The New Student's Reference Work/Romance
Romance′, a term derived from Roman, was originally applied to the languages which have been derived from Latin, as French, Italian or Spanish, and to anything written in these languages. But, because during the middle ages the favorite literature in these languages was a certain type of fiction, romance came to be the special designation of the tales of chivalry and adventure which were sung by troubadours generally in verse. Romances of this type sprang from the epic. Thus it has been pointed out that the Odyssey is more a romance than the Iliad; because to a greater degree than the Iliad it obviously is imaginative rather than historical. The romances of the middle ages were developed into what are called cycles, in each of which a related group of persons and their achievements became grouped around a central figure. The greatest of these cycles were those which centered around the siege of Troy and the adventures of Alexander the Great, Charlemagne and King Arthur respectively. In the tales about Arthur, Sir Tristram won so great a place that a cycle of Tristram also grew up almost independently of the tales of Arthur’s court. There were English cycles of romance spun about the legendary names of Guy of Warwick and Bevis of Hampton. The Norse sagas and the Teutonic Nibelungenlied are modified forms of the romance.
Out of these medieval romances developed the notion of the modern romance or novel. The beginning of the modern romance may be traced in the Spanish tale of Amadis of Gaul, the famous Arcadia of Sir Philip Sidney, the French L’Astrée of Honoré d’ Urfé and the long stories of Madeline de Scudery. The first modern novels in the strict technical sense of the term were those of Richardson and Fielding in the eighteenth century.
In music, romance has reference to a type of song which lies between the epic and lyric and suggests a ballad, except that its theme belongs to the realm of chivalry. The word romance has not lost the significance which became attached to it in the middle ages. It suggests chivalry, especially towards women, lofty endeavors, gallantry pushed to foolhardiness, an elaborate and artificial code of honor and conduct, a purely aristocratic attitude and an appeal to the imagination rather than to nature.