Love Game


Each age has always had its own set of rules for courting, for sure. Certainly nowadays, the equality of the sexes, the crush of old taboos, Sex and the City, why not, have utterly affected our behaviour in playing modern love games, as the roles are no longer fixed and immutable.  In the past, the man led the “minuet” of courting and the lady followed him in the dance.

Hawei's_Dorigen_During the Middle ages and Renaissance,for example, the body of conventions which governed the relation of aristocratic lovers was called “courtly love “: a sort of idealized and sometimes even illicit kind of love in which the knight consecrated himself to a woman often superior in rank or even married – the prototypes are Lancelot and Queen Genevieve – who deliberately displayed a certain indifference in order to preserve her reputation. The ” mistress”  was certainly beautiful, pure like an angel, distant ; therefore the essence of pleasure in this love game stood in the craving and pain of the lover who, despite his many attempts, believed the object of his desire unattainable. In short: a woman should play hard to get.

romeo-juliet-baz-luhrmann-1_largeHence, when Juliet  innocently reveals her feelings for Romeo, who “bescreened in night” ungentlemanly lets her profess her love for him, suddenly she finds herself in an unknown, dangerous land where distance has become closeness. Furthemore, she had ended her speech with an ambiguous and dangerous:” take all myself” (soul, body or both?). All the rules of courtly love have been crushed and she is unprepared to play the new game. ” What will Romeo think of me now?” she thinks and blushes. Well, Romeo is a smart guy and he likes playing the role of the bold lover. He wishes somehow to reassure Juliet for his temerity and apparently doesn’t seem to give consequence to what he has just heard, but his words reveal that he is well aware of the change of scenario, especially when he addresses her.

Romeo-Juliet-romeo-and-juliet-5125592-992-424Before hearing Juliet’s words, Romeo had called her “angel“, that is perfectly in line with the given canons. The first time he speaks to her, she becomes “saint“, therefore preserving the requested idea of unattainability, but after a while Romeo names her “maid“, which is still good, because he surely means: virgin, untouched, but undoubtedly a “maid” is more accessible than a “saint”. It ‘s only when Romeo,  in one of his wordy metaphors, refers to her as “merchandise”  that a very alarmed Juliet understands that this love match is unfair and decides not to “dwell on form” . She urges Romeo to speak clearly and swear love to her, only in this way the match will be more even. Juliet is only looking for a sincere, direct  “I love you too” but at this point Romeo doesn’t seem so confident without the courtly lover repertoire, he babbles some nonsense like “Lady, by yonder blessed moon I vow,That tips with silver all these fruit-tree tops….”  and it is only when a disappointed Juliet pretends to go away that Romeo somehow gives the answer she is awaiting for. Game over.


46 thoughts on “Love Game

  1. An encouragement to read to play again, Stefy.

    I was only remarking on someone’s blog yesterday how lucky we were to see R&J at the Globe in London from the gallery. Gives a new perspective compared with a conventional theatre. Liked ‘Shakespeare inLove’ and Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptationz fof differeng reasons.

    Incidentally, WS had a thing for Italy, didn’t he? If we discount the classically set plays there’s still R&J , Two Gentlemen of Verona, Othello, The Merchant of Venice etc.

  2. Hi Stefy…

    I really enjoyed reading about Lancelot and Queen Genevieve.. I do believe they are the main exponents of “courtly love “. As to the characteristics I just associated it to a sort of idealized love but I didn’t know that the illicit feature was meant to be also included here.
    I also thought of Tristan and Isolde as a good example of “courtly lovers”.
    Thanks for sharing this enlightening post.

    Best wishes, Aquileana 😀

  3. I would like to see a story of Romeo and Juliet where they survive and get married. Then go forward after the first couple of kids arrive on the scene. I’m sure that saints and angels would have long faded from view. 🙂

  4. I sing in a small early music choir that performs songs from before 1630. Some of them are quite raunchy, like girls going out and lifting their skirts to the young men, or seeking a bit of fun with soldiers, or sticking their backside through the bars of a friar’s window for a bit of mutual pleasure. The Georgian Era was pretty promiscuous, too. No gentle courtship. Just straight in there with as many partners as possible!

  5. I really enjoyed reading this analysis and although we might think things have changed in the modern times, love games don’t change 🙂 because people in essence don’t change so much. Many still idealize subjects of their affection and still play hard to get until they win them over 🙂 but in my opinion, courting is the best part of every relationship. It is the most romantic, poetic and platonic part of getting to know one 🙂 thanks for this text 🙂

  6. Wow! Powerful stuff. I guess I break conventions. Although I am happy to be single at the moment, being quirky, if I was with someone, he would have to be much younger than myself.

      • It’s not about fashion for me. I am just not attracted to guys my own age or older, and I have much more in common with younger guys. Older guys can have a younger girlfriend or wife, I see no reason why it can’t be the other way around. It’s still controversial I know but sometimes that’s part of being quirky.

      • It has never been a matter of age for me , however I have a quirky 😉 friend of mine who used to date younger men ( she even married one) and she ended up with one 10 years older than her and seems happy.

      • I haven’t always preferred younger guys but yes, I am talking about 10 years younger than me. At the moment I am very happy being single but I can’t help who I am attracted to. If I change and become attracted to older guys, that’s fine, but I have gone the opposite over the last couple of years.

  7. Your analysis are always great, plus it makes my head explode every time I read on of your posts, but that´s good don´t worry.

    So Juliet finally by playing hard to get gets little Romeo over there to say what she wants to hear……Not all that different from today.

  8. Giulia S. 3A
    Everybody dreams a love story like the story of Romeo and Juliet. Romeo is the perfect, romantic and sweet boy that every girl wants to have.
    Discovering that Romeo initially is not really in love with Juliet is bad. The beginning of their story is similiar to many current stories where there is not true love. But afterwards their love grows slowly, exceeds the distance and grievances, becomes strong and brings them to death. This is the beauty of the story of Romeo and Juliet. A story that begins as a game and that ends as a tragedy where love continues to rule even after death. It is romantic to think that true love can exceed all obstacles.

  9. Pingback: Blogdom Apr. 23-May 21, ’14 | The ToiBox of Words

  10. Today I think that if a boy or a girl likes someone he or she can follow or not follow a code of courting . It depends on the attitude of each person.

  11. Today I think that if a guy or a girl likes someone he or she can follow or not follow a code of courting . It depends on the attitude of each person.

  12. Obviously, the set of rules for courting has completely changed from Middle Ages and Renaissance. Nowadays, a lot of girls declare their love and many boys play hard to get, while in the past that was not “allowed” by the courtly love. The balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet is a turning point in this conventional kind of love: Juliet declares her feelings to Romeo and asks him to swear his love. It is a revolution, and it was made by two teenagers, who had inspired and still inspires everyone: because, sometimes, the biggest revolutions come from young people, tired of the old canons.

  13. Honestly I think the “rules”are the same as they were before,only on a smaller scale.Of couse it’s not the same situation because now we have equality of the sexes (kind of) and the crush of old taboos and such but when it comes to romance we all like roles.Naturally it’s not something we HAVE to strictly follow like it was at the time,if a woman wishes to admit her love to a man she totally can,or even if a guy wants to admit his love to another guy he can,opposed to how it was at the time, and so on.However I do feel that most people like to follow those traditional rules (definitely in a way more bendable manner),at least when committing to a serious relationship.

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