemning De amore in 1277} in to Donaldson {Professor E. Talbot Donaldson, writing about De amore in 1965}, have not got the joke.

Id. p. 164.

[11] Some examples: in the eight dialogue, the man inexplicable shifts from being a married man to being a cleric. Compare De amore 1.6.44 to 1.6.478, 481. In the enumeration of dialogues, Andreas inexplicably excludes a dialogue between a noble man and a woman of higher nobility. Andreas’s tripartite class structure is later revealed to exclude peasants and nuns. These “mistakes” seem to me too obvious to be unintentional. Andreas’s love for a nun (De amore 1.8.4-5) similarly seems like a mistake declared for rhetorical effect.

[12] De amore 1.6.269 (precept 7), p. 117. The woman of higher nobility advises the common man that as a lover:

He must not be a lover of several ladies simultaneously, but must be the dedicated slave of all women in the service of one.

{ Plurium non debet simul mulierum esse amator, sed pro una omnium debet feminarum servitor exsistere atque devotus. }

De amore 1.6.155-6, p. 85. That assertion, which relatively few have questioned, is an astonishing testament to gynocentrism.

[13] De amore 3.14,17, p. 291. Showing unity across books, a noblewoman in Book 1 declared that men’s love service “appears to me the worst possible slavery, and a course to be avoided in all circumstances {mihi tamen deterrima videtur servitus et res per omnia fugienda.}.” De amore 1.5.218, p. 103.

[14] De amore 2.7.1 (Case 1), p. 251. Subsequent quotes are also from Case 1, pp. 251, 253.

[15] Discussing at length De amore, an article in the Stanford Law Review declared:

While there is considerable controversy within the predominantly male professions of legal and literary history as to the reality of women’s courts and the jurisdiction of love, there is no doubt that the courts of love captured the medieval literary imagination. … Law has always produced and promoted legal fictions, and I contend that the courts of love, whether real or imagined, produced judgments as jurisprudentially relevant, and useful, as more traditional legal fictions.

Goodrich (1996) p. 636. Id. then incorporated in his discussion of De amore’s courts of love Jacques Lacan, Slavoj Žižek, Freud, Luce Irigaray, Hélène Cixous, Niklas Luhmanns, Jacque Derrida, recent French feminist jurisprudence, Anglo-American feminist legal theory, jurist Francine Demichel’s advocacy of sexually explicit rights, Jane Larson’s proposal for a tort of sexual deceit, the psychoanalytically informed jurisprudence of American theorist Drucilla Cornell, and a variety of other tokens of elite interest. Read with understanding, id. provides considerable insight into what Andreas Capellanus was doing in De Amore.

[16] On two key questions of love, a man of higher nobility declared:

I should like to abide by the judgment of a woman, not a man.

{ Verumtamen non masculi sed feminae volo stare iudicio. }

De Amore 1.6.388, p. 153. The noble lady agreed and selected as judge the Countess of Champagne.

[image] Poet-knight serving lady. Der Schenk von Limpurg (either Walther I, fl. 1230s-1240s, or one of his sons, Walther II or Konrad I). Illustration from Codex Manesse, Zurich, between 1305 and 1315. UB Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. germ. 848, fol. 82v. Thanks to University of Hiedelberg and Wikimedia Commons.


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Dahlberg, Charles, trans. 1995.  Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun. The Romance of the Rose. 3rd ed. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Dronke, Peter. 2008. “‘Andreas Capellanus.'” The Journal of Medieval Latin. 4(1): 51-63.

Goodrich, Peter. 1996. “Law in the Courts of Love: Andreas Capellanus and the Judgments of Love.” Stanford Law Review. 48 (3): 633-675.

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