Tuesday, June 28, 2005

What is Love?

(Lady don't hurt me, don't hurt me no more.)

Many years ago (aka 2002) in Ms. Hipp's high school english class, I read exerpts from Giovanni Boccaccio's classic medieval novel The Decameron. Having thoroughly enjoyed the bits and pieces, I promised myself to eventually read the entire thing. This summer, I am finally making good.

The story, written in the 1300's, has a very simple premise: The black plague runs rampant through Florence Italy in 1348. A group of 7 young attractive women and 3 handsome young men manage to survive, and with no family remaining, come together by chance and decide to escape the death and gloom of the city. Once they're comfortably settled in the country, they set to entertaining themselves by telling stories. Each person tells one story each day, and they stay for ten days.

A good number of the stories deal with what would be considered very scandalous topics in those days--sex. They're awfully humorous. As I've been reading--and giggling--my way through the tales, I've noticed an interesting trend. The word love seems to be used synonymously with the word lust. Male characters see a beautiful woman and then instantly "[fall] so passionately in love with her". In fact, one of the tales (Second day, Seventh story) is about a woman so beautiful that 9 men "fall in love" with her in this fashion. I'm left to wonder "love at first sight" ?

Nowadays, love is a word that isn't used too lightly when it comes to matters between two people. Much of what Boccaccio's tales label as love looks more like carnal desire from my modern day perspective.

This makes me rather curious. Has there been a progressive change in the usage/understanding of the word love? Personally, I have no idea, but would be very interested in further research. Take this as an open invitation for nerdy and thoughtful comments!

I sincerely appologize if I got that awful song stuck in anyone's head.


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