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Tristan and Iseult

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Tristan and Iseult, as told by Thomas of Britain and Beroul in the 12th century and reworked by Gottfried of Strasbourg and others, including Wagner.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Tristan and Iseult, one of the most popular stories of the Middle Ages. From roots in Celtic myth, it passed into written form in Britain a century after the Norman Conquest and almost immediately spread throughout northern Europe. It tells of a Cornish knight and an Irish queen, Tristan and Iseult, who accidentally drink a love potion, at the same time, on the same boat, travelling to Cornwall. She is due to marry Tristan's king, Mark. Tristan and Iseult seemed ideally matched and their love was heroic, but could that excuse their adultery, in the minds of medieval listeners, particularly when the Church was so clear they were wrong?


Laura Ashe
Associate Professor of English at Worcester College, University of Oxford

Juliette Wood
Associate Lecturer in the School of Welsh at Cardiff University


Mark Chinca
Reader in Medieval German Literature at the University of Cambridge

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Available now

43 minutes

Last on

Thu 31 Dec 2015 21:30


Laura Ashe at the University of Oxford

Juliette Wood at Cardiff University

Mark Chinca at the University of Cambridge

Tristan and Iseult - Wikipedia



Laura Ashe (ed.), Early Fiction in England: From Geoffrey of Monmouth to Chaucer (Penguin, 2015)

Beroul (trans. Alan Fedrick), The Romance of Tristan (Penguin, 1978)

Rachel Bromwich, A. O. H. Jarman, Brynley F. Roberts (eds.), The Arthur of the Welsh: The Arthurian legend in Medieval Welsh literature (first published 1991; University of Wales Press, 2008), especially ‘The Tristan of the Welsh’ by Rachel Bromwich

Glyn S. Burgess & Karen Pratt (eds.), The Arthur of the French: The Arthurian Legend in Medieval French and Occitan Literature (University of Wales Press, 2006), especially, ‘The Tristan Legend in Old French Verse’ by Tony Hunt & Geoffrey Bromiley

Mark Chinca, Gottfried von Strassburg: Tristan (Cambridge University Press, 1997)

Marie de France (trans. Glyn S. Burgess), The Lais of Marie de France (Penguin, 1999)

Helen Fulton (ed.), A Companion to Arthurian Literature (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), especially ‘The Matter of Britain on the Continent and the Legend of Tristan and Iseult in France, Italy and Spain’

W. H. Jackson & Silvia Ranawake (eds.), The Arthur of the Germans: The Arthurian Legend in Medieval German and Dutch Literature (University of Wales Press, 2000), especially ‘Tristan Narratives from the High to the Late Middle Ages’ by Mark Chinca

Gottfried von Strassburg (ed. A. T. Hatto), Tristan with the ‘Tristran’ of Thomas (Penguin, 1967)

Joan Tasker Grimbert (ed.), Tristan and Isolde: A Casebook (first published 1995; Routledge, 2002)


Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Interviewed Guest Laura Ashe
Interviewed Guest Juliette Wood
Interviewed Guest Mark Chinca
Producer Simon Tillotson


  • Thu 31 Dec 2015 09:00
  • Thu 31 Dec 2015 21:30

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