Interpretation and analysis of the Tristan story since Tennyson
Burns, Margaret Dolores
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It has been my purpose in this thesis to interpret and analyze the modern versions of the Tristan story since the time of Tennyson. In the first chapter, which was concerned with the genesis and evolution of the Tristan legend, we saw that the original version of the story appeared at some time during the age of feminine literature. Although the source of the tale is vague and undetermined, several eminent authorities are of the opinion that it is either Piotish or Celtic in origin. The oral Ur-Tristan, which furnished a crude source for other versions of the tale, was the first account of the story to appear in the old, French language. The most renowned early version of the Tristan legend was the lost poem of Chrétien de Troyes written before 1162 or about eight years after the Ur-Tristan came into existence. Two other important French fragments also survived thanks to the work of Bidier. They were the works of the Anglo-Norman, Thomas, and the Continental Norman, Beroul, both of whom wrote in the latter half of the twelfth century. Some minor versions of the story, including the Chievrefeuil of Marie de Franoe--La Folie Tristan, the work of an unknown Anglo-Norman--and the Donnei des amanz, an English poem--also appeared in the latter half of the twelfth century. In my first chapter I mentioned the nineteenth century Bédier as the author who took the best elements from both Béroul and Thomas and combined them into one prose tale. I showed in Chapter I that the Tristan legend spread into other countries, notably Germany. In the latter part of the twelfth century Eilhart von Oberge wrote a Tristant based on the Béroul work. In 1210 Gottfried von Straussbourg worked on a version which his death interrupted. This work of Gottfried was unsuccessfully finished by three or his compatriots. A Norse prose version of the tale appeared in the first half of the thirteenth century, and an English version, Sir Tristram, in the last half of the same century. Around 1220 there appeared a French prose Tristram by Élie de Boron, probably patterned after Chrétien's lost poem. The story was expanded to such an extent during the course of the thirteenth century that many incidents were changed. For example, instead of dying du chagrin because Iseult of Ireland does not come to see him, Tristram is treacherously slain by Mark. Malory used this same ending in his prose work which was written about 1470. Tennyson later used Malory's Morte d'Arthur as the principal source of his Idylls of the King. Both men described the disruption and disintegration of the laws of chivalry and made Tristan one of the worst knights of the Round Table. During the Elizabethan Age Edmund Spenser presented a portrait of the youthful Tristram in the sixth book of his Fairie Queene. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries interest in the medieval romances fell off due to the strong influences of Puritanism and Neo-Classicism. It wasn't until the early nineteenth century that there was a revival of interest in medievalism, and Sir Walter scott, an early romanticist, was greatly responsible for the renewal of interest in the "matière de Bretagne". His sir Tristram was the last important work concerning the tale before the Victorian poets began to write on the subject.
Thesis (M.A.)--Boston University
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