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Late-medieval code that prescribed the highly conventionalized behaviour and emotions of aristocratic ladies and their lovers. It was the theme of an extensive literature that began with late 11th-century troubadour poetry in France and swiftly pervaded Europe. The courtly lover, who saw himself as enslaved by passion but fired by respect, faithfully served and worshiped his lady-saint. Courtly love was invariably adulterous, largely because upper-class marriage at the time was usually the result of economic interest or the seal of a power alliance. Its literary sources are believed to be found in Arabic literature, transmitted to Europe through Arab-dominated Spain; the growing religious cult of Mary was another influence. Examples of works inspired by the ideal are the Roman de la rose, Petrarch's sonnets to Laura, Dante's Divine Comedy, and the lyrics of the trouvères and minnesingers. See alsochivalry.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on courtly love, visit Britannica.com.