‘Love is blind’ – Origin, Meaning, and Significance of the Proverb
Origin of the proverb.
The proverb ‘love is blind’ was first found in written form in the medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer’s work ‘The Canterbury Tales’, which was composed in the late 14th century. In one of the Tales, known as ‘The Merchant’s Tale’, the narrator states ‘love is blind’. Other famous writers have also used this phrase, including William Shakespeare two centuries later in his play ‘The Merchant of Venice’.
However, it is likely that this proverb was in existence in oral culture long before Chaucer wrote it down. This is because the trope of blind love was very prevalent in classical Greek and Roman art and sculpture. Cupid was often depicted wearing a blindfold in these ancient art forms and it is probable that this is where the notion of blind love arose from.
Meaning of the proverb.
This proverb is most usually taken to mean that true love is not dependent on physical attributes. It does not matter what a loved one looks like on the outside: it is what they are like on the inside (their character) that is most important.
Sometimes, the proverb is used in a slightly humorous way, when people want to comment on a romantic couple, one of whom is (in their opinion) more physically attractive than the other.
The notion of ‘blindness’ in this proverb can, however, also be taken to refer more abstractly to being blind to a loved one’s faults. In this case, the proverb is not used to refer to lovers being blind to one another’s physical appearance but rather to the way in which lovers do not see or do not dwell upon, the flaws in each other’s characters.
Yet another interpretation of the proverb is also in existence. In classical mythology, Cupid was often depicted wearing a blindfold and shooting arrows at lovers. Whoever was hit by one of Cupid’s arrows would fall in love. But, because Cupid was firing his arrows whilst blindfolded, people would fall in love at random. So here, the proverb is being used to express the idea that love is something unexpected and random, controlled by fate in a way that we cannot always understand.
There are, then, several ways of interpreting this proverb and it is useful to summarize them. Thus, ‘love is blind’ can mean any of the below:
- Lovers do not care so much about each other’s looks as about each others’ characters.
- Lovers do not see – or choose not to focus on – each others’ faults.
- Love is something that seems to happen at random.
Relevance/Significance of this proverb.h2>
The relevance/significance of the proverb ‘Love is blind’ is discussed below:
1. True love is not superficial: The proverb encapsulates the idea that true love is not just about how someone looks, but it is about who they are right at the core of their being. Of course, people who are in love tend to find each other very attractive, but they also have something more significant than that: a love of each others’ personalities, thoughts, beliefs and so on.
2. Reminding us not to find fault with each other: In a more abstract sense, the proverb reminds people who are in love with each other that they should not dwell on perceived flaws in each others’ characters. They should, in a positive sense, make themselves ‘blind’ to those minor faults and celebrate the good in each other instead.
3. Destiny: The notion of a blind god of love shooting arrows at random gestures towards the way in which love is something mysterious. Many people believe that love is all about destiny and fate, and the idea that there is a god of love making people fall in love is a neat way of expressing this – even if people do not actually believe in the physical existence of Cupid!
4. Being non judgemental: This proverb reminds us not to be judgemental of each other, because real love is not dependent on how rich, able bodied and so on people are. Real love is unconditional.
5. Bringing people together: When we ignore the superficial differences between ourselves and others, we can love other people for who they truly are.
6. Understanding love between people who seem different: Some couples consist of people of very different ages, or different races or social classes. When we remember the proverb that ‘love is blind’ we remember that lovers do not let these things divide them – rather, they love and celebrate all aspects of each other.
7. The mystery of love: For many people, one of the reasons that love is so powerful and precious is because it is mysterious. We cannot see where it comes from or why it brings us into someone else’s life. The proverb ‘love is blind’ perfectly expresses this mysterious, unknowable element to love and helps us to remember that though we cannot always explain love, it can affect us very powerfully.
This is a proverb that has been in use for many centuries, and it is easy to see why. The idea that ‘love is blind’ captures so many things about love: the way that it helps us to move beyond individual differences, the way that it is about being non judgemental, and the way that love is about loving someone’s character on a deep level rather than mere outward appearances. In addition, this proverb captures the mysteriousness of love.