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.


65 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.

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  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.

  14. Courtly love is a kind of love in which the man courts the woman and there is no the equality of the sexes. It is not the woman who has to look for the man, rather she makes herself desired and she is hard to get. Nowadays things have changed a lot… the man wants to be desired like the woman and I don’t like this at all. This is worrying because some men, like some women, don’t seek true love but something else that is very different. If I had been Juliet, I wouldn’t have expressed my feelings but I would have kept them secret also because it must be the man to take the first step. Surely Romeo shouldn’t have behaved in that way and he should have comforted her without putting her in so much trouble.

  15. In love the one who runs away wins. this is the imprecise translation of a common Italian saying. what happened to Juliet and Romeo is similar to what often happens today. Courteous love is an idealization of love where man often chases the woman of his dreams Man is often placed at the first place and woman was always seen as an unattainable figure.
    When Romeo realizes that Juliet is not so unattainable he loses interest in her or in any case does not see her as an unattainable angel anymore but as a more earthly figure. This is clear from how he calls her in his metaphors.
    Juliet is very scared of this and what Romeo thinks of her and so she tries to push him to declare his love.
    In our times the roles are the same, the game of the parts between boys and girls still exists even if roles are often swapped.

    • Well, Gaia,Romeo doesn’t actually lose interest on Juliet. The point is that from an unattainable angel, she has become an easy catch. They try to pretend at first that words haven’t been spoken, but they have and so the rules of “love game” need to be changed. But they love each other. 😜

  16. I think that it is something normal that the evolution of the society brings with it a mind evolution and a behavior evolution. These evolutions affect love in all it’s shades and they create a great variety of ways of falling in love. The past has always been a model for the present and it contributes in creating these varieties. Nowadays we can imagine so many love stories and we might dream to embody one of them. If I ever had to choose probably I would never choose to be Romeo, I just can’t imagine that I can’t date a girl because of unresolved issues between the two families. I think that the role of the girl who plays being hard to get is necessary because it induces an obstacle to the boy that when he overtakes it everything becomes just wonderful.

  17. I think the way to win over a girl has changed a lot. In today’s day, a few messages are enough and the sentiment felt is much less true. While years ago as the example of Romeo and Juliet, the girl was willing to move away from the family in order to be with the boy she true loved. This aspect of love is something I preferred as it was years ago, a true feeling.

    • I think that the conception of love that they had in the past cannot be compared with what we have today. One of the reason is that before there were many more obstacles from the family, as in the case of Romeo and Juliet, it was all less immediate than now that even chatting we can court and keep the relationship. Another thing that has changed over time is the way of courting because probably if I went under the balcony of the girl I like today I wouldn’t be able to conquer her.

  18. Surely the way you show your feelingshas changed over the years, especiallywith regard to love. Today it’sprobably much easier to get through, just a message. As far as Romeo’s behavior is concerned, I think he’smore than fit. “I love you” is a phrase to which I give great weightand and if he didn’t feel like saying it hewas right to behave like that

  19. I think that courtship has changed a lot over the years, as it should be. At one time the woman was seen as something unattainable, while now boy and girl are almost on the same level, although I like to be wooed and play hard to get. In my opinion, this distortion of the courtship began precisely by Juliet, when, in the balcony scene, the girl expressed her true feelings to Romeo (even if not wanting) saying: “take all myself”. Nowadays it is easier to court a woman, because through social networks you can contact the person quickly. The courtship of today, in my opinion, is less beautiful than it used to be, because through a screen you don’t fully experience all the feelings,for example the embarrassment of speaking the first time with the person you like.

  20. In my opinion courtly love is passed nowadays. It was a “game of love” in which the man needed to do various services or deeds to conquer the lady. The woman used to be superior than the man so there wasn’t the equality of sexes and she was often unattainable or hard to get. Nowadays the society has developed and this gap between man and woman is disappeared. Due to technology it is easier to conquer someone or to talk without much embarrassment. In the “modern” love we don’t use balconies or other romantic acts to show our love so the “courtly” part of the love has gradually gone away.

  21. Courtly love has been fundamental for creating a beginning point. Today’s love, that in the majority of the cases is based on good manners, certainly takes example from the past. There are certain situations where things happens more directly, without constraints and restrictions, because probably there is much desire. Nothing to take away from the fact that even today women like playing hard to get and even men adore courting them, a kind of modernized courtly love, but the woman is more accessible and she is not seen as an angel in the real sense of the word, maybe it is just for her beauty. The story of Romeo and Juliet is remembered as a great love story between two young teenagers who belonged to two distant rival families and who did whatever was possibile to stay together. Today how many girls or even boys dream a love story like that?

  22. I think that love of Romeo and Juliet is very different from what it is today. At our age the young people of the time were already more mature and capable of truly understanding what love is. Today the relationships between teenagers are almost a game, also because we are exclusively looking for attention and not for someone special. Romeo seems only interested in conquering the girl for her beauty and for fun. Instead Giulietta is very sensitive and even talks about love, therefore she claims to be rightly reciprocated in the same way. For this Romeo seems to be a little more modern character, and Juliet looks really more mature for her age.

  23. It is always nice to notice that the past is connected to the present.
    In fact the character of juliet appear very topical.
    She notices Romeo calling her at first “angel”, then “dear saint” and finally “fair saint”.
    This transformation has a decayent behavior.
    A simple sentence like “I love you” means a lot to her, as it does to all of us today.

    The fact that he avoids telling her holds him away from a courtly love paradigm.
    Probably we would have decided to say goodbye and return to our room, too.
    Even though i am confident that much of the cultural context has changed since then [until today] , i assume the strategies employed to engage with women have not differed so much along time.

  24. During the centuries courting is changed. Now courting can be only a like or set phrares. I think romanticism is dead or it’s very unusual . I’d like that romanticism to be like in movies as pride and prejudice. If I were Juliet, I would have wanted Romeo to say “I love you too”.

  25. As years went by courting has lost his value. I think that the boys who court girls, for real, are really diminished. In my opinion all the girls like to be courted, me included. I really like courtly love, where girls are unattainable and play hard to get. In past time only the boys made the first step and now also the girls make it.I think the meaning of the word “courting” has changed and today to court it’s enough to put some likes on Instagram or stuff like that and this is not good because the value of the woman that was an angel and unattainable, now is not seen in that way. Anyway I’ve always heard about Romeo and Juliet story but now that I read it I think I’m kind of disapponted, I don’t like Romeo and his behavior. Honestly I prefer how it was instead of how it is right now.

  26. I believe that the relationship between Romeo and Juliet is completely different from a modern relationship. At that time, in fact, love did not count in a relationship because people got together to create agreements between families, something that no longer happens. Moreover, people are now much freer to fall in love with whoever they want, as opposed to romeo and juliet who had created a “forbidden” relationship.

  27. courtship towards women has changed over the years. nowadays to woo a girl boys use some nice messages and some likes on social networks. Staff prefer the courtship of long ago, where women were seriously counted. Romanticism has hardly been seen in these years and we teenagers think we know what romanticism and courtship are, but in reality it is not so

  28. Nowadays the idea of “courtly love” is disappearing, that’s because the time has changed. The relationships between the teenagers are very different, in fact they know each other intimately. This thing has as a consequence that the boy knows most of the girl’s fears and defects. So one of the pillars of “courtly love” (the enormous distance between the two lovers) collapses. However even the “courtly love” has some negative aspects, it prefers no sense preambles, like Romeo’s script sentences, instead of a very simple phrase:”I love you”. Personally I prefer to get to the point right away, but sometimes the weight of this phrase is underestimated and I have to change approach.

  29. Courtly love has not faded over time has only changed his way of being. The courtly love of Romeo and Juliet is very different, and for this reason one might think that today all this has vanished but it is not so. Now the boys send messages to the girl they fell in love with or put photos with dedications related to them; unfortunately the kids don’t make romantic gestures like they used to, they don’t dedicate you poems and sometimes not even songs. The times have undoubtedly changed but for me love will change its shape but that will always be its nature.

  30. I think that the love between Romeo and Juliet cannot be compared to the present day. In fact, in my opinion, the rules of courtly love used in those days are no longer valid. This is because the way of seeing and courting women has changed. Over time, in fact, that romanticism and gallantry of courtly love has been lost.

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