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Top 10 Famous Love Stories

Throughout the history of mankind, the tradition of passing wisdom from one person to the next in the form of words has always been present.  When it comes to affairs of the heart, though, these top ten famous love stories are the ones that reflect the magnificence and absurdity we all get swept up in when Cupid’s arrow strikes us. 

More than any tales told of war or political intrigue, romance is remembered from generation to generation – which is why these stories will be at the top of the list a hundred years from now.


Romeo and Juliet


No matter where you go, almost everyone has heard of the story of Romeo and Juliet, the star-crossed Italian lovers caught in the crossfire of rival families.  It is an obvious choice for this list of famous love stories, yet the intricacy with which Shakespeare weaves the tale is what brings generation after generation back to the play.  Diving into themes of identity, passion and the exuberance of youth, it is as much a profile of humanity as it is a romance worth seeing on the stage or screen.


Cleopatra and Mark Antony


But for the relationship of the Egyptian queen and the Roman leader, the war that led to Octavian’s capture of eastern North Africa might never have occurred.  Though history tends to view Cleopatra as a calculating seductress attempting to fall on the best side of the conflict between Mark Antony and one of his co-rulers, there can be little doubt some genuine affection existed between the two of them.  After hearing her husband has been forced to fall on his sword after losing the field to Octavian, Cleopatra clutches a poisonous snake to her heart in order to join him in death.

Layla and Majnun


Much like Romeo and Juliet, the two main characters in this famous love story are driven apart – and, in Majnun’s case, driven to madness.  Forbidden from marrying due to tribal custom, he is unable to stand the sight of Layla and disappears into the desert whispering his exquisite poetry to himself, consumed by his pain.  Though Layla is eventually forced to tie the knot with another man, she refuses to consummate the relationship.  When her husband dies, she finds herself overcome with grief for the loss of Majnun and passes away.


Lancelot and Guinevere


The relationship that brought down a kingdom, there is no affair in Western literature so known as that between Lancelot du Lac and Queen Guinevere.  Set in Medieval Britain, the two young lovers crossed paths when the noble knight joined the Round Table of King Arthur.  As their love is discovered, it sets off a rush for the crown of the heartbroken Arthur and downward spiral leading to the dissolution of arguably the greatest monarchy any civilization’s legend contains.


Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal


Of all these differing tales of romance at its highest level, none has left quite the mark as the relationship between Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal.  The two first met as adolescents in a market, 
then were married five years later.  Renaming his wife the “Jewel of the Palace,” Shah Jahan was devastated when she died during childbirth in 1631, vowing to build the world’s most beautiful mausoleum over her tomb.  After 22 years of work, the Taj Mahal stands to this day as a testament to his unending love for his bride.


Prince Edward and Wallis Simpson


Though the lion’s share of these famous love stories are from literature, this is the only one from the top ten written within the last hundred years.  In the mid 1930s, as Europe was moving toward war, Prince Edward of England assumed the throne after the death of his father.  Having loved Wallis Simpson for several years, he felt the opportunity to finally marry her more important than running the country and abdicated after less than a year as king.  Scandalous as it was, King Edward VIII made sure his courage was what he is remembered for.


Pyramus and Thisbe


Some consider this Roman myth to be the basis of Romeo and Juliet, as the similarities between them are too numerous to be ignored.  Set in ancient Babylon, Pyramus and Thisbe find themselves separated by a wall – and the animosity of their parents.  When the two find a crack in the plaster just wide enough to whisper through, the romance blossoms despite all the tension between the neighboring families and eventually leads them to escape for a new life together until tragedy strikes.


Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy


A favorite of the literary crowd, the famous love story of Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy makes up a large portion of Pride and Prejudice.  The back-and-forth between the two is harsh in the beginning, particularly after Darcy snubs Elizabeth at their first meeting.  Over the years, despite holding an intense grudge, she eventually softens toward him as the character of his heart is revealed.


Odysseus and Penelope


According to legend, this Greek couple is one of the first recorded tales of a deep love between two people in human history.  Making up part of Homer’s classic epic poem The Odyssey, Penelope is forced to live for twenty years without her husband after Odysseus leaves for the Trojan War and is blown off course along the way home.  As suitors lurk around every corner, she devises schemes to keep them at bay, only to be surprised by her disguised husband on his return.


Eloise and Abelard


In one of the most scandalous love stories of all time, French philosopher and theologian Pierre Abelard fell for the striking and intelligent Eloise, one of his students.  Despite attempting to hide their relationship from the prying eyes of her family and a society obsessed with Abelard’s teachings, the two are driven into monastic life – after Eloise’s family castrates her husband, that is.  Holding fast to her vow of silence, she writes him letters about their relationship, to which he responds that she must turn her passions toward Jesus Christ now.

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