Tristan and Isolde
(also Tristam or Tristram or Tristrem and Isolt or Isolde or Yseut)

The story of these two medieval lovers was first circulated in Northern France in the 12th century. Over the next several centuries the story was translated into several languages and spread its way across Western Europe. A 13th century German version by Gottfriend von Strassburg was adapted in 1859 by Richard Wagner to create his famous opera "Tristan and Isolde." The version presented here centres around the portion of the tale written by Marie de France around 1160 entitled "Lai du chevrefoil" (The tale of the honeysuckle).

The many poems and prose texts from surviving medieval manuscripts relate the adventures of a heroic knight, Tristan, who was the nephew of King Mark of Cornwall and heir to the throne. Upon returning from a trip to Ireland, Tristan tells King Mark of the beautiful princess, Isolde, daughter to the Queen of Ireland. King Mark decides to appease his barons who insist upon his producing a true heir to the throne, for they were jealous of Tristan. The King therefore sends Tristan back to Ireland to make his desires known to the crown of Ireland with a proposal of marriage to Isolde. Tristan returns to Ireland to find the countryside being ravaged by a horrible beast. In desperation, the Irish Queen has dictated that whosoever would slay this beast would win the hand of her daughter, Isolde. Tristan slew the beast and declared his intention to bring Isolde to Cornwall for King Mark. It was agreed. Isolde's mother, concerned for her daughter's happiness in marrying a much older man, decided to have a love potion made for the married couple to ingest upon their wedding night in order to ensure their happiness. The potion was entrusted to Isolde's handmaiden, Brengwain, who was given instructions to make sure both King Mark and Isolde drank from it upon being wed.

Of course, things did not go as planned. On the sea journey from Ireland to Cornwall, Tristan became thirsty and Brengwain accidentally gave both Tristan and Isolde the vial of love potion to drink. From this point on an uncontrolled passion developed between the two lovers. But Tristan, knowing that their true desires of living happily ever after could never be, went on to perform his duty by delivering Isolde to Cornwall and presenting her to King Mark. The King and Isolde were wed, but Tristan and Isolde continued their love affair until King Mark became convinced that his most trusted knight and his queen were meeting secretly. Tristan was banished. Here is where the story of Chevrefoil begins.

Al Cofrin

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