Beroul’s Romance of Tristan both praises and condemns the lovers. As a result, the poem simultaneously praises and condemns deceit and lies. The Romance of Tristan is the tale of Tristan and his lover, Yseut. They were also from royal families. Tristan belonged to the Lyonesse Kingdom, while Yseut belonged to the Ireland Kingdom. The two lovers first met in Ireland, when Yseut cured Tristan of a previously incurable illness. Tristan and Yseut battle for the second time when Tristan bravely defeats a dragon that has been terrorizing the kingdom of Ireland. The King and Queen give Yseut to Tristan as a gift. Naturally, one would expect that Tristan would keep the gift to himself. However, to the reader’s surprise, Tristan further gifts his uncle King Mark with Yseut as wife. However, on their way to the marriage ceremony, Yseut’s maid servant mistakenly gives Tristan and Yseut a love portion. “By mistake, Brangain brought the love portion to Tristan, who drank and passed to Yseut” (Fedrick 44). Consequently, the two become madly in love with each other. On the night of the wedding, they deceive King Mark and give him the maid servant. Their action begins a pattern of lies that only ends when Tristan and Yseut die in each other’s arms (Fedrick 164-165).
Beroul celebrates the lovers because of several factors such as their genuine love for each other, loyalty, kindness, and bravery. In as much as the romance between Tristan and Yseut is blamed on the love portion, in the end the two realize that they had madly fallen in love with each other. The writer of the Romance of Tristan also celebrates the lovers because of their bravery. Tristan kills the dragon that terrorized the Ireland kingdom. He also kills Morhalt in battle. He was a great warrior. On the other Yseut, accompanies Tristan in running for their lives when they are sentenced to death. Despite the hard conditions, they endure and keep supporting each other. The lovers are also praised for their kindness and loyalty. Tristan was very loyal to his Uncle, even gifting him with Yseut who was his gift. On the other hand, Yseut was kind enough to heal Tristan, a total stranger who landed at the shores of Ireland in dire need of healing.
On the other hand, Beroul condemns the lovers because of their betrayal, lying, and adultery. Tristan betrays his uncle’s trust by committing adultery with his wife. On the other hand, the loves keep lying to King Mark that they are just friends and are not romantically involved in spite of being seen by the king’ barons. Unfortunately, the king believes these lies and never finds any evidence that proves otherwise. In his lying, Tristan ends up deceiving the king that he was a madman “…He tore his clothes and scratched his face” (Fedrick 153-155).
Beroul celebrates adultery and lying because it enables the lovers to find true love. The two vices are also tolerated because they are a foundation of the most beautiful love story. Beroul condemns adultery because it results in strife and bad blood between relations such as Mr. King and Tristan. Adultery also causes deception to take root in the kingdom of Cornwall as Tristan and his lover Yseut keep trying to hide away from the king as they pursue their romantic relationship (McFall 34).
Hence, the love story between Tristan and Yseut is one full of lies, betrayal, and adultery. The individuals involved possess great characters. For instance, Yseut is a loving, caring and kind woman who is lucky to have Tristan in her life. On the other hand, Tristan is a brave young man in need of genuine love which he finds in Yseut. Therefore, Beroul’s Romance of Tristan simultaneously celebrates and condemns the lovers. In doing so, the poem both celebrates and condemns adultery and lying. The double agenda that arises in the poem results in a conflicting position of the writer. The reader is not sure what the poet is advocating for.
Fedrick, Alan. S. “The Romance of Tristan by Beroul and the Tale of Tristan’s Madness.” 1970.
McFall, Gardner. “Love and its Obstacles.” American Book Review 39.2 (2018): 34-34.