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The Romance of Tristan

The Romance of Tristan


by Béroul

The Romance of Tristan Theme of Betrayal

The theme of betrayal is important in The Romance of Tristan, but not in the way you might think. The narrator is firmly on the side of Tristan and Yseut, so he doesn't spend much time dwelling on the fact that their adulterous affair is a betrayal of a lord, uncle, and husband. The real "traitors," according to the story, are the barons who stir up trouble by exposing Tristan and Yseut. They are traitors to the ultimate good, love, and to Mark, because they act out of jealousy for Tristan instead of for Mark's best interests.

Questions About Betrayal

  1. Does Tristan portray Tristan and Yseut as traitors to King Mark? Why or why not?
  2. Why does the narrator call the barons who expose Tristan and Yseut's affair "traitors"? Whom have they betrayed? How?
  3. In "The Tale of Tristan's Madness," how does Tristan compare Yseut's failure to love him to a feudal betrayal of a vassal by his lord?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The ultimate betrayal in The Romance of Tristan is failing to act with your lord's best interests at heart.

Tristan betrays Yseut the Fair by marrying Yseut of the White Hands.


Tristan's marriage to Yseut of the White Hands is not a betrayal of Yseut the Fair.

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