Academic journal article Arthuriana

An Unlikely Hero: The Rapist-Knight Gasozein in Diu Crône

Academic journal article Arthuriana

An Unlikely Hero: The Rapist-Knight Gasozein in Diu Crône

Article excerpt

This essay looks at the enigmatic knight, Gasozein, in Heinrich von dem Türlin's Diu Crône. Despite his serious shortcomings as a knight, Gasozein is treated courteously and gains admittance to the Round Table. (STS)

Admission to the fellowship of the Round Table is an integral component of knightly formation and development in many medieval Arthurian romances. In the medieval German Arthurian tradition, however, this membership does not always necessarily signify the pinnacle of knightly achievement. For example, although Hartmann von Aue's Erec becomes a knight of the Round Table, completing his knightly formation extends beyond Arthur's court. Hartmann is therefore careful to show that Erec's successful knightly formation leads consequently to him becoming a good king and ultimately to eternal salvation.1 In Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival his hero's admittance to the Round Table represents only one stage in Parzival's troubled quest for the Grail-his final goal. By giving both these heroes their own kingdoms, Hartmann and Wolfram allow Erec and Parzival, respectively, to be feudally independent of Arthur: they do not remain at Arthur's court indefinitely. Both these hero-knights exemplify the knightly prowess and chivalry that we, the audience, have come to expect in medieval Arthurian romances. While Arthur's court plays a significant role in the knightly formation of Erec and Parzival, it is not the culmination of this process.

In Diu Crône (ca. 1215), however, Heinrich von dem Türlin recasts this tradition of knightly formation in the figure of Gasozein. Gasozein is identified initially as an exemplary knight, and at first seems to resemble Erec and Parzival in many respects. During the forest scene (3602-5333),2 Gasozein distinguishes himself in single combat with the three Knights of the Round Table by quickly vanquishing them and taking their mounts as trophies. These three battles lead up to the climax of this episode, namely the single combat between Gasozein and Arthur. It is noteworthy that this combat ends in a draw, further attesting to Gasozein's prowess as a knight. Furthermore, Gasozein exhibits heroic qualities when he rescues Ginover from her brother, Gotegrin (11285-11313). But Gasozein's exercise of knighthood is subversive because he undermines Arthurian order, or more specifically, the ideals of knighthood and chivalry. His interactions with Arthur and his court provoke consternation and crises (e.g. his refusal to engage in judicial combat with Arthur and his abduction and rape of Ginover). Above all, in Gasozein's relationship with the courtly lady Ginover, he consistently exhibits uncourtly and discourteous conduct-unworthy of a knight. In his encounter with Arthur in the forest episode, Gasozein alleges that he is Ginover's lover and demands her return. Unfortunately, Gasozein's alleged prior claim to Ginover seriously compromises her reputation and honor at court and in the eyes of Arthur. Gasozein appears later for the judicial combat with Arthur to resolve this crisis, but he refuses to fight, thereby undermining the institution of judicial combat and denying Ginover the opportunity to have her honor fully restored. Undeniably, Gasozein's most serious crime is the abduction and rape of Ginover (11380-11746). After a lengthy battle with Gawein and a long convalescence at Arthur's court, Gasozein experiences a sudden change of heart and belatedly admits to having lied about his prior relationship with Ginover:

Nû wil ich gewinnen

Vil gerne iuwer hulde;

Wan ich gar âne ir schulde

Sie mit worten belouc

Und iuch mit alle betrouc. (12566-12570)

[But now I would like to win your favor, because through no fault of hers I lied about the queen and deceived you. (139)]

However, Gasozein never expresses any remorse about the suffering he has caused Ginover. In view of Gasozein's transgressions, Arthur's, his court's, and especially Ginover's reactions are baffling:

Artûs nâch sÎnr gesellen rât

Vergap ime die missetât;

Daz selbe ouch diu künegÎn tete

Durch in und durch der ritter bete

Und lêch im hoves gnôzschaft. …

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