Literature’s Top 10 Lovers

You didn’t think we here at eNotes would let Valentine’s Day go by unnoticed did you? As soon as we came down off our sugar highs, we began composing our list of favorites. Here, by demand and consensus, are ten of Cupid’s best pairings (at least in literature).

10. Petrarch and Laura.  Ahh…Laura…the original “woman on a pedestal.” In 1327, Petrarch, then a priest, left the church after catching sight of the beautiful Laura. Some scholars doubt that she actually existed, but others are certain she was indeed a real person. Real or imaginary, the speaker of the sonnets penned by the lovelorn Petrarch is doomed to forever seek her love, and to be forever denied her embrace.  Sniff.

9.  Dante and Beatrice. Sure, your man may say he’ll go to hell and back for you, but Dante here (at least the character of Dante) actually did it for his beloved Beatrice. (Maybe the box of Whitman’s and the choice of two mangled cards left at the Walgreen’s at 10 am Valentine’s Day morning needs to be rethought next year…).

8. Don Quixote and Dulcinea. If your man won’t go to hell for you, will he at least take on giant, vicious windmills? Hmmm? Well, will he? No? Okay, then he falls short of the chivalry of Don Quixote. Despite the Don’s heroic effort, his love interest, Dulcinea, remains unimpressed by his overtures. What’s a fella gotta do?

7.  Cyrano and Roxanne. How about patience? Your man got any of that?  Cyrano writes letters for his friend, Christian, to Roxanne, even though Cyrano himself is in love her. Mortally wounded, Christian confesses to Roxanne that, in fact, it is Cyrano’s eloquence with which she has fallen in love. For the next fifteen years, Roxanne hides away in a convent until she finally allows Cyrano to read the last letter and realizes the truth.

6. Lady Chatterley and Gamekeeper Mellors. First, you’ll need a gamekeeper. Or a pool boy will do in a pinch. Be sure to gather up lots of wildflowers to weave through his chest hair (not sure how the guy pictured here got the part). Then have him memorize this line: “Perhaps only people who are capable of real togetherness have that look of being alone in the universe. The others have a certain stickiness, they stick to the mass.”

5.  Stanley and Stella. Steaming up the streets of New Orleans are one of literature’s most passionate couples, Stanley and Stella, in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. Their animal-like lust for each other is something to behold. And then behold some more.

4.  Heathcliff and Catherine. If brooding loners do it for you, then you’ll want to find yourself a windy moor and practice shouting things like, “Oh God! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!”

3.  Paris and Helen. Secretly wish men would start wars over you? Then you’ll want to revisit The Iliad and remind your husband or significant other that some men will build a gigantic horse for cryin’ out loud, just to storm a city and get their woman, and the least he could do is just go to the store and get the milk already.

2.  Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara. Sometimes, relationships need spark to burn, and that’s just what you get between Scarlett and Rhett. Plus, if you are a procrastinator like me, you’ll want to commit this quote to memory:  “I can’t let him go. I can’t. There must be some way to bring him back. Oh, I can’t think about this now! I’ll go crazy if I do! I’ll think about it tomorrow. But I must think about it. I must think about it. What is there to do? What is there that matters? Tara! Home. I’ll go home. And I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all…tomorrow is another day!”

1. Elizabeth and Darcy. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth gets to keep the best parts of herself. Darcy gets to keep the best parts of himself. They learn to reform the worser parts, resolve their differences, and live happily ever after. With lots and lots of money.


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