Joseph Bedier's The Romance of Tristan and Iseult and Jean Cocteau’s Eternal Return

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The Romance of Tristan and Iseult, by Joseph Bédier, and Jean Cocteau’s 1943 cinematic adaptation of the epic love story Eternal Return, both portray the love between Tristan and Iseult, and Patrice and Natalie as an agonizing cancer that overpowers the lovers after they consume the love potion. But the differences of how and when the love potion is administered, and the lovers’ feelings for each other before the potion is drunk, reveal different depictions of the love potion between the novel and the film.

The first difference between the film and the novel is when the two lovers drink the love potion. In the book, they drink the love potion when they are still on the boat and have “dropped anchor by an island” (Bédier, 42). Here Iseult has not met King Mark. But in the film, Natalie and Patrice drink the love potion after Natalie has been introduced to Uncle Mark. In the first instance, they both have a chance to elope, and no one would be the wiser. They can easily live a life of comfort and full of love with each other, but Tristan chooses to hand over the woman he loves to his Uncle, and suffer for his love. In the film, Natalie and Patrice are not given this option, and therefore do not have a chance to escape their faith. Also in the book, an unknowing maid gives the love potion to the lovers. She believes that she is just giving them wine. This signifies the fact that no one intentionally wished for them to suffer, but faith led them to it. But in the film, Achille puts the love potion in their drinks on the pretext of murdering them with poison. In the film the fact that the love potion is labeled poison, foreshadows the pain and sorrow the two lovers will face, because poison leads to a slo...

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...g this news for the first time and is astounded and angry. Aunt Gertrude, though shrewd and unlikable, also realizes the attraction between Patrice and Natalie, and tells Patrice that he is marrying the girl he loves to his Uncle. Her awareness on this subject may be rooted in her hate for Patrice and her desire to destroy him because her son can never be as loved as Patrice, but that does not alter the fact that she feels and notices the love between Patrice and Natalie.

The difference in the film and the novel alter the depiction of the love affair between Tristan and Iseult and Patrice and Natalie. While the novel portrays Tristan and Iseult as causing the suffering they endure because of their love, the film makes Patrice and Natalie the victims of faith and love.

Works Cited

Bedier, Joseph. The Romance of Tristan and Iseult. New York, 1994

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