Last updated: September 24, 2019
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Twilight, a modern-day vampire love story spun by Stephenie Meyer, features the character of Edward Cullen, a charming and heroic vampire who claims to be a seventeen year old high school junior.  Edward falls in love with Bella, a classmate.  From here, a courtship ensues, where Edward treats Bella with the utmost respect and virtue.  Although the idea of courtly love has changed over the centuries, and is almost non-existent in today’s society, the character of Edward Cullen is considered a “courtly lover.”

Edward Cullen is introduced in the story as a somewhat rude classmate of Bella’s.  Over time, however, this depiction of Edward changes, revealing a charming, sensitive, and even heroic vampire.  Bella falls in love with Edward, and Edward tries his best to keep her out of harm’s way.  The story concludes with Bella recovering from an enemy vampire’s bite, and she and Edward continue their courtship.

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In the late nineteenth century, the term “courtly love” was coined by Gaston Paris.  However, the idea of courtly love began in the Middle Ages in Europe.  Courtly love entailed romantic passion, a notion that was unheard of before this time.  Many scholars believe that courtly love was a true historical development that originated in literature and poems.  For example, every individual knows of the knight in shining armor that courts his lady, defending her honor and putting her needs before his own (“Courtly Love”).

Since the Middle Ages, courtly love has fallen from use.  As evidenced today, there is no longer chivalry, honor, or in some cases, even respect, for the individual one is dating.  Dating in today’s society is treated as a game for teenagers who want to grow up too fast.  Even in adult relationships, chivalry and honor are scarce.  If one does display characteristics of courtly love, as Edward does, one might think that individual from another time.

The New World Encyclopedia defines the stages of courtly love.  These stages include attraction to the lady, worship of the lady from afar, declaration of devotion, rejection by the lady, renewed wooing in oaths of virtue, possible death from lovesickness, heroic deeds to win the lady’s heart, consummation of secret love, and endless adventures to avoid detection.  Twilight’s Edward’s and Bella’s relationship exhibit most of these stages (“Stages of Courtly Love”).

The first stage of courtly love, attraction to the lady, occurred early in Twilight.  Edward noticed Bella right away in the lunch room of their school.  The second stage, worshiping the lady from afar, also occurred early in the story.  Edward realized that Bella was his lab partner in a Biology class, and tried to get away from Bella, only later revealing that she was too tempting to be around.  The third stage, declaration of devotion, happens when Edward reveals that he does not want to kill Bella, like most other vampires would do, but he wants to love her.

The fourth stage, rejection by the lady, happens before the third stage, when Bella demands she get some answers about Edward, or she will not be around him anymore.  The fifth stage, renewed wooing, occurs when Bella gets the answers she was looking for.  The sixth stage, never occurs in Twilight.  The seventh stage, heroic deeds to win the lady’s heart, happens when Edward protects Bella from the rival vampires, going so far as to risk his own well-being for her safety.  The eighth stage, like the sixth, also never occurs in Twilight.  The ninth, and final, stage, endless adventures to avoid detection, is assumed to have happened.  At the end of the story, Edward and Bella continue their courtship, but Bella’s friends and family still do not know that Edward is a vampire.

For these reasons, Edward is considered a courtly lover, and this has had a major influence on teenage girls who had either read or seen Twilight.  Many teenage girls now walk into bookstores, stars in their eyes, and request a copy of Twilight only to get another glimpse of the charming Edward.  These girls possibly hold the character of Edward as a description of the “perfect man.”  This could be a dangerous thing to do; if teenage girls believe that men like Edward and relationships like Edward’s and Bella’s do exist in today’s society, these girls might hold all the future men in their lives up to this perfect standard, and those men might just not make the cut, even if they are kind-hearted and good-intentioned.  Not every man can, or even wants to be, like Edward.

Although Edward’s and Bella’s relationship does not exhibit all of the stages of courtly love, Edward is still considered a courtly lover.  Edward respects Bella, and makes sure that she is happy and safe no matter the cost to himself.  He displays the classic signs of chivalry and honor.  Although courtly love is no longer in widespread use in today’s society, the notion of such a relationship did at one time exist.  It is reassuring to know that courtly love does still exist, even if it has reverted back to only the fictional.
“Courtly Love.”  New World Encyclopedia.  9 Aug 2008.  9 Jul 2009.

–         Meyer, Stephenie.  Twilight.  Boston: Little, Brown and Company.  2005.

–         “Stages of Courtly Love.”  New World Encyclopedia.  9 Aug 2008.  9 Jul 2009.

–         Twilight.  Dir. Catherine Hardwicke.  Perfs. Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson.  Summit Entertainment, 2008.