The story of Tristan and Iseult celebrates the triumph of adultery. When looking vaguely at this romance, readers may think the potion of love that they both drink is the one that makes them to commit adultery. However, this is only a representation of the power of passion and lust Tristan and Iseult have for each other.
To better understand this love story, one must realize that Tristan is a marshal hero who volunteers to take a battle against the King of Ireland, in order to redeem the people and the monarch of King Mark. It would therefore, be suitable to say that King Mark has given his nephew the trust to accomplish the mammoth exercise. In Ireland, Tristan faces the challenge of killing a beast that has terrorized the community, and the reward for this is to gain Iseult -- the daughter of the king. Indeed, Tristan’s military prowess earns him the honor of taking Iseult as a wife to King Mark. Tristan is kind and gentle in his speech of promise about reverence that the would-be-queen is entitled to in Cornwall upon their arrival.
Iseult’s mother gives stern instructions to Tristan concerning the wedding night of King Mark and Iseult, and believing that Tristan as a nephew to the king would honor such promises.
Child, it is yours to go with Iseult to King Mark’s country, for you love her with a faithful love. Take then this pitcher and remember well my words. Hide it so that no eye shall see nor no lip go near it: but when the wedding night has come and that moment in which the wedded are left alone, pour this essenced wine into a cup and offer it to King Mark and to Iseult his queen. Oh! Take all care, my child, that they alone shall taste th...
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...e seen in a less stringent sense than the infidelity that is skyrocketing in many marriages of today. Iseult has not vowed to love King Mark, but she was only given away as a prize to the king because, "for the love of King Mark, did Tristan conquer the Queen of the Hair of Gold" (367). Honestly, there should not be serious consequences for Tristan and Iseult in the same way that the Clintons had to endure the outcomes of an unfaithful spouse. Both Tristan and Iseult reacted against the religious code of being faithful to King Mark, while they burned with passions for each other. Closely analyzing this scenario, the reader of this story would have sympathy for Tristan and Iseult as "star-crossed lovers," to use the language of William Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet.
Bedier, Joseph. The Romance of Tristan and Iseult. New York: Pantheon Books, 1964.
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