THE POLITICS OF LOVE IN CHAUCER'S THE PARLIAMENT OF FOWLS

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According to Michael St John, Chaucer's The Parliament of Fowls publicizes the domain of the private by exposing "the intimate relation between civic duty and issues of personal desire" (128). Such an "intimate relation" between "desire" and "duty" manifests itself in the conflation of love and politics. Rather than being merely aesthetic or instrumental in its effects, the politicization of love in The Parliament brings forth the true socio-political nature of courtly love. The historical context behind courtly love indeed demonstrates how it at once expresses and represses an individual will to political power. On a social level we can also read courtly love as a political allegory illustrating the play of "desire" and "duty," power and obedience, within feudalism. What makes Chaucer's poem particularly interesting in regard to the politics of love, is its brilliant reconciliation of two of the fiercest adversaries: courtly love, modeled on hierarchical society, and lustful love, which in the parliament voices the individuals' right to be democratically answered. The avian hierarchy thence comes to serve, unexpectedly, democratic ideals. To realize such a subordination of the ruling class to the mass while preserving at the same time the hierarchical structure, The Parliament must however reconcile the hierarchy and the democracy within the larger frame of a theocracy. It is in fact a Christian theology endorsing the hierarchical doctrine, on the one hand, and condemning the use of power for personal purposes, on the other, that makes this reconciliation possible and profitable for all.

In historical terms, the political dimension of courtly love derives to a great extent from a very utilitarian view on marriage. More than a 'mere' union of two individuals, marriage during the Middle Ages was also a particularly effective means of social elevation. As far as men are concerned, Herbert Moller observes, "marriage to a woman of

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