Romance is one of the greatest subjects that make meaning in humanity. Without it, we do not know exactly where we would be. Its origin is not very clear although numerous writers have versed in their various titled books at least to explain its history. Some people have written various poems and novels on romance love while our movie theaters starting from Hollywood to Hollywood to Hollywood all dominate with romance movies.
The history of romantic love began in ancient Greece when the Greeks identified different ways of expressing love. Consequently, two words evolved, that is, “eros” that depicted carnal love and “agape” describing the spiritual love. Characterized by romantic customs, tokens of love, and dating rituals eros and agape describes the romantic heritage of the Greeks.
In the past, that is, the period before twelfth century, most Europeans never considered love as heroic. Instead, they believed that love between a man and a woman was a precursor of weakness. However, as from the twelfth century, this perception changed greatly. Today, western countries consider people in love as heroic. The paper examines the history of love starting from the ancient times then to the medieval chivalry and finally the contemporary period.
There is no single definition of romantic love. However, in traditional usage, we can define romantic love as the union between love and the all-purpose idea of romance. This is because in ancient times, people never considered “romance” as an idea that expressed love relationships.
Instead, romance was just an artistic idiom of an individual’s innermost desires, which at times included love, at times not. Undoubtedly, this is the reason why romantic love appeared the way it was during the ancient times. For instance, in the ancient times, men would capture women by force (not choice) and take them as their wives. In a situation where there was a dearth of nubile women, men will then go to another village to look for wives to marry. Here they will capture and stole them.
Nevertheless, the tribe from where the men raided will come looking the bridegroom. In order to avoid the recapturing of the raided wife, the bride and groom will go hiding at least for a while waiting for the dust to settle. The whole concept of romantic love seems to have emanated from France.
For example, according to the old French convention, the newly married couples drank a brew substance made from honey, metheglin as the moon continued its normal phases. This was how honeymoon came into existence. Nevertheless, there were also arranged marriages, primarily of the elite class of professionals and businesspersons born out of the desire for maintaining the social hierarchy, chattels, monetary or political associations (Bloch, pp. 3-24).
This is the period of curtly love, popularly known by many as the love of knights and damsels. This romantic love came into sight during the medieval ages following the works of Roman Poet, Ovid and the definitions as expressed by Platonic and Aristotelian love. Unlike the ancient romantic love, this medieval chivalry romantic love was unconsummated and transcendentally goaded and unfathomable respect for the bride.
The medieval chivalry romantic love opted for chivalric actions as a way of expressing it instead of sexual relations. For example, during the medieval times, men would not raid and capture women and take them as their wives. Instead, they engaged in chivalric deeds that could lure women into entering marriage with them.
For example, opening a door and buying dinner for women are some of chivalric deeds that induced women into accepting marriage offers. In fact, the current generation practice some of these deeds initially practiced during the medieval times. Notably, during the medieval times, love was an imperative commodity of marriages. However, many people did not consider it a qualification for connubial decisions.
On the contrary, the suitors enticed the intended with beautiful things such as flower poetry, gold materials, serenades and romantic songs characterized by lovelorn and in verse. Additionally, to woo somebody into romance, one had to show certain amount of chastity and honor.
As time went by, women started having a say on marriages. For instance, in 1228, it became constitutional fro women in Scotland to propose marriage to their lovers. Consequently, this legal right spread in the entire Europe and it remains even up to today.
Romantic love in the Victorian Era (1837-1901) was one of the fundamental obligations for people courtship and marriage. It actually became an art form popularly practiced by upper class people. If a man is attracted to a certain woman, he could not simply walk to her and begin a conversation.
There was a procedure to follow and even if they introduced to each other, still they had to give themselves time before the actual conversation begins. After the formal introduction, the gentleman will then decide whether to escort the lady home and present her a card. Nevertheless, it is the prerogative of the lady to choose who will escort her. Thus, the lady will weigh her options during the night and then notify the lucky gentleman by sending him a card.
Under Victorian formality, all activities of courtship happened at girl’s home with a close monitor of the parents. With time, courting will progress into an advanced stage known as front porch. On the other hand, smitten couples had no right to meet unless with the presence of a chaperone. Since everything had to be formal, the couples had to write marriage proposals from time to time in order to formalize their associations.
Even in the contemporary world, many people still believe that romance love is an expressionistic or artful form just like in the medieval times and Victorian era.
However, in the perspective of “romantic” relationships, romantic love involves a dynamic expression of one’s love, or an individual’s unfathomable emotional longings to unite with someone intimately although without commitment or marriage. Many theorists call it an embellished or festooned expression of love. Thus, as per this description, romantic love is a connection, enthrallment, or passion for persons of the opposite sex (Bloch, pp, 20-47).
Types of Romance Love
Research shows that many people take romantic love as platonic love, which exhibits all usages except sexual relations. Nevertheless, according to the modern usage, romantic love is purely asexual in the sense that it sublimates all sexual drives. Psychologically, people tend to forget the concept of sublimation although it emerges strongly in the study of psychoanalysis and Nietzsche. There are two major categories of romantic love: spiritual romance and popular romance.
Under popular romantic love, idealistic and intense measures exist, including predictable and unpredictable quantities. It is also time, energy and emotional consuming and involves material and commercial. Furthermore, this category involves sexual relations and is quite demonstrative. On the other hand, divine romance involves both realistic and unrealistic plausible.
It can be either pessimistic or optimistic depending on one’s belief and social background. This category also characterizes with the ability to choose someone to court and marry and other religious specialties. Thus, with these divergent views on romantic love, it is difficult to define romantic love using a single platform. To some, romantic love involves both sexual and asexual activities while to others, romantic love is just an attachment or affection towards someone of the opposite sex (Goode, pp. 38-47).
Origin of Romantic Love
Famous writers and poets have written widely on the concept of romantic love. For centuries now, the works of numerous artists in form of songs, novels, operas, films and sculptures continue to portray and perhaps give meaning of romantic love to upcoming generations. For example, over 3000 years ago, the hilarious the love story, Isis and Osiris, recorded in Egypt has inspired one generation to another on romantic love.
This love story remains the foundation of romantic love for ages. The concept of romantic love has always existed in humanity. During the ancient times, people sang love songs to portray romantic love. Although the ancient societies did not know much about romantic love, they had folklores that exhibited romantic entanglements (Delahoyde, p.1).
The history of romantic love dates back to 1883 when Gaston Paris associated courtly love with notion of romantic love. Courtly love started in Europe during the medieval era due to the concept of ennobling love that had found its origin is the ducal and princely courts of France. Courtly love became dominant at the end of the eleventh century following its cultivating upshot and knightly activities.
As time went by, and at the dawn of the twelfth century, the concept of courtly love had spread all over Europe. Many people started appreciating it following its knightly behavior. In addition, the concept of courtly love sought to breach the gap and reunite erotic yearning and spiritual realization.
Through courtly love, aristocratic women became ennobling moral and spiritual icons contrary to the views of ecclesiastical sexual approaches. For a long time, the Church, bards and poets engaged in bitter controversy over the concept of courtly love. To the poets and bards, romantic love (mutual desire between people of different sexes) was the highest good, while to the Church romantic love was a sin.
In 1215, the Church held the Fourth Lateran Council meeting to discuss the concept of courtly love. Although they saw the need of marriage as an avenue of procreation, they declared that any sexual relations exceeding this rationale are contrary to the teaching of the church and in general, against Christian values. Thus, it is clear that romantic love at the basis of courtly love appears similar to the present impression of true love where the teachings of the church hold no water in what many refer as post-Reformation Christianity.
The concepts and actions of romantic love separates moments form situations among the people in love. In the ancient times, romantic love accentuated emotions such as intimacy, contemplation, appreciation and friendliness and not necessarily the pleasure of doing sex. However, this has greatly changed where in the contemporary times, romantic love comprises of emotional and sexual desire of persons of opposite sex (Carroll, pp. 1-4).
Modern Conceptions of Romantic Love
The vast literature and artistic works of romantic love have brought some new conceptions about romantic love. Unlike the traditional romantic love, the modern romantic love involves both sexual and emotional feelings towards persons of opposite sex. Modern love is also equivalent to Aristotle’s description of interpersonal relationship that exists between two people who are in love.
According to Aristotle, the characteristics of modern romantic love include aesthetics, good morals, high status, and not just meager sexual intimacy. Many psychologists assert that in any interpersonal relationship, romantic love is merely a temporal liberation or an optimization of familiarity, either in a deluxe comportment or in superior mysticism, incongruity or risk to the liaison.
Many people contrast the concept of true love to that of marriages of monetary or political conveniences. For example, some societies arrange marriages for their children even when they are not attracted to the proposed partners. Consequently, when these people marry each other, they encounter numerous hardships contrary to the deeds of romantic love.
In most cases, the cultural mores of nuptials and betrothal go against the impulsiveness and supreme eminence of romance. Nevertheless, it will be wrong if we discard the existence of love and romance between two people of opposite sex under such customs. Sometimes, partners can portray romance and love amid cultural traditions (Diamond, pp. 116-119).
The concept of romantic love does not work within the confines of culture. In fact, many researchers believe that people can experience romantic love universally. According to the theory of love and mate selection proposed by Buss (1988), romantic love performs four functions: attracting a mate, retaining that mate, procreating with the mate, and endowing parentally to the progeny.
In order to attract a mate, a man must show a display of resources, which will protect for both the mate and the offspring. On the other hand, a man should harbor to retain a mate through commitment, exclusivity and matrimony. Of course, for these partners to procreate, they must engage in sexual intimacy. Thus, romantic love entails both emotional and sexual relations towards somebody of the opposite sex (pp. 100-102).
Bloch, Howard. Medieval Misogamy & the Invention of Western Romantic Love. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1991. Print.
Buss, David. Love acts: The evolutionary biology of love. New Haven: Yale University Press. 1988. Print.
Carroll, Jason. Romance in Marriage: Perspectives, Pitfalls, and Principles. 2003. Web. 08 Nov. 2010.
Delahoyde, Michael. Courtly Love. (n.d.). Web. 08 Nov. 2010.
Diamond, Lisa. Emerging Perspectives on Distinctions between Romantic Love and Sexual Desires. Current Direction in Psychological Science, 13 (3), 2004, 116-119.
Goode, William. The theoretical importance of love. American Sociological Review, 24, 1959, 38-47.