Tristan and Iseult


Tristan and Isolde by Herbert Draper (1901)

Tristan and Iseult is a chivalric romance retold in numerous variations since the 12th century, with a lasting impact on Western culture. The story is a tragedy about the adulterous love between the Cornish knight Tristan (Tristram) and the Irish princess Iseult (Isolde, Yseult). It tells of Tristan’s mission to escort Iseult from Ireland for marriage to his uncle, King Mark of Cornwall. On the journey home, the two of them ingest a love potion which brings about the adulterous relationship.

The legend has come down in two forms, known as the courtly branch and the common branch. The first inspired the romances of the 12th century poets Thomas of Britain and Béroul. The second is derived from The Prose Tristan, which links to the Arthurian legend, establishing Tristan as a Knight of the Round Table.

Narratives of the legend

The story and character of Tristan vary from author to author; even the spelling of his name varies a great deal, although "Tristan" is the most popular spelling. Nevertheless, there are two main traditions of the Tristan legend. The early tradition comprised the French romances of Thomas of Britain and Béroul, two poets from the second half of the 12th century. Later traditions come from the vast Prose Tristan (c. 1240), which was markedly different from the earlier tales written by Thomas and Béroul.

Tristan and Isolde by John Duncan (1912)

After defeating the Irish knight Morholt, Tristan travels to Ireland to bring back the fair Iseult (also appearing under various spellings) for his uncle, King Mark of Cornwall, to marry. Along the way, they ingest a love potion which causes the pair to fall madly in love. In the legend's courtly branch (see below), the potion's effects last a lifetime, but the potion's effects wane after three years in the common branch. In some versions, they ingest the potion accidentally; in others, the potion's maker instructs Iseult to share it with Mark, but she deliberately gives it to Tristan instead. Although Iseult marries Mark, she and Tristan are forced by the spell to seek one another, as lovers. The king's advisors repeatedly endeavour to have the pair tried for adultery, but the couple continually use trickery to preserve their façade of innocence. In Béroul's version, the love potion eventually wears off, and the two lovers are free to make their own choice as to whether to continue their adulterous relationship.

Like the ArthurLancelotGuinevere love triangle in the medieval courtly love motif, Tristan, King Mark, and Iseult of Ireland all love each other. Tristan honours and respects King Mark as his mentor and adopted father; Iseult is grateful that Mark is kind to her; and Mark loves Tristan as his son and Iseult as a wife. But every night, each has horrible dreams about the future. Tristan's uncle eventually learns of the affair and seeks to entrap his nephew and his bride. Also present is the endangerment of a fragile kingdom, the cessation of war between Ireland and Cornwall (Dumnonia). Mark acquires what seems proof of their guilt and resolves to punish them: Tristan by hanging and Iseult by burning at the stake, later lodging her in a leper colony. Tristan escapes on his way to the gallows, makes a miraculous leap from a chapel, and rescues Iseult. The lovers escape into the forest of Morrois and take shelter there until discovered by Mark. They make peace with Mark after Tristan's agreement to return Iseult of Ireland to Mark and leave the country. Tristan then travels to Brittany, where he marries (for her name and her beauty) Iseult of the White Hands, daughter of Hoel of Brittany and sister of Kahedin.

Association with King Arthur and demise

Rogelio de Egusquiza's Tristan and Isolt (Death) (1910)

The earliest surviving versions already incorporate references to King Arthur and his court. The connection between Tristan and Iseult and the Arthurian legend was expanded over time, and sometime shortly after the completion of the Vulgate Cycle (the Lancelot-Grail) in the first quarter of the 13th century, two authors created the Prose Tristan, which fully establishes Tristan as a Knight of the Round Table who even participates in the Quest for the Holy Grail. He is characterized as one of the greatest members of the Round Table, a former enemy of Lancelot turned his friend. The Prose Tristan became the common medieval tale of Tristan and Iseult that would provide the background for Thomas Malory, the English author who wrote Le Morte d'Arthur over two centuries later.

Tristan, Iseult and King Mark in The End of the Song by Edmund Leighton (1902)

In the most popular variants of the Prose Tristan and the derived works, Tristan is mortally wounded by King Mark when he strikes Tristan, who is playing a harp for Iseult, with an enchanted lance that had been given to him by Morgan le Fay. The poetic versions of the Tristan legend offer a very different account of the hero's death. In Thomas' account, Tristan is wounded by a poisoned lance while attempting to rescue a young woman from six knights. Tristan sends his friend Kahedin to find Iseult of Ireland, the only person who can heal him. Tristan tells Kahedin to sail back with white sails if he is bringing Iseult, and black sails if he is not (an echo of the Greek myth of Theseus). Iseult agrees to return to Tristan with Kahedin, but Tristan's jealous wife, Iseult of the White Hands, lies to Tristan about the colour of the sails. Tristan dies of grief, thinking that Iseult has betrayed him, and Iseult dies swooning over his corpse. Some texts of the Prose Tristan use the traditional account of Tristan's death as found in the poetic versions.


Geneviève and Lancelot at the Tombs of Isolde and Tristan by Eugénie Servières (c. 1814)

In French sources, such as those picked over in the English translation by Hilaire Belloc in 1903, it is stated that a thick bramble briar grows out of Tristan's grave, growing so much that it forms a bower and roots itself into Iseult's grave. It goes on that King Mark tries to have the branches cut three separate times, and each time the branches grow back and intertwine. This behaviour of briars would have been very familiar to medieval people who worked on the land. Later tellings sweeten this aspect of the story, by having Tristan's grave grow a briar, but Iseult's grave grow a rose tree, which then intertwine with each other. Further variants refine this aspect even more, with the two plants being said to have been hazel and honeysuckle.

A few later stories even record that the lovers had a number of children. In some stories they produced a son and a daughter they named after themselves; these children survived their parents and had adventures of their own. In the French romance Ysaie le Triste (Ysaie the Sad), the eponymous hero is the son of Tristan and Iseult; he becomes involved with the fairy king Oberon and marries a girl named Martha, who bears him a son named Mark. Spanish Tristan el Joven also dealt with Tristan's son, here named Tristan of Leonis.[1]

Origins and analogues

There are many theories present about the origins of Tristanian legend, but historians disagree over which is the most accurate.


The mid-6th-century "Drustanus Stone" monument in southeast Cornwall close to Castle Dore has an inscription seemingly referring to Drustan, son of Cunomorus ("Mark"). However, not all historians agree that the Drustan referred to is the archetype of Tristan. The inscription is now heavily eroded, but the earliest records of the stone, starting from the 16th century, all agree on some variation of "CIRVIVS" / "CIRUSIUS" as the name inscribed. Only in the late 19th century was it first read as some variation of "DRUSTANUS", possibly an optimistic reading, corresponding to the 19th century popular revival in medieval romance. A 2014 study, using 3D scanning techniques, supported the initial "CI" reading rather than the backwards facing "D".[2]

There are references to March ap Meichion ("Mark") and Trystan in the Welsh Triads, in some of the gnomic poetry, the Mabinogion stories, and in the 11th-century hagiography of Illtud. A character called Drystan appears as one of King Arthur's advisers at the end of The Dream of Rhonabwy, an early 13th-century tale in the Middle Welsh prose collection known as the Mabinogion. Iseult is listed along with other great men and women of Arthur's court in another, much earlier Mabinogion tale, Culhwch and Olwen.[3]


Possible Irish antecedents to the Tristan legend have received much scholarly attention. An ill-fated triantán an ghrá or love triangle features in a number of Irish works, most notably in the text called Tóraigheacht Dhiarmada agus Ghráinne (The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne). In the story, the aging Fionn mac Cumhaill takes the young princess, Gráinne, to be his wife. At the betrothal ceremony, however, she falls in love with Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, one of Fionn's most trusted warriors. Gráinne gives a sleeping potion to all present but him, eventually convincing him to elope with her. The fugitive lovers are then pursued all over Ireland by the Fianna.

Another Irish analogue is Scéla Cano meic Gartnáin, preserved in the 14th-century Yellow Book of Lecan. In this tale, Cano is an exiled Scottish king who accepts the hospitality of King Marcan of Ui Maile. His young wife, Credd, drugs all present, and then convinces Cano to be her lover. They try to keep a tryst while at Marcan's court, but are frustrated by courtiers. Eventually Credd kills herself and Cano dies of grief.

The Ulster Cycle includes the text Clann Uisnigh or Deirdre of the Sorrows in which Naoise mac Usnech falls for Deirdre, who was imprisoned by King Conchobar mac Nessa due to a prophecy that Ulster would plunge into civil war due to men fighting for her beauty. Conchobar had pledged to marry Deirdre himself in time to avert war, and takes his revenge on Clann Uisnigh. The death of Naoise and his kin leads many Ulstermen to defect to Connacht, including Conchobar's stepfather and trusted ally Fergus mac Róich, eventually precipitating the Táin Bó Cúailnge.

Persian and Classical

Some scholars suggest that the 11th-century Persian story Vis and Rāmin must have been the model for the Tristan legend because the similarities are too great to be coincidental.[4][5] The evidence for the Persian origin of Tristan and Iseult is very circumstantial[6] and several theories have been suggested as to how this Persian story could have reached the West. Some suggested story-telling exchanges during the Crusades in a Syrian court,[5] and through minstrels who had free access to both Crusader and Saracen camps in the Holy Land.[7]

Some believe Ovid's Pyramus and Thisbe, as well as the story of Ariadne at Naxos might have also contributed to the development of the Tristan legend.[4] The sequence in which Tristan and Iseult die and become interwoven trees also parallels Ovid's love story of Baucis and Philemon in which two lovers are transformed in death into two different trees sprouting from the same trunk. However this also occurs in the saga of Deidre of the Sorrows making the link more tenuous and ignores the (now lost) oral traditions of preliterate societies, relying only on written records which are known to have been damaged – especially during the Dissolution of the Monasteries – during the development of modern nation states such as England and France.

Courtly and common branches of early Tristan literature

Yseult by Gaston Bussière (early 20th century)

Courtly branch

The earliest representation of what scholars name the "courtly" branch of the Tristan legend is in the work of Thomas of Britain, dating from 1173. Only ten fragments of his Tristan poem, representing six manuscripts, have ever been located: the manuscripts in Turin and Strassburg are now lost, leaving two in Oxford, one in Cambridge and one in Carlisle.[4] In his text, Thomas names another trouvère who also sang of Tristan, though no manuscripts of this earlier version have been discovered. There is also a passage telling how Iseult wrote a short lai out of grief that sheds light on the development of an unrelated legend concerning the death of a prominent troubadour, as well as the composition of lais by noblewomen of the 12th century.

The next essential text for knowledge of the courtly branch of the Tristan legend is the abridged translation of Thomas made by Brother Robert at the request of King Haakon Haakonson of Norway in 1227. King Haakon had wanted to promote Angevin-Norman culture at his court, and so commissioned the translation of several French Arthurian works. The Nordic version presents a complete, direct narrative of the events in Thomas' Tristan, with the telling omission of his numerous interpretive diversions. It is the only complete representative of the courtly branch in its formative period.[8]

Preceding the work of Brother Robert chronologically is the Tristan and Isolt of Gottfried von Strassburg, written circa 1211–1215. The poem was Gottfried's only known work, and was left incomplete due to his death with the retelling reaching half-way through the main plot. The poem was later completed by authors such as Heinrich von Freiberg and Ulrich von Türheim, but with the "common" branch of the legend as the ideal source.[9]

Common branch

The earliest representation of the "common branch" is Béroul's Le Roman de Tristan, the first part of which is generally dated between 1150 and 1170, and the latter part between 1181 and 1190. The branch is so named due to its representation of an earlier non-chivalric, non-courtly, tradition of story-telling, making it more reflective of the Dark Ages than of the refined High Middle Ages. In this respect, they are similar to Layamon's Brut and the Perlesvaus. As with Thomas' works, knowledge of Béroul's is limited. There were a few substantial fragments of his works discovered in the 19th century, and the rest was reconstructed from later versions.[10] Beroul's version is the oldest known version of the Tristan romances and is commonly considered to come the closest to presenting all of the raw events in the romance exactly as they are, with no explanation or modifications. Therefore, Beroul's version is an archetype for later "common branch" editions. [11] A more substantial illustration of the common branch is the German version by Eilhart von Oberge. Eilhart was popular, but pales in comparison with the later Gottfried.[9]

One aspect of the common branch that differentiates them significantly from the courtly branch is their depiction of the lovers' time in exile from Mark's court. While the courtly branch describe Tristan and Iseult as sheltering in a "Cave of Lovers" and living in happy seclusion, thus keeping with the tradition of courtly and chivalric writing, the common branches emphasize the extreme suffering that Tristan and Iseult endure. In the common branch, the exile is a true punishment that highlights the couple's departure from courtly norms and emphasizes the impossibility of their romance. [12]

Questions regarding a common source

The French medievalist Joseph Bédier thought all the Tristan legends could be traced to a single original poem, adapted by Thomas of Brittany into French from an original Cornish or Breton source. He dubbed this hypothetical original the "Ur-Tristan", and wrote his still-popular Romance of Tristan and Iseult as an attempt to reconstruct what this might have been like. In all likelihood, common branch versions reflect an earlier form of the story; accordingly, Bédier relied heavily on Eilhart, Béroul and Gottfried von Strassburg, and incorporated material from other versions to make a cohesive whole. A new English translation of Bédier's Roman de Tristan et Iseut (1900) by Edward J. Gallagher was published in 2013 by Hackett Publishing Company. A translation by Hilaire Belloc, first published in 1913, it was published in 1958 as a Caedmon Audio recording read by Claire Bloom[13] and republished in 2005.

Other versions

Tristan and Iseult on their way to Cornwall, a medieval miniature by Évrard d'Espinques (15th century)


Contemporary with Béroul and Thomas, Marie de France presented a Tristan episode in one of her lais: "Chevrefoil". It concerns another of Tristan's clandestine returns to Cornwall in which the banished hero signals his presence to Iseult by means of an inscription on a branch of a hazelnut tree placed on the road she will travel. The title refers to the symbiosis of the honeysuckle and hazelnut tree which die when separated, as do Tristan and Iseult: "Ni vous sans moi, ni moi sans vous" ("Neither you without me, nor me without you"). This episode is reminiscent of one in the courtly branch when Tristan uses wood shavings put in a stream as signals to meet in the garden of Mark's palace.

There are also two 12th-century Folies Tristan, Old French poems identified as the Berne and the Oxford versions, which relate Tristan's return to Marc's court under the guise of a madman. Besides their own importance as episodic additions to the Tristan story and masterpieces of narrative structure, these relatively short poems significantly contributed to restoring the missing parts of Béroul's and Thomas' incomplete texts.[14]

Chrétien de Troyes claims to have written a Tristan story, though no part of it has ever been found. He mentions this in the introduction to Cligès, a romance that many see as a kind of anti-Tristan with a happy ending. Some scholars speculate his Tristan was ill-received, prompting Chrétien to write Cligès – a story with no Celtic antecedent – to make amends.[15]

After Béroul and Thomas, the most important development in French Tristaniana is a complex grouping of texts known broadly as the Prose Tristan. Extremely popular in the 13th and 14th century, the narratives of these lengthy versions vary in detail from manuscript to manuscript. Modern editions run twelve volumes for the long version, which includes Tristan's participation in the Quest for the Holy Grail, or five volumes for a shorter version without the Grail Quest.[16] It had a great influence on later medieval literature, and inspired parts of the Post-Vulgate Cycle and the Roman de Palamedes.


The earliest complete source of the Tristan material in English was Sir Tristrem, a romance of some 3344 lines written circa 1300. It is preserved in the famous Auchinleck manuscript at the National Library of Scotland. The narrative largely follows the courtly branch tradition. As is true with many medieval English adaptations of French Arthuriana, the poem's artistic achievement can only be described as average, though some critics have tried to rehabilitate it, claiming it is a parody. Its first editor, Walter Scott, provided a sixty line ending to the story, which has been printed with the romance in every subsequent edition.[17]

The only other medieval handling of the Tristan legend in English is Thomas Malory's The Book of Sir Tristram de Lyones, a shortened "translation" of the French Prose Tristan, included in his compilation Le Morte d'Arthur. Since the Winchester Manuscript surfaced in 1934, there has been much scholarly debate whether the Tristan narrative, like all the episodes in Le Morte d'Arthur, was originally intended to be an independent piece or part of a larger work.

Italian and Spanish

Giovanni dal Ponte's Two couples - Paris and Helen, Tristan and Iseult (1410s)

In Italy, there were many cantari, or oral poems performed in the public square, either about Tristan or frequently referencing him. They included Cantari di Tristano, Due Tristani Quando Tristano e Lancielotto combattiero al petrone di Merlino, Ultime imprese e morte Tristano, and Vendetta che fe Messer Lanzelloto de la Morte di Messer Tristano, among others.

There are also four differing versions of the Prose Tristan in medieval Italy, most named after their place of composition or library in which they are currently to be found: Tristano Panciaticchiano, Tristano Riccardiano, and Tristano Veneto.[18] The exception to this is the Tavola Ritonda.

In the first third of the 14th century, Arcipreste de Hita wrote his version of the Tristan story, Carta enviada por Hiseo la Brunda a Tristán. Respuesta de Tristán is a unique 15th-century romance written in the form of imaginary letters between the two lovers. Libro del muy esforzado caballero Don Tristán de Leonís y de sus grandes hechos en armas, a Spanish reworking of the Prose Tristan, was first published in Valladolid in 1501.

Nordic and Dutch

The popularity of Brother Robert's version spawned a unique parody, Saga Af Tristram ok Ísodd, as well as the poem Tristrams kvæði. In the collection of Old Norse prose-translations of Marie de France's lais – called Strengleikar (Stringed Instruments) – two lais with Arthurian content have been preserved, one of them being the "Chevrefoil", translated as "Geitarlauf".[19]

By the 19th century, scholars had found Tristan legends spread across the Nordic world, from Denmark to the Faroe Islands. These stories, however, diverged greatly from their medieval precursors. In one Danish ballad, for instance, Tristan and Iseult are made brother and sister. Other unlikely innovations occur in two popular Danish chapbooks of the late 18th-century Tristans saga ok Inionu and En tragoedisk Historie om den ædle og tappre Tistrand, in which Iseult is made the princess of India. The popularity of these chapbooks inspired Icelandic poets Sigurður Breiðfjörð and Níels Jónsson to write rímur, long verse narratives, inspired by the Tristan legend.[20]

A 158-line fragment of a Dutch version (c. 1250) of Thomas of Britain's Tristan exists. It is being kept in the Austrian National Library in Vienna, Series nova 3968. A short Tristan narrative, perhaps related to the Béroul text, exists in six Welsh manuscripts dating from the late 16th to the mid 17th century.[21]


A 13th-century verse romance exists in Czech, based on the German Tristan poems by Gottfried, Heinrich and Eilhart. It is the only known verse representative of the Tristan story in Slavic languages.[22]

The Old Belarusian prose Povest o Tryshchane represents the furthest eastern advance of the legend, and, composed in the 1560s, is considered by some critics to be the last "medieval" Tristan or Arthurian text period. Its lineage goes back to the Tristano Veneto. The Republic of Venice, at that time, controlled large parts of the Serbo-Croatian language area, engendering a more active literary and cultural life there than in most of the Balkans during this period. The manuscript of the Povest states that it was translated from a (lost) Serbian intermediary. Scholars assume that the legend must have journeyed from Venice, through its Balkan colonies, finally reaching a last outpost in this Slavic language.[23]


Tristan and Isolde by Hugues Merle (c. 1870)

The Tristan story was represented in several art media, from ivory mirror-cases to the 13th-century Sicilian Tristan Quilt. Many of the manuscripts with literary versions are illuminated with miniatures. Later, the legend became a popular subject for Romanticist painters of the late 19th and early 20th century.

Modern works


In English, the Tristan story suffered the same fate as the Matter of Britain generally. After being mostly ignored for about three centuries, a renaissance of original Arthurian literature, mostly narrative verse, took place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Tristan material in this revival included Alfred Tennyson's "The Last Tournament", one of his Idylls of the King, and Matthew Arnold's Tristram and Iseult. Another Victorian work was Algernon Charles Swinburne's epic poem Tristram of Lyonesse.

Thomas Hardy's The Famous Tragedy of the Queen of Cornwall at Tintagel in Lyonnesse is a one-act play which was published in 1923 (the book includes an imaginary drawing of the castle at the period).[24] Rutland Boughton's opera The Queen of Cornwall (1924) was based on Thomas Hardy's play. After World War II, most Tristan texts were in the form of prose novels or short stories.

  • The Cornish writer Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch ("Q") started Castle Dor, a retelling of the Tristan and Iseult myth in modern circumstances with an innkeeper in the role of King Mark, his wife as Iseult and a Breton onion-seller as Tristan, the plot set in "Troy", his name for his home town of Fowey. The book was left unfinished at Quiller-Couch's death and was completed many years later, in 1962, by Daphne du Maurier.
  • Rosemary Sutcliff also wrote two early adult/children's novels based on the story of Tristan and Iseult. The first, Tristan and Iseult, is a retelling of the story for young adults and was first published in 1971. It received the Boston-Globe Horn Book Award in 1972, and was runner-up for the 1972 Carnegie Medal. It is set primarily in Cornwall in the southern peninsula of Britain. The story appears again as a chapter of her later Arthurian novel, The Sword and the Circle (1981).
  • Novelist Thomas Berger retold the story of Tristan and Isolde in his 1978 interpretation of Arthurian legend, Arthur Rex: A Legendary Novel.
  • Dee Morrison Meaney wrote Iseult (1985) which tells the story from Iseult's perspective. There is a focus on the magic side to the story and how the coming of the Saxons meant the end of the druidic tradition and magical creatures.
  • Diana L. Paxson's 1988 novel The White Raven tells the tale of Tristan and Iseult, called in her book Drustan and Esseilte, from the perspective of Iseult's handmaiden Brangien ("Branwen"), who was mentioned in various of the medieval stories.
  • Joseph Bédier's Romance of Tristan and Iseult is quoted as a source by John Updike in the afterword to his 1994 novel Brazil about the lovers Tristão and Isabel.
  • Bernard Cornwell includes a "historical" interpretation of the legend as a side story in Enemy of God: A Novel of Arthur, a 1996 entry in The Warlord Chronicles series.
  • Rosalind Miles wrote a trilogy about Tristan and Isolde: The Queen of the Western Isle (2002), The Maid of the White Hands (2003), and The Lady of the Sea (2004).
  • Nancy McKenzie wrote a book Prince of Dreams: A Tale of Tristan and Essylte as part of her Arthurian series in 2003.
  • In Bengali literature the story has been depicted by author Sunil Gangopadhyay in the novel Sonali Dukkho.
  • In Harry Turtledove's alternate history Ruled Britannia, Christopher Marlowe (who lives longer in the novel's timeline than he did in our history) writes a play called Yseult and Tristan to compete with his friend William Shakespeare's immensely popular Hamlet. No details of the play are given.


Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde celebrated in a 1933 German stamp

In 1832, Gaetano Donizetti references this story in his opera L'elisir d'amore as the character of Adina sings the story to the ensemble, inspiring Nemorino to ask the charlatan Dulcamara for the magic elixir.

Premiered in 1865, Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde depicts Tristan as a doomed romantic figure, while Isolde fulfils Wagner's quintessential feminine rôle as the redeeming woman.

Twentieth-century composers also used the legend (often with Wagnerian overtones) in their compositions. Olivier Messiaen built his Turangalîla-Symphonie around the story. Hans Werner Henze's Tristan borrowed freely from the Wagnerian version as well as retellings of the legend.

  • Swiss composer Frank Martin wrote a chamber opera Le vin herbé between 1938 and 1940 after being influenced by Wagner.
  • Blind Guardian, a power metal band from Germany, also has a song inspired by Tristan and Iseult's story, "The Maiden and the Minstrel Knight", from their A Night at the Opera album.
  • Colin Meloy's former band Tarkio have a song entitled "Tristan and Iseult" from their Sea Songs for Landlocked Sailers ep.
  • Patrick Wolf, English singer and songwriter, has a song about the Tristan and Iseult legend: "Tristan" from his second album Wind in the Wires.
  • Inspired by Thomas Hardy's play The Famous Tragedy of The Queen of Cornwall the English composer Rutland Boughton composed the music-drama The Queen of Cornwall. The first performance took place at the Glastonbury Festival in 1924. Already famous for "The Immortal Hour" and "Bethlehem", Boughton's growth as a unique and powerful operatic composer is evident in this treatment of the Tristram and Isolde legend. Feeling that Hardy's play offered too much unrelieved grimness he received the playwright's permission to import a handful of lyrics from his earlier published poetical works. The result is an altogether impressive and effective work, thought by many to be Boughton's masterpiece in this genre. In 2010 it was recorded on the Dutton Epoch label, in which Ronald Corp conducts the New London Orchestra, members of the London Chorus and with soloists Neal Davies (King Mark), Heather Shipp (Queen Iseult), Jacques Imbrailo (Sir Tristam) and Joan Rodgers (Iseult of Brittany).

Film and television

The story has also been adapted into film many times.[25]

  • The earliest is probably the 1909 French film Tristan et Yseult, an early, silent version of the story.[26] This was followed by another French film of the same name two years later, which offered a unique addition to the story. Here, it is Tristan's jealous slave Rosen who tricks the lovers into drinking the love potion, then denounces them to Mark. Mark has pity on the two lovers, but they commit double suicide anyway.[26] A third silent French version appeared in 1920, and follows the legend fairly closely.[26]
  • One of the most celebrated and controversial Tristan films was 1943's L'Éternel Retour (The Eternal Return), directed by Jean Delannoy (screenplay by Jean Cocteau). It is a contemporary retelling of the story with a man named Patrice in the Tristan role fetching a wife for his friend Marke. However, an evil dwarf tricks them into drinking a love potion, and the familiar plot ensues.[26] The film was made in France during the Vichy regime under German domination, and elements in the movie reflect National Socialist ideology, with the beautiful, blonde hero and heroine off-set by the Untermensch dwarf. The dwarf is given a larger role than in most interpretations of the legend; its conniving rains havoc on the lovers, much like the Jews of Nazi stereotypes.
  • In 1972 there was the avant-garde French film Tristan et Iseult, directed by and starring Yvan Lagrange.
  • The Irish film Lovespell released in 1981 features Nicholas Clay as Tristan and Kate Mulgrew as Iseult; coincidentally, Clay went on to play Lancelot in John Boorman's epic, Excalibur.[26]
  • The 1970 Spanish film Tristana is only tangentially related to the Tristan story. The Tristan role is assumed by the female character Tristana, who is forced to care for her aging uncle, Don Lope, though she wishes to marry Horacio.[26]
  • The German film Fire and Sword (Feuer und Schwert - Die Legende von Tristan und Isolde) premiered at the Cannes Film Festival 1981 and was released in 1982. The film starred Christoph Waltz as Tristan and was regarded as being very accurate to the story, though it cut the Iseult of Brittany subplot.[26]
  • French director François Truffaut adapted the subject to modern times for his 1981 film La Femme d'à côté (The Woman Next Door), while 1988's In the Shadow of the Raven transported the characters to medieval Iceland. Here, Trausti and Isolde are warriors from rival tribes who come into conflict when Trausti kills the leader of Isolde's tribe, but a local bishop makes peace and arranges their marriage.[26]
  • Animated TV series Tristán & Isolda: La Leyenda Olvidada was aired in Spain and France in 1998.[27]
  • Bollywood director Subhash Ghai transfers the story to modern India and the United States in his 1997 musical Pardes. Indian American Kishorilal (Amrish Puri) raises his orphaned nephew Arjun (Shah Rukh Khan). Eventually, Kishorilal sends Arjun back to India to lure the beautiful Ganga (Mahima Chaudhary) as a bride for his selfish, shallow son Rajiv (Apoorva Agnihotri). Arjun falls for Ganga, and struggles to remain loyal to his cousin and beloved uncle.
  • The 2002 French animated film Tristan et Iseut is a bowdlerized version of the traditional tale aimed at a family audience.
  • The legend was given a relatively high-budget treatment with 2006's Tristan & Isolde, produced by Tony Scott and Ridley Scott, written by Dean Georgaris, directed by Kevin Reynolds, and starring James Franco and Sophia Myles. In this version, Tristan is a Cornish warrior who was raised by Lord Marke after his parents were killed at a young age. In a fight with the Irish, Tristan defeats Morholt, the Irish King's second, but is poisoned in the process. The poison dulls all his senses and his companions believe him dead, so he is sent off in a boat meant to cremate a dead body. Meanwhile Isolde, dismayed over her unwilling betrothal to Morholt, leaves her home and finds Tristan on the Irish coast.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ N. J. Lacy (et al.). "Carta enviada por Hiseo la Brunda Tristan", "Repuesta de Tristan" from The New Arthurian Encyclopedia. New York : Garland Publishing, 1991.
  2. ^ Spring, Adam; Peters, Caradoc (December 2014). "Developing a low cost 3D imaging solution for inscribed stone surface analysis". Journal of Archaeological Science. 52: 97–107. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2014.08.017.
  3. ^ Jeffrey Gantz (translator), Culhwch and Olwen, from The Mabinogion, Penguin, 1976. ISBN 0-14-044322-3
  4. ^ a b c Stewart Gregory (translator), Thomas of Britain, Roman de Tristan, New York: Garland Publishers, 1991. ISBN 0-8240-4034-1
  5. ^ a b Fakhr al-Dīn Gurgānī, and Dick Davis. 2008. Vis & Ramin. Washington, DC: Mage publishers.
  6. ^ Grimbert, Joan T. 1995. Tristan and Isolde: a casebook. New York: Garland Pub.
  7. ^ Grimbert, Joan T. 1995. Tristan and Isolde: a casebook. p. 21.
  8. ^ P. Schach, The Saga of Tristram and Isond, University of Nebraska Press, 1973
  9. ^ a b Norris J. Lacy et al. "Gottfried von Strassburg" from The New Arthurian Encyclopedia, New York: Garland, 1991.
  10. ^ "Early French Tristan Poems", from Norris J. Lacy (editor), Arthurian Archives, Cambridge, England; Rochester, NY: D.S. Brewer, 1998. ISBN 0-8240-4034-1
  11. ^ Federick, Alan."Introduction." The Romance of Tristan: The Tale of Tristan's Madness.Translated by Alan S. Fedrick, Penguin Classics, 1970.
  12. ^ Kelly, Molly Robinson. “After the Potion.” The Hero’s Place: Medieval Literary Traditions of Space and Belonging. Washington DC, Catholic University of America Press, 2009, pp. 227-284.
  13. ^ Trove, National Library of Australia[1]
  14. ^ Norris J. Lacy (editor). Arthurian Archives: Early French Tristan Poems. Cambridge (England); Rochester, New York : D.S. Brewer, 1998. ISBN 0-8240-4034-1
  15. ^ N. J. Lacy et al. 'Cliges". The New Arthurian Encyclopedia. New York: Garland Publishing, 1991.
  16. ^ Before any editions of the Prose Tristan were attempted, scholars were dependent on an extended summary and analysis of all the manuscripts by Eilert Löseth in 1890 (republished in 1974). Of the modern editions, the long version is made up of two editions: Renée L. Curtis, ed. Le Roman de Tristan en prose, vols. 1–3 (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1963–1985) and Philippe Ménard, exec. ed. Le Roman de Tristan en Prose, vols. 1–9 (Geneva: Droz, 1987–1997). Curtis' edition of a simple manuscript (Carpentras 404) covers Tristan's ancestry and the traditional legend up to Tristan's madness. However, the massive amount of manuscripts in existence dissuaded other scholars from attempting what Curtis had done until Ménard hit upon the idea of using multiple teams of scholars to tackle the infamous Vienna 2542 manuscript. His edition follows from Curtis' and ends with Tristan's death and the first signs of Arthur's fall. Richard Trachsler is currently preparing an edition of the "continuation" of the Prose Tristan. The shorter version, which contains no Grail Quest, is published by Joël Blanchard in five volumes.
  17. ^ Alan Lupak (editor). Lancelot of the Laik and Sir Tristrem. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications. 1994.
  18. ^ N. J. Lacy (et al.) (1991). The New Arthurian Encyclopedia. New York: Garland Publishing.
  19. ^ von Rudolph, Meissner (trans.), Die Strengleikar : ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der altnordischen Prosalitteratur (Halle a.S : M. Niemeyer, 1902).
  20. ^ N. J. Lacy (et al.). Tristan from The New Arthurian Encyclopedia. New York : Garland Publishing, 1991.
  21. ^ The Tristan Legend Hill. Leeds England: Leeds Medieval Studies. 1973.
  22. ^ N. J. Lacy (et al.). Czech Arthurian Literature from The New Arthurian Encyclopedia. New York : Garland Publishing, 1991.
  23. ^ Kipel, Z (c. 1988). The Byelorussian Tristan. New York: Garland Publishing. ISBN 0-8240-7598-6.
  24. ^ Hardy, Thomas (1923) The Famous Tragedy of the Queen of Cornwall at Tintagel in Lyonnesse. London: Macmillan; two drawings by Hardy reproduced as plates
  25. ^ "Films named Tristan and Isolde". Internet Movie Database.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h Harty, Kevin J. "Arthurian Film from the Camelot Project at the University of Rochester".
  27. ^ "Watch Tristan e Isolda". Retrieved 13 October 2019.

External links

  • Overview of the story
  • "Romance of Tristan and Isolde" Free PDF eBook
  • Béroul: Le Roman de Tristan
  • Thomas d'Angleterre : Tristan
  • Transcription and page images of the Auchinleck manuscript
  • The libretto for Wagner's opera, bilingual English and German
  • Tristan page from the Camelot Project
  • Bibliography of Modern Tristaniana in English
  • Tristan and Iseult public domain audiobook at LibriVox
  • (in French) Tristan and Iseult, audio version Speaker Icon.svg