Women in Medieval Ages

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Women in Medieval Literature
February 20, 2012
Paper # 2
Abelard and Heloise’s Love Affair
Love is a beautiful thing and when it happens, you hold it dearest to your heart.   In The Letters of Abelard and Heloise, Abelard and Heloise’s relationship and letters discuss virginity, punishment, sex, and a woman’s role in society. This portrayed the religious and ethical views of the era as well as point out problems within the church and society. Abelard and Heloise are one of the most admired couples of all time, known for their love affair and also for the tragedy that separated them. They were both intelligent and very educated. Abelard was often at odds with the church because of his adventurous thinking and Heloise was strong willed. Living under her uncle’s roof, she falls in love with Abelard at the age of 19. Abelard wanted to teach Heloise so he convinces Uncle Fulbert to let him move in with them as well. As it is at this young age, the emotion and term of love is still in the process of maturing and it is difficult to control it. Because of how attracted and in love they were with each other, their sexual relationship also intensified resulting in the birth of a child. In the middle ages, women weren’t as free as women today. Women back then were commonly found in convents and places where they could build a spiritual relationship with God, not men.

With the permission of Uncle Fulbert, Abelard asked to marry Heloise because once Fulbert had found out about them, he was very unhappy. At this time, having a child out of wedlock is an embarrassment to the family and women. Because their family members tied down women, this type of behavior would bring shame to the entire family. One writer Cristina Nehring says “The story of Abelard and Heloise hardly resonates with the spirit of our age. Not least, its origins in the classroom offend: teachers, we know, are not supposed to fall in love with their students” (Nehring, 1, NY Times). This seemed interesting because in one aspect, her secret affair was wrong being in the middle ages, and in the second aspect agreeing to what Cristina said, the teacher student affair is immoral.

Reason and religion are thrown to the winds which are both very important in the middle ages because right vs., wrong had a very thin line and religion is what everything was based on; Alebard’s proposal to Heloise lead her to question many things. In Chapter 7 of "Historia Calamitatum," Abelard wrote: "She, however, most violently disapproved of this, and for two chief reasons: the danger thereof, and the disgrace which it would bring upon me... What penalties, she said, would the world rightly demand of her if she should rob it of so shining a light!" At this point she was trying to think rationally because she knew what would come out of this. Both women and men were led at this time to question not only the legal but the emotional, sexual and spiritual dimensions of marriage as a covenant linking them to God as well as to each other.

In the middle ages roles of women were connected with the Church, and therefore the term love wasn’t tossed around as freely as today. Women during the middle ages were normally found in convents or places where they can strengthen their relationship with God, and live a life of purity or until marriage. The foundations for women were based off the idea of marriage and virginity. Virgins were highly prized in the twelfth century, but often for the wrong reasons.  Abelard believes “The more God is pleased by the abstinence and continence which women have dedicated to him, the more willing he will be to grant their prayers” (Radice, 123). People of the time mistake virginity as a human trait and an important quality, while they should really consider it a spiritual one.  But people did believe that it was acceptable to have lustful thoughts as long as you didn’t take part in sexual relationships; Abelard and Heloise know better.

Yet in Heloise’s...
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