Abelard and Heloise are one of the most researched couples of the medieval period. They were known for their romantic affair and the tragedy inflicted on them by churchmen, who adhere to the Benedictine Rule. By analyzing this rule and the story of Abelard and Heloise, we determine that the medieval period looked to the church for leadership. Furthermore, the focus of our paper is to give evidence of women being the subordinated character in the high middle ages.

Abelard & Heloise Medieval Tragic Lovers
Abelard & Heloise Medieval Tragic Lovers

During the middle ages, the church was a large part of everyday life. The church gave people spiritual guidance, and it served as their government along with the feudalism lords. The church had no position of leadership for women in this period. They were lesser subjects to the men who made every decision. The opening paragraph of the Historia Calamitatum, reveal medieval attitudes toward the woman as being subordinate or unimportant to rule.I n this, paragraph Abelard describes is early life as follows. “I was so carried away by the love of learning that I renounced the glory of a military life, made over my inheritance and rights of the eldest son to my brothers, and withdrew from the court of Mars in order to be educated in the lap of Minerva”. There is no mention of the sister getting any property. Moreover, in this period women were not considered property owners if they were male sons to will this land. A woman with land forfeited this property to her husband. The rule of Saint Benedictine is very much eminent in the Historia Calimatum in that Abelard wants to marry Heloise. He wants the marriage to be a secret so as not to damage a flourishing career. They mention that Heloise rejected this marriage; “it would be nothing of a disgrace and a burden to Abelard”. Heloise willing agrees to protect the career of Abelard. She is prepared to accept the shame of a single mother to further Abelard career. The servile woman is acknowledging that the man’s aspiration is more important. The Benedictine rule warns men of the desires of the flesh. These monks considered sexual relationship as a sin. The church in this period links the woman to every carnal sin. The woman is a child whose only path to forgiveness is to be a servile wife and to have faith in the rules of the church. These rules were very biased and unfair. To continue men had control over women and in inviting Abelard to live in his house and teach Heloise, he transferred part of the task of guiding Heloise to Abelard. Abelard writes, “[Fulbert] gave me complete charge over the girl…handing her over to me to punish as wellas to teach” The girl Heloise had no say in this arrangement and it was like this for all classes of women in the eleven hundreds. They had no choice in marriage or educational choices. The male heirs could put females in a nunnery without their consent. It was very much a world of male domination. In the beginning of the second letter, Heloise states these words; to her lord or rather to her father, or rather brother. To Abelard, from Heloise”. Heloise is writing in the position of her station, she is the concubine and servant. To continue Heloise says, “God knows I never sought anything in you except yourself; I only wanted you and none of the marriage portion and it was not my own pleasures and wishes I sought to gratify, as you well know, but yours. She then says the more she humbles herself on Abelard account, the more gratitude I should win from you, and the less damage I should do to the brightness of your reputation”. Although Abelard is now a castrated beast of the church the woman or humble servant will always follow. Heloise actions does contradict Benedictine rule when she says, I would have no hesitation in following you to the flames of hell. The twentieth first rule states to love Christ above all else. In this period, the words of Heloise would equate a woman in consort with the devil. Moreover, the monks chose to live a life free of women to gain salvation in heaven they believed the woman to be the route of evil and her sex and sweet looks to be the captive of all sinners. They believe that it is Gods law that imposes a husband or lord on the woman. The husband role is to guide the naïve woman. In the sixth letter, she inquires that he invents some rule that is suitable for the women because the rule used for men is not always applicable. The role of women in this period was to seek advice from the man. Women could not think for themselves in this period Heloise was only doing what was natural when she sought advice from Abelard, because women had no standard code to follow. Laws are for men, the womans role in this period was follow and obey. In letter five, Abelard speaks of the black woman. He speaks of her inner beauty her white teeth and ample body in contrast to the fairer woman. He talks about the black woman being humble and righteous to her man. He talks of the King liking this woman in bed. The woman states the fact she humbles her self this way is due to the man she serves. Allegorically this quote as many meanings but to the laymen it defines, the cunning woman and her sexual position of being servitude to the husband.The medieval woman’s crime is the temptation of Eve in the “Garden of Eden”. The laymen believe her sin is greater and she must humble herself to her husband and God.

In conclusion, the medieval woman’s world is an unwritten penance for her illicit bargain with Satan. The church instructed canon laws and the nobles created feudal laws to control society. These restrictions were to hinder the growth of women for 800 more years. The story of Abelard and Heloise is more a tragedy than romance. Heloise was only doing what was natural when she sought advice from Abelard, because women had no standard code to follow. Laws are for men, the womens role in this period was follow and obey.


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