Still, the modern image of "medieval" is more influenced by the romance than by any other medieval genre, and the word medieval evokes knights, distressed damsels, dragons, and other romantic tropes.
Originally, romance literature was written in Old French, Anglo-Norman, Occitan, and Provençal, and later in Portuguese, in Castilian, in English, in Italian (particularly with the Sicilian poetry) and German.
Unlike the later form of the novel and like the chansons de geste, the genre of romance dealt with traditional themes.
These were distinguished from earlier epics by heavy use of marvelous events, the elements of love, and the frequent use of a web of interwoven stories, rather than a simple plot unfolding about a main character.
During the early 13th century, romances were increasingly written as prose.
In later romances, particularly those of French origin, there is a marked tendency to emphasize themes of courtly love, such as faithfulness in adversity.
During the early 13th century, romances were increasingly written as prose, and extensively amplified through cycles of continuation.
Indeed, some tales are found so often that scholars group them together as the "Constance cycle" or the "Crescentia cycle"—referring not to a continuity of character and setting, but to the recognizable plot.This extended even to such details as clothing; when in the Seven Sages of Rome, the son of an (unnamed) emperor of Rome wears the clothing of a sober Italian citizen, and when his stepmother attempts to seduce him, her clothing is described in medieval terminology.When Priam sends Paris to Greece in a 14th-century work, Priam is dressed in the mold of Charlemagne, and Paris is dressed demurely, but in Greece, he adopts the flashier style, with multicolored clothing and fashionable shoes, cut in lattice-work—signs of a seducer in the era.Many influences are clear in the forms of chivalric romance.The medieval romance developed out of the medieval epic, in particular the Matter of France developing out of such tales as the Chanson de Geste, with intermediate forms where the feudal bonds of loyalty had giants, or a magical horn, added to the plot.As a literary genre of high culture, romance or chivalric romance is a type of prose and verse narrative that was popular in the aristocratic circles of High Medieval and Early Modern Europe.They were fantastic stories about marvel-filled adventures, often of a knight-errant portrayed as having heroic qualities, who goes on a quest, yet it is "the emphasis on love and courtly manners distinguishes it from the chanson de geste and other kinds of epic, in which masculine military heroism predominates." Popular literature also drew on themes of romance, but with ironic, satiric or burlesque intent.Historical figures reappeared, reworked, in romance. The entire Matter of France derived from known figures, and suffered somewhat because their descendants had an interest in the tales that were told of their ancestors, unlike the Matter of Britain.Richard Coeur de Lion reappeared in romance, endowed with a fairy mother who arrived in a ship with silk sails and departed when forced to behold the sacrament, bare-handed combat with a lion, magical rings, and prophetic dreams.Prose literature thus increasingly dominated the expression of romance narrative in the later Middle Ages, at least until the resurgence of verse during the high Renaissance in the oeuvres of Ludovico Ariosto, Torquato Tasso, and Edmund Spenser.In Old Norse, they are the prose riddarasögur or chivalric sagas.