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Themes

In The Romance of Tristan, Tristan and Yseut love each other so much that they are willing to suffer any hardship—including a hardscrabble forest existence. They sacrifice everything – the relationships they value, their places in society, as well as the material comforts of their posh palace lifestyle. The fact that the loss of these things is what causes them the most suffering tells us what's most important to them and to their society. What's most important about Tristan and Yseut's suffering, however, is that they endure it for one another. The hardships they face for each other show the strength and depth of their love.

Questions About Suffering

  1. What hardships do Tristan and Yseut endure during their period of exile in the forest? How do they respond?
  2. After the love potion wears off, what losses cause Tristan and Yseut the most suffering and sadness? What do these tell us about what is most important to them?
  3. What kind of figurative language does Tristan use to characterize his suffering for the love of Yseut? How can Yseut bring his suffering to an end?

Chew on This

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

The Romance of Tristan presents the suffering Tristan and Yseut are willing to endure for one another as proof of their love and devotion.

Yseut is a healer in two senses: one, in the literal sense, another in the figurative sense in her role as the one who can bring an end to Tristan's suffering.

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