The term ‘Romance’ has many meanings. In the middle Ages it referred to prose and sonnets, evolving to poetry telling the tales of knights and chivalric deeds and courtly love. In the nineteenth century, it was referred to as prose telling a fictional story dealing with symbolic, imaginative and unrealistic characters. And by the twentieth century, romance had a whole new notion, setting standards for people’s personal lives. Basically romance dealt with plots and people who were exotic and imaginary.
Even in the twenty-first century, romance is one of the most preferred genre by the readers. It is a sweet escape to live a love life you don’t have or have dreamed of. It gives you hope, and a perfect male/female protagonist to crush on. It gives you the drama you long for (but actually don’t want) in your life and sometimes the answers to your complicated problems.
The Middle Age romance
The middle age romance literature is filled with the epic poems of chivalric love of Tristan and Lancelot. The story of Tristan and Iseult establishes the theme of love and conflict between love and marriage. Their relationship is an adulterous one as Iseult is betrothed to Marc but their love is so passionate that both the lovers died for it.
Lancelot’s love for the queen Guinevere was so great that he was willing to take any risk or suffer anything for her.
The whole era was based on stories of knights, love conflicts and stories where protagonists were placed on pedestals and love was idolized.
The nineteenth and twentieth century were full of novels revolving around the theme of how people are supposed to behave as per societal norms and how the main protagonists goes on breaking those norms on several occasions. In this Era, the characters were not placed on pedestals but were portrayed as humans subject to make mistakes. It gave more realistic view of things.
One of the most popular novel of this century is pride and Prejudice, revolving around the theme of two people belonging to different social classes end up falling in love. It involved aristocratic protagonists wooing their love interest in old school way.
Other well known novels of this century are Emma, Wuthering Heights, Great Expectations, Lolita, The Great Gatsby and so on.
It is a breakthrough Era for the Romance literature. The characters are depicted in a modern setting with a complete shift of 180 degree in their attitude. The male protagonists don’t woo their love interest in the old fashioned way. It’s all about being the alpha male now. There is more drama, realistic characters making the romantic standards even more high. This Era also introduced the fantasy genre including widely popular paranormal romance.
The Romance genre has been an ever changing genre from the stories of knights to the aristocratic characters to the alpha male guys. But it will forevermore remain a sweet escape to the stories that steal your heart and make you wish for an eternal love.
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