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Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Mark Chinca
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

‘O everlasting night, sweet night, sacred, exalted night of love! He who has felt your embrace and your smile, how could he ever awake from you without pangs of dread?’ Thus sing Wagner's lovers Tristan and Isolde. Their ‘Liebesnacht’, the night of love, becomes the ‘Liebestod’ in the continuation of their duet: ‘Banish now those pangs, gentle death, love-death of our ardent longing! In your arms, consecrated to you, hallowed warmth of ages, we are free from awaking's duress!’ (Tristan und Isolde, ed. W. Zentner, Stuttgart, 1950, act II, scene 2). Night and death are the fulfilment of love. Nothing could be further from the medieval source on which Wagner freely based his story-line, the Middle High German verse romance Tristan, written around 1210 by Gottfried von Strassburg; nor is it anything like the source that Gottfried used, the Old French Roman de Tristan by Thomas. In the medieval versions, there is nothing metaphysical about the lovers' death. Thomas leaves them side by side on the bier, summing up tersely, ‘Tristran died for his love, and fair Ysolt of a tender heart’ (ed. Wind, Sneyd, 818–19). The scene is not included in Gottfried's unfinished romance, but he does narrate the death of Tristan's parents, Riwalin and Blanscheflur. The father dies, not for love, but in a feudal war he incautiously provoked with his neighbour; the mother does not survive her grief.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1997

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  • Introduction
  • Mark Chinca, University of Cambridge
  • Book: Gottfried von Strassburg: Tristan
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139166447.002
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  • Introduction
  • Mark Chinca, University of Cambridge
  • Book: Gottfried von Strassburg: Tristan
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139166447.002
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Introduction
  • Mark Chinca, University of Cambridge
  • Book: Gottfried von Strassburg: Tristan
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139166447.002
Available formats
×