Book Review: The Romance of Tristan

romance of trsitna


Title: The Romance of Tristan

Author: Beroul

Publisher: Penguin Classics (July 1978)

Genre: Fiction (Literature)

Paperback:176 Pages

I had to read this book for my Medieval Literature class (which on a random note I saw my medieval literature professor at my church the other day- weird) . It is a love story that was very popular throughout all of Europe and had been translated into numerous languages.

I am not a fan of medieval literature, but I honestly suggest you read this.

It is hilarious.

The writing, at least in this edition, is very easy to read and follow.

It is also ridiculous. There is a magical dwarf, the king is an idiot, the girl is witty, and there is a dog that appears that you never see or hear from again.

When I read it, this is the conclusion I came to

I found it comical and it reminded me of humerous version of Romeo and Juliet. Even though both stories invoke a sense of sadness, I had a difficult time taking this story or the characters seriously. With the asininity of the characters, particularly Tristan and Yseult, this story is a little erratic.

I guess the main reason why I have problems with Tristan and Yseult is because after 3 years, the time the potion is supposed to wear off, they still act in the same manner towards each other as to when the potion was in full effect. It  is true that when the potion begins to wear off they both began to have a sense of regret. At the same time though they still view each other with love, “Let us both pray that the King of Heaven will have mercy on us, Tristan, my love.” I thought the love potion had worn off by this point. They keep telling everyone that it isnot their fault, but the love potions fault. And yet no sooner does Yseult vindicate herself, Tristan runs back to meet her in secret to talk with her, and be with her. The reason for this is because he has missed her greatly. They can’t blame the love potion at this point for it has worn off. I find it fascinating that even the author to an extent is trying to lay all the blame on the love potion near the end of the book. In the end Tristan and Yseult both die from despair and grief because of the other. Where they were buried two trees grew from their graves, one from Tristan and one from Yseult and intertwined. The author claims that “some say” it was the love potion that caused this to happen. That makes no sense since the love potion should have worn off by now, in fact it already had worn off. It seems to me that the love potion was merely an excuse, a scapegoat they could use.

In my opinion the love potion only emphasized what was already there, for they still loved and wanted each other after the love potion worn off. To me this makes both of them responsible for their actions. They know right from wrong. If they knew it wasn’t wrong, they would not have had to hide their love from the king, constantly lie or use equivocation. They wouldn’t have to go into hiding, and it certainly wouldn’t account for Yseult having her serving maid take her place the night she was supposed to consummate the marriage with King Mark. Even though I hold both of them equally responsible for their actions and only see the love potion as an excuse, if I had to give my sympathies to one of them it would have to be Yseult.

The reason why I would give my sympathies to her and not Tristan is because she is a woman, married to a king, far away from her family and friends, and she has nowhere to go. In that time period being a woman was already a disadvantage, for they don’t had limited rights. She is married to a king, which that itself holds a great deal of responsibility. Her nearest family and friends are far away in a different country and can’t get to her quickly if she gets in trouble. Finally it is not probable that she would be able to leave on her own, for she does not have the means to leave the country. While Tristan is far better off than Yseult. He is not married, he could be with whoever he wants and not be criticized. Even if he was married, he would have an easier time having an affair in comparison. If he needed to, he could leave the country and he has the means to do that. Between the two, the consequences are far worse for her than him.

For me this I think the love potion was merely an excuse that was used so that way Tristan and Yseult could have an affair without people really shaming them. Even though they story was comical and the characters were foolish, I still enjoyed it.

I would give this book 5 stars as a humorous book and 1 star as a piece of great literature. Overall I would give this book… 1.5 stars

1.5 star

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below.



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