Tristan and Isolde Medieval Legend – Famous medieval love story before Romeo and Juliet.
The tragic love story of Tristan and Isolde has been told and retold through various stories and manuscripts. It takes place during medieval times during the reign of King Arthur.
Isolde of Ireland, also known as Isolt, Isold, Iseult, or Ysolde, was the daughter of Angwish, King of Ireland. She was betrothed to King Mark of Cornwall. King Mark sent his nephew, Tristan, to Ireland to escort Isolde back to Cornwall.
Tristan (Tristram) whose name means “sorrow”, given to him because of the loss of his mother at his birth, was a noble knight.
Before leaving Ireland, Isolde’s mother gave a love potion to Isolde’s handmaiden, Brangraine, with strict instructions to keep it safe until they reached Cornwall. It was then to be given to Isolde on her wedding night. Sometime during the voyage, Isolde and Tristan drank the potion by accident and fell forever in love.
Isolde did marry Mark of Cornwall, but could not help but love Tristan. The love affair continued after the marriage. When King Mark finally learned of the affair, he forgave Isolde, but Tristan was banned from Cornwall. Tristan moved to King Arthur’s court and later went to Brittany. There he met Iseult of Brittany (also known as Iseult of White Hands). He was attracted to her because of the similarity of her name to his true love. He married her, but did not consummate the marriage because of his love for the “true” Isolde.
After falling ill, he sent for Isolde in hopes that she would be able to cure him. If she agreed to come, the returning ship’s sails would be white, or the sails would be black if she did not agree. Iseult, seeing the white sails, lied to Tristan and told him that the sails were black. He died of grief before Isolde could reach him. Isolde died soon after of a broken heart.
Iseult regretted her actions after she saw the love that the two had for each other.