Publication Date

Spring 5-5-2021


College of Arts and Sciences




Arthurian legend, opera, Wagner, mythology, courtly love


Medieval Studies


The legend of Tristan and Isolde is perhaps the most influential Arthurian romance apart from Lancelot and Guinevere. It has been retold many times, with each iteration responding to its own unique cultural context as well as adopting varying approaches to the medieval traditions of courtly love. The works of Wagner, Malory, and Gottfried von Strassburg all develop different versions of the same three themes: sexuality, the worthiness of love, and death. These various reconstructions of Tristan and Isolde's story blend syntheses of courtly love and historically contemporary approaches to romance, but all three reinventions romanticize it; while Strassburg and Wagner idealize the love affair, Malory and Wagner also romanticize courtly love and the medieval Arthurian era itself.