Who was Heloise?

Essay by luiggiCollege, Undergraduate April 2003

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Heloise was nearly as well known in Paris as Abelard was. She was renowned for her learning, which was exceptional in a woman in twelfth-century France. She was only sixteen when she met Abelard, but she had already mastered the traditional liberal arts of grammar, rhetoric, arithmetic, music, geography and astronomy, as well as theology. She attended some of his lectures at the cathedral. Before long, Peter Abelard finally fell in love with something besides dialectic. Her uncle, Fulbert, hired him to teach her, and he moved into his house. Heloise was thrilled; his learning and talent entranced her, and before long, she, too, was in love. They were the perfect couple; these two were made for each other.

The romance completely changed Abelard's life. Within a matter of months, he only wanted to write love poems; he did not want to compose lectures on dialectics. Needless to say, his students noticed the difference in their teacher.

In the meantime, a most unlucky thing happened. Fulbert caught the lovers by night, and was enraged beyond reason. News of the scandal spread all over Paris. Fulbert kicked Abelard out of the house, and the grieving scholar moved to another house near the church. Shortly after this, Heloise discovered that she was pregnant. She sent the news to Abelard by letter, and they began to wonder where the birth should take place. Fulbert left Paris for awhile. While he was away, Abelard took Heloise, disguised as a nun, to his ancestral home in Brittany, where she gave birth to a boy. This further angered Fulbert; his blood boiled when he discovered that Heloise had escaped. At this point, Abelard made Fulbert an offer: he would marry Heloise on condition that the marriage be kept a secret.

Much to Abelard's surprise, Heloise refused...