Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Medieval/Renaissance Studies: Sample Writing

Erica Theckston
Humanities 302
September 1999

As we were discussing The Romance of the Rose in class, I noticed some interesting parallels between this particular allegory and the question raised earlier of whether or not the status of women is elevated by the practice of courtly love, a question to which I would like to return.

Women cannot claim superiority, or even a heightened degree of position, for their role as the objects of worship. The woman, like the Rose, is secondary to the dance, the sport, the crusade of love. The primary relationship is in fact between the lover and the chase, the player and the game, not the trophy. In The Romance of the Rose, the dreamer falls for his rose only after being moved by dreams of martyrdom to love, his total personal surrender to Cupid, and a pledge to live by “the Rules.” A woman is the target, but not the goal. She cannot claim to be loftier than the man for resisting his charms because the man has in fact placed her beyond his immediate reach in order to increase the caliber of his play.

As we discussed, love in this case is narcissistic — the charm, beauty, or inaccessibility of the woman is not a credit to herself but a reflection upon the character or greatness of the suitor. This woman is a supporting actress in a play scripted by her lover. So she is no better off on a pedestal than kneeling subserviently at his feet, because she has arbitrarily, according to whim, simply been placed in both positions.