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Gottfried's version of this legendary romance--in which Tristan and Isolde chance to drink a magic potion that causes them to fall in love--portrays Tristan in the round as an attractive and sophisticated pre-Renaissance man. While Gottfried adheres faithfully to the events as set down by Thomas, his chosen source, he is correct over questions of Christianity and religion, but no more. In fact his persona as narrator is oddly elusive and engaging. A virtuoso stylist, adept in irony and wit, he is subtle and almost unmedieval in putting across his own imporessions of a love that transcends the bounds advocated by Church or society. As A. T. Hatto writes: it "should bring a shock of delight to those who are expecting an Arthurian romance, a Tennysonian idyll, or a Wagnerian melodrama; or who imagined that in the year AD 1210 Germany was still altogether in the Dark Ages."
One of the great romances of the Middle Ages, Tristan, written in the early thirteenth century, is based on a medieval love story of grand passion and deceit. By slaying a dragon, the young prince Tristan wins the beautiful Isolde's hand in marriage for his uncle, King Mark. On their journey back to Mark's court, however, the pair mistakenly drink a love-potion intended for the king and his young bride, and are instantly possessed with an all-consuming love for each another - a love they are compelled to conceal by a series of subterfuges that culminates in tragedy. Von Strassburg's work is acknowledged as the greatest rendering of this legend of medieval lovers, and went on to influence generations of writers and artists and inspire Richard Wagner's Tristan and Isolde.
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Gottfried von Strassburg was one of the greatest medieval German poets, whose courtly epic Tristan und Isolde is the classic version of this famous love story. The dates of his birth and death are unknown, and the only information about him consists of references to him in the work of other poets and inferences from his own work. Although unfinished, Gottfrieds work is the finest of the medieval versions of the Tristan legend and one of the most perfect creations of the medieval courtly spirit.