The Progress of Parzival
Trees of Virtue and Vice
NO READER OF THE Wolfram criticism of the last two decades needs to be reminded of the impact upon it of theological ideas. Indeed, a vary large number of the recent studies of Parzival have concentrated upon the ethical and religious problems raised by the work and the relation between these and the theological ideas of his own time or the tenets of a vaguely defined heresy. Such studies assume, as they must, that Wolfram had considerable acquaintance with theological writing, the kind of acquaintance which could be gained only by detailed and informed reading, not by mere second-hand knowledge. Such an assumption is a far cry indeed from the days when Wolfram's "ichne kan deheinen buochstap" was interpreted by respectable scholars as a statement that he literally could not read. It may well be that such criticism, in its desire to open fresh fields of inquiry, has lost touch with reality. No one would deny Wolfram's interest in moral and spiritual problems or his sense of the deep meaning of life and its dependence on God's guidance but there is little or no evidence of systematic theological method, of an attempt to put into poetical form the subtleties of the thinking of the schoolmen. Wolfram's whole attitude would appear to make such an assumption unlikely. It is surely more probable that Wolfram's theology, if his ideas may be so designated, was rather a general attitude towards good and evil which was compounded, quite unsystematically, from ideas current in his day, ideas which originated indeed in the schools but which had become popular and were expressed in a form easily understood by the layman.