Betsy's Reviews > The Letters of Abélard and Héloïse

The Letters of Abélard and Héloïse by Pierre Abélard
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Jul 13, 10

bookshelves: history, school
Read in April, 2009

** spoiler alert ** I read this for school, and really enjoyed getting to know the story (WHY is this not more well-known?) The glimpse it gives into the foundations of the European University system are fascinating, and it showcases how the twelfth century was the precursor to the Renaissance of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. So from a scholarly standpoint, this is really interesting.

Except, the real draw to this is the love story and the characters of Abelard and Heloise themselves. I HATE ABELARD. With a passion. I wanted to reach into the pages and strangle him, he was so self-centered, self-righteous, arrogant, and paranoid (although there was a reason for that last one). Yeah, he was intelligent. Guess what, Heloiose was MORE intelligent, and she's the saving grace of the whole story. An incredibly forward-thinking, intelligent woman who remained loyal to her lover throughout her life, even when he ignored her and treated her like garbage. Actually, she started to annoy me about that, because I wanted to tell her, "You're worth so much more than him, stop chasing after him and go do something else!" because he did not deserve her love or her loyalty. But still, she stuck to her beliefs, stood up to him, and she had a lot of strength to spend her life as a nun when she had no calling for it.

"The name of mistress instead of wife would be dearer and more honourable for me, only love given freely, rather than the constriction of the marriage tie, is of significance to an ideal relationship...God is my witness that if Augustus, emperor of the whole world, thought fit to honour me with marriage and conferred all the earth upon me to possess for ever, it would be dearer and more honourable to me to be called not his empress but your whore."-Heloise to Abelard

If you think there were no strong women in the Middle Ages, or if you have an interest in the time period, or if you're just into romance, get to know this story. It's worth it.
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