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The Romance of Tristan

The Romance of Tristan

by Béroul

The Romance of Tristan Part 4 Summary

The Condemnation and Escape of the Lovers

  • Word spreads throughout the city that Tristan and Yseut have been taken together and condemned to death.
  • As you may have imagined, public opinion favors the lovers. People are mad at the barons and the dwarf that enabled them to be caught; everybody remembers the great service Tristan did for Cornwall when he fought Morholt.
  • Mark calls all the Cornish people to the palace. He announces his plan to burn his wife and nephew, ignoring his people's request that he give them a fair trial.
  • As prisoners are led to their death, they pass by a chapel on a cliff overlooking the sea. When Tristan is led by, he begs to be allowed to go inside to pray.
  • Tristan's captors unbind him. Once inside the chapel, he climbs out a window behind the altar and leaps to the rocks below, escaping.
  • Governal, who has fled the city, meets Tristan on the beach near the chapel. Tristan complains that without Yseut, his escape is meaningless.
  • Governal advises Tristan to hide in a bush and wait to hear news of Yseut; he must live on to avenge her death if she is burnt.
  • Governal gives Tristan his sword and hauberk (a.k.a. chain mail), but prevents him from riding to rescue Yseut because Mark has threatened to kill anyone who helps Tristan escape.
  • When Yseut learns of Tristan's escape, she cares not at all about her own death, rejoicing only that those responsible for their capture will get what they deserve. We're not totally sure what that is, but we'll go with whatever makes her happy.
  • As Yseut is being led to the fire, the seneschal Dinas begs Mark to give her a fair trial, warning him that Tristan will take vengeance for her death. Mark refuses.
  • A leper named Yvain meets Mark and Yseut on the way to the fire. He tells Mark that he knows of a better way for Mark to punish Yseut. Do tell, Yvain.
  • Yvain proposes that Mark give Yseut to the leper colony to be held as their common woman, arguing that it will be worse for Yseut to suffer this indignity than burn. Well, that's a charming suggestion.
  • Mark agrees, handing her over. Mark. MARK. Seriously?
  • Governal and Tristan see Yseut being led away by the lepers. Yseut leaps from the bush on horseback and fights the crutch-brandishing lepers. You can't make this stuff up.
  • Tristan, Governal, and Yseut ride off into the forest together.
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