Power in Tristan

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Women in Arthurian romances are characterized in several ways, portraying beauty, rank, and educational achievements. Some women provide key roles in different areas of the novel, but are often still in a place of male authority. Within the narrative of Gottfried Von Strassburg’s Tristan, there are various articulations about the power dynamics between men and women. The attainment of power is different throughout the characters, ranging from Blancheflor, who has power over her own destiny; Queen Isolde, who has complete autonomy over herself and influence over her husband, except when it comes to his decisions for their daughter; Princess Isolde the Fair, who has power over her lover Tristan and her maiden Brangane, but not over her own body; and Brangane, who is under the authority of Princess Isolde until she steps outside the boundaries and betrays Isolde. These characters demonstrate the continuous struggle most women face within the Arthurian world. Blancheflor is a character that navigates power structures to shape her own destiny. She is not controlled by her husband, but instead asserts her own desires and strives to achieve them through the subservience of her lover, Rivalin. A strong instance of Blancheflor’s power over Rivalin is when, after finding out she is pregnant and expresses her fears to Rivalin about the future, he states that he will do whatever she desires him to do. He tells Blancheflor, “I myself and all that I have shall always be at your service…for whatever you wish, I wish it too” (61). Rivalin is clearly stating that he will assist Blancheflor in anything that she desires to happen, and will accept her opinions and plans as his own. In this case, she wishes to elope so that no one will know of the premarital conception of their child. Rivalin accepts her plans without hesitation, showing his powerlessness under his love’s desires. Queen
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