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For most of us, love is tied up with romance and attraction.

It is often publicly announced with a marriage or other public arrangement.

To do otherwise was to break the rules of etiquette.

In fact, most accounts state that it wasn't possible to experience courtly love with your spouse.

This does not mean married people were excluded from courtly love; they just experienced it with someone 'outside' their marriage.

The concept seems to have gotten its start in medieval literature, but it eventually caught on in the royal courts.

Here's the part that gets confusing for modern readers: courtly love was all about romance (the cheesier the better), but sexual contact typically had nothing to do with it.

Most of us consider sexual acts to be something shared between lovers.But at medieval court, the term 'lover' referred to the person with whom someone danced, giggled, and held hands; procreation was a spousal duty.Learn the definition of courtly love, its connection with chivalry, the rules of courtly love, and discover examples of works that feature courtly love from the middle ages.Courtly love, also called refined love, is a confusing notion for some modern readers to understand., in the later Middle Ages, a highly conventionalized code that prescribed the behaviour of ladies and their lovers.

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Explore this lesson on courtly love, an essential concept to understanding relationships between men and women in medieval literature.

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