What is courtly love?

   Courtly love is a concept of romantic love that was popular among the aristocracy during the Middle Ages. It involved obedience to a strict code of chivalry and honor. In the medieval poetry of courtly love the usual figures were a nobleman or knight and a married noble woman. The lover vowed eternal devotion and service to his lady and offered himself as her vassal. Although his love humbled him before her, it also inspired all that was noble and generous in his nature. The rules of behavior in courtly love were defined in 1170 by Andreas Capellanus in his famous treatise The Art of Courtly Love.
   The first known poems in the tradition of courtly love were written during the late 11th and early 12th centuries by troubadours who traveled among the courts of southern France. Courtly love became a prominent literary theme in the 12th-century Arthurian romances of Chretien de Troyes and in the 13th-century French poem Le Roman de la Rose. Its influence is also seen in the medieval German "Minnesang" poetry, in such early English works as Chaucer's Troylus and Criseyde, and in the works of the 14th-century Italian poets Dante and Petrarch. The tradition of courtly love spread to Elizabethan England and remained an important influence in English literature well into the 19th century.