Machaut and his time: 14th Century Ars Nova Cultural background In Machauts time the ideal of courtly love was very important in aristocratic culture. Virtually all the poetry of the age deals with love and loyalty towards unattainable noble ladies (the lover regards himself as a feudal vassal of his lady). The best-known poet of courtly love is Francesco Petrarca. In 1327 Petrarca, aged 23, was to be found working briefly at the Popes court in Avignon (there were two popes at the time). He was in love with Laura, a woman from a noble family. She died in 1348 of the great plague that had been rampaging throughout Europe since 1347. It had begun on the Cremia peninsula on the Black Sea and had been brought back by the Genoese soldiers who had been fighting the Mongols. It claimed enormous numbers of victims: Paris, for instance, lost a quarter of its population. At the same time the Hundred Years War was taking place between England and France, and crusades were still being organised. Life must have been very insecure in those days: death was always close at hand, whether in the form of war or disease….Download booklet
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