Saturday, 16 July 2005

Abelard's Eloise on Marriage


Abelard and Heloise

Most have heard of the tragic love story of Heloise and Abelard - (if not then please see my post in the May archives, dated May 6th).

Heloise was unusually educated for a seventeen-year-old girl in the 12th century AD. Her favourite topic was philosophy. After she and Abelard had falled in love, she exchanged numerous letters with him on the nature of love, lost and the meaning of marriage (he wanted to marry her but she did not). Heloise was strongly opposed to the institution of marriage, arguing of "...the basic impossibility of combining marriage and scholarship...".

Heloise was greatly influenced by her Classical studies and she often expressed her disdain for the idea of a woman giving up her independence in order to enter into a profitable marriage. She wrote:

"God is my witness that if Augustus, Emperor of the whole world, thought fit to honour me with marriage and conferred all the earth on me to possess for ever, it would be dearer and more honourable to me to be called not his Empress but your whore.
A woman should realise that if she desires her husband more for his possessions than for himself, she is offering herself for sale. Certainly any woman who comes to marry through desires of this of this kind deserves wages, not gratitude, for clearly her mind is on the man's property and she would be ready to prostitute herself to a richer man, if she could."

No-matter what Heloise thought of marrigae, Abelard was determined to marry her and so convinced her to secretly marry him in St. Aignan's church...

3 comments:

Peter said...

I don't think much of her logic. Since her own relationship clearly doesn't fall into the category she describes, what does the criticism she offers of marriage for money rather than love have to do with her own refusal to marry for love?

Alterior said...

She was seventeen...

Rosane said...

Hi, I have been looking for the film about Eloise and Abelard. I sow it in Brazil back in 1999, but can't find it here in Ingland.
Could tou help me?

thanks
Rebecca