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Le Roman de Tristan en prose, vol. 3, Du tournoi du Chateau des Pucelles a l'admission de Tristan a la Table Ronde.

This third volume, appearing one year after the second, has a format which has by now become familiar. There is a preface by the general editor of the series, Philippe Menard, and then a lengthy introduction by the editor of this volume, Gilles Roussineau, in which the manuscript tradition, the language of the manuscript and the literary interest of this section of the Tristan en prose are considered. Roussineau's conclusions, almost inevitably perhaps, offer nothing really startling. The wisdom of selecting Vienna, Staatsbibliothek, MS 2542 as base-manuscript is once again asserted; occasionally, in his consideration of the language, Roussineau's conclusions offer a slightly different emphasis from that of his predecessors, but on the whole he is presenting new examples to confirm what is already known. This being said, Roussineau presents his material with admirable clarity and, arguably, with greater method than was in evidence in the first two volumes.

This edition covers paragraphs 156-206 of Loseth's analysis of the romance. There is a kind of narrative thread running through the text as it stands, namely the quest for Tristan (travelling incognito as the chevalier a l'escu noir) by a variety of knights. This is a fairly tenuous thread, for what is immediately noticeable is the complicated interweaving of adventures, so much so that it would be dangerous to state that the quest notion offers any real unity to the work. Indeed, one interest of the text, as Roussineau suggests, is the way in which virtually independent narratives are artificially inserted. Close to the beginning of the text, when Lancelot has reached a castle, we are treated to a quite incidental account of how Bohort came to build it at that spot. (One is reminded of the not dissimilar technique employed by Froissart as he relates his journey to Bearn in Book in of his chronicles.) Later, the author adapts a familiar story, as he contrasts the loyalty of Dinas' dogs with the inconstancy of his mistress. An attempt is made to integrate this story with the main line of the narrative, but essentiallv what we have here is old material in a new setting. It is perhaps this blend of the old and the new that is the dominant impression conveyed by this section of the romance. The author draws upon the general corpus of chivalric material and upon the Lancelot en prose in particular, but he introduces new matter or, at least, gives an original bias to well-worn motifs. Roussineau points out that Mark appears here as the implacable opponent of the chivalric way of life. Although not all the poetic versions present Mark as the hesitant weakling of Beroul and Thomas (see, for example, the beginning of Chevrefeuille), the author does seem to have chosen deliberately to add an original dimension to the role of the king. By the end of this volume, Tristan has been traced by his pursuers, he has revealed his identity and achieved an undoubted triumph in that he has been admitted to the fellowship of the Round Table, appropriately taking over the seat of the Morholt. Yet all is not well: love has regularly been associated with sorrow, and, more specifically Morgain has indicated how Tristan will meet his death. That moment, however, is still some way off.
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Author:Bromiley, G.N.
Publication:Medium Aevum
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1992
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