Tristan Essay, Research Paper
Webster s dictionary defines the word lovesick as an adjective used to describe one that is disconsolate because of unrequited love. Gottfried von Strassburg writes his romance, Tristan, for a lovesick audience. In his introduction, Gottfried notes that anyone who has been in love will rejoice in reading about the love of others. Gottfried s definition of the term lovesick, however, is different and more in-depth than simply unrequited love. The story tells of the great love of not only Tristan and Isolde, but also of Tristan s parents Rivalin and Blancheflor. Both of these lovesick pairs act in certain ways out of their lovesickness. They are disloyal and deceitful. Their happiness and very lives depend on the presence of their lovers. Both of these lovesick pairs come to sadly tragic endings due to their lovesickness. The definition of Gottfried s lovesickness can be found by examining the four lovers actions as a result of this infliction.
One way to examine what Gottfried means by lovesick is to look at the affected s actions. For example, one characteristic of these persons is their tendency to abandon everyone and everything except for the object of their affection. Blancheflor, in her passion for Rivalin, leaves behind her brother, King Mark, and all of the people of her country to be with Rivalin. When Blanchefor is presented with the choice of Rivalin leaving her or her accompanying him to his country, she immediately chooses the latter without hesitation. She spends no time dwelling on the fact that she will be leaving everyone she knows and loves behind. Her love for Rivalin gives her no option but to follow him. Perhaps an even better example of the lovesicks need to be with the one they love is Tristan and Isolde s episode in the lovers cave. When King Mark tells Tristan and Isolde to leave his court because he is tired of the dishonor they bring him, they readily comply. They make no protest, nor do they make any attempt to end their relationship for the benefit of Mark. They accept banishment from the court to remain together. Gottfried shows that the lovesick will abandon all for their love.
Another characteristic of the lovesick, which is visible through the lovers actions, is the tendency of lovers to be deceitful when they believe it serves their purpose. An example of this is Isolde s betrayal of her husband Mark. Throughout the romance she constantly lies to her husband about her emotions and actions. Her first major deceit occurs on her wedding night. Because Isolde is no longer a virgin, she persuades her maid Brangane to take her place in the wedding bed. Her lovesickness for Tristan is so great that she uses her closest friend s body to keep her secret. Isolde continues her lie to Mark about her love for Tristan. Mark tries many times to catch her in her lies, but each time Isolde, with the continued aide of Brangane, lies more elaborately to keep her secret. At no time does Isolde show sorrow or regret over her deceitful actions, but instead only worries about getting caught: Thus wily Isolde dissembled towards her consort till she had won him from his suspicion and anger with her tricks, and he would have sworn that she meant it (226). Perhaps the greatest example of Isolde s deceitfulness occurs when she pledges her oath at Carelon. While technically not lying, she is still untruthful to her husband and in this episode also to God: She stretched out her hand to take upon the relics with fearful heart, as well as she might, and rendered up heart and hand to the grace of God, for Him to keep and preserve (247). Through Isolde s actions another part of the definition of lovesickness is made clear; the lovesick feel justified in their deceitfulness to others close to them.
Perhaps the lovesick are dishonest and disloyal to preserve their love because it is the only thing that can bring them happiness. Each time Tristan and Isolde are separated, they both feel utterly sad and dejected. At one point in the romance, Tristan and Isolde are meant to be kept apart by a trap of flour surrounding her bed. This separation causes Tristan so much anguish that he decides to risk the trap just to be with his love: This trap was mortal pain for Tristan. His desire for the woman was at its height and his heart yearned in his body as to how he could get to her (241). Tristan risks revealing his secret love because it causes him so much misery to be away from Isolde. In this case, even being in the same room with her is not enough. He must be close to her body to find relief. When Mark again separates Tristan and Isolde, they once again are despondent. Tristan must leave Isolde and this makes him feel as if his life is ending: He fled Mark and death, yet sought mortal peril that was death to his heart-absence from Isolde (284). Tristan knows that he will find no happiness or consolation during their separation. To the lovesick, in Gottfried s eyes, the only happiness they find is being with their love.
The most important aspect of the definition of lovesickness is also the most tragic. In Gottfried s eyes, those who are lovesick are dependent for their very lives on those they love. Tristan is orphaned after his father Rivalin dies in a battle, and his mother dies of grief during childbirth. Unfortunately, this tragic end does not escape their offspring. Tristan also dies as a result of his lovesickness. Gottfried was so enamored of his characters and their perfect love that he could not even finish their story to the tragic end. In Thomas Tristan, however, the end is made clear as Tristan lays in wait for Isolde to come heal him after he is seriously wounded. Isolde of the white hands deceives Tristan by telling him Isolde is not coming. After hearing this, Tristan loses his will to live: Since you will no longer come to me I must dies for your love. I can hold on to life no longer. I die for you (352). Tristan knows that nothing but Isolde s love can make his life worth living. Because he thinks that he has lost that love, he sees no reason to go on. When Isolde reaches Tristan to find he is dead, she too gives up her life: You have forfeited our life on my account, and I shall do as a true lover: I will die for you in return (353). The bond that lovesickness creates between lovers is unbroken even in death.
Through all four lovers examples, Gottfried has shown that lovesickness will cause disloyalty. It will also make someone act dishonest and deceitful, as seen by Isolde s numerous lies to Mark and her court. Lovers happiness, when lovesick, depends solely on the presence of their lover. Lovesickness is such a strong condition that lovers can not live if their beloved is dead. These four parts of lovesickness serve to comprise a much deeper meaning than that of just sadness over unrequited love.