Separating Love from Sexual Desire

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Throughout different literary periods, one common theme that appears consistently is the separation of love from sexual desire. This relationship can be compared with many others in which one aspect of something strives to ‘climb a ladder’ to obtain something more. For example, the flesh of a human being exists at the bottom and while our actions in life attempt to climb, we may endeavor to reach Godliness at the top. The separation between sexual desire, at the bottom, and love, at the top, is a similar relationship. One literary period, that of courtly love, clearly maintains this separation, which can be shown through examples from the story Tristan and Iseult. Examining the rules of courtly love, three clear examples emerge. The first is that “an excess of passion is inconsistent with love.” In essence, courtly love is distinguishing the separation by saying that one may not love just because one shares high amounts of sexual desire. For example, we saw the fundamental tie of Tristan and Iseult’s relationship as their physical passion to each other. Being tied together solely by their sexual desire for each other comes across as breaking this rule of courtly love. By establishing this rule, courtly love is enforcing the separation of love from sexual desire. It can be concluded that this is what causes their love, which was actually just sexual desire, as they did not separate the two concepts, to lead them to death. Another rule that applies is that “no one can love who is not driven to do so by the power of love.” In other words, the statute of love exists on its own pedestal. Only exhibiting characteristics of love, like sexual desire, cannot be used as a determination of love. Love can only be reached through the aspirations of lovers using the power of love. In Tristan and Iseult, the two accomplish many feats that seem worthy of love. However strong these
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