Chapter Four
ROMANCE AND REALISM

I

An interest in the psychological elements of a story is frequently accompanied in medieval romance by a neglect of its adventurous aspect; and Malory's disregard of the latter, the chief motive of the roman d'aventure, is largely due to his concentration on the former.1

A most cursory glance at his alterations and additions will prove this. His original traces the love of Tristan and Iseult to a purely 'adventurous' cause: it is only because he sees Palomides in love with Iseult that Tristan decides to supplant his friend.2 Malory rejects this version. In the Morte Darthur Tristan's passion has a spontaneous origin, and his envy of Palomides is not the cause but the effect of his love. He 'cast grete love to la beale Isoud' because 'she was the fairest mayde and lady of the worlde'. Tristan teaches her to play the harp, and she begins 'to have grete fantasye unto hym'.3 While in the French source their parting is not even mentioned,4 in Malory Iseult makes 'grete dole and lamentacion', and says: '"O

____________________
1
He differs in this respect from most of his English predecessors. The Middle-English Arthurian poets concerned themselves with the narrative itself rather than with its courtly interpretation. The romantic spirit of the French Arthurian poems was tolerated--sometimes respected, but seldom understood. The author of the English version of Chrestien Yrain (Ywain and Gawain) not only omits the discourses on courtly love which are the very essence of Chrestien's art, but almost divests his heroes of their emotions. For its effect the story depends on sequence of incident rather than on delineation of feeling. The same applies to Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight: it is a masterpiece of narrative, but it shows little interest in the real aims and virtues of the French romance.
2
MS. B.N. fr. 103, f. 39r, col. 2: 'Tant regarde Palamedes Yseult que Tristan s'en aperchoit a son semblant qu'il l'ayme de tout son coeur. . . . Et puis qu'il vist que Palamedes la regardoit si merveilleusement, il dit qu'il l'avra ou il mourra.'
3
p. 285.
4
Cf. MS. B.N. fr. 103, f. 43v, col. 2.

-43-

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