The Romance of Tristan and The Tale of Traistan's Madness

The Romance of Tristan - BĂ©roul, Alan S. Fedrick Beroul's addition of this legend has several inconsistencies. For one, this version claims that Tristan drinks a potion that makes him fall in love with Yseult as he is bringing her over from Ireland to marry his uncle King Mark. But somehow Yseult is affected by the potion too and returns Tristan's feelings. They become very unlikeable and selfish in their love, lying to King Mark about it and then trying to kill whoever catches them together. (At one point Yseult arranges to have her maid killed, because she fears that her maid MIGHT tell someone. Yseult is eventually persuaded out of it by a guard and frees her.) Then, later on, Beroul claims that the love potion expired after three years; at this, Tristan and Yseult stop loving each other and decide to go back to their old lives. Tristan only feels guilt that he led Yseult so far astray. That detail holds up until the final sections of the story, in which Beroul shows Tristan and Yseult are still infatuated with one another. Beroul never explains how their feelings reignite. So Tristan and Yseult continue to carry on their affair, even though Tristan promised King Mark that he had left England in shame. There are three advisors to King Mark who notice Tristan's reappearance and try to bring Yseult and Tristan to justice. (Beroul repeatedly refers to these three as "villains," even though they are really just doing their jobs as advisors. Beroul does this often in the story, raining personal criticism on characters who dislike Yseult and Tristan.) These advisors decide that Yseult should defend herself, after running away with another man for three years, and King Mark asks for an audience in King Arthur's court. Yseult is brought before an audience to defend her honor and actually tricks King Arthur into believing her virtue. Somehow this involves jousting. King Arthur, for reasons that are unclear, insists on hanging the three advisors and Yseult returns to King Mark with a pure reputation. Yseult's only redeeming quality is her beauty. In fact, like in several other Arthurian stories, exterior beauty is seen as evidence of innocence. Yseult commits adultery, flees with Tristan, and somehow returns as a queen unscathed all because of her appearance. I understand that this is how people thought during this time period, but that free pass only makes Yseult more annoying and Tristan seem shallow. They are obsessed with one another, and their selfish mistakes and petty feuds only fuel their romance. Their story is a tragic one, but the lovers are what make it so.