Study Guide

Governal in The Romance of Tristan

By Béroul


Governal is the tutor Tristan's father employs to teach Tristan "all the warlike and peaceful arts," and he does an excellent job, if Tristan's future success as a knight and courtier is any indication (1.39). Once Tristan grows up, Governal becomes his constant companion in Cornwall, even following Tristan and Yseut into exile in the Forest of Morrois.

Like Brangain for Yseut, Governal shows constant loyalty to Tristan. He helps him rescue Yseut from the lepers and cuts off the head of one of the barons just because, as he tells Tristan, "This man was your enemy" (9.87). Governal's exact status in relation to Tristan is somewhat unclear. He obviously ranks lower than Tristan on the social scale. Yet in his wisdom and clear-headedness, he is Tristan's superior, which may be why the text and Tristan continue to refer to him as Tristan's "master" long after they are officially teacher and pupil.