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Valar Qringaomis

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Tristan and Iseult (Isolde)

BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, Tristan and Iseult

"'Why are Cornwall and Ireland.. and Wales, to a certain extent, so attractive?'
'They are the edge of Europe. They've always been the sort of perfect place to have these magical stories'
'Because they are pushed aside'
'Because they are pushed aside. And also one has to remember the importance of what is known as the matter of Britain. Which is the whole of the Arthuranian tradition. Which was a source that people could draw on for courtly-... the matter of Britain included all the Arthuranian material'...

'There's something very interesting in Béroul... he includes this rather strange story that King Mark has horse's ears. Now Mark in Cornish, Breton and Welsh means horse'...

'During the 12th century when Thomas was writing, the Church had dramatically attempted to have a greater role in marriage. And it said that marriage was no longer just going to be seen as an alliance between noble families. Marriage was a sacrament and it had to rely on the absolute consent of both parties... it's possible to argue - many people have - that the growth in the romance, the sort of fiction of love is a response to that. Saying that if marriage has to be about consent, then we now need to understand what consent to that kind of bond would mean'...

'Iseult of the White Hands is one day riding along with her brother and her horse steps in a puddle and water splashes up her thigh. And she starts laughing uncontrollably. And her brother who's a bit paranoid says 'tell me why you're laughing'. And she says 'that water touched higher up my thigh than my husband has ever touched me'...

Basically love only ends in two ways. Either you die or it goes wrong. And therefore as soon as narrative of love appears, if an author wants to say that someone's love is perfect then logically we need to see the characters die. We need to see that they loved one another up to the point of death. And French poet - well, a poet called Marie who calls herself Marie de France who was writing in England at about the same time as Thomas. She gives us a series of little short romances - lays in which she toys with different structures of love and shows the connection of love with suffering. The idea that your willingness to suffer shows how noble your love is and ultimately the connection of love with death. That when you love perfectly then you love unto your death. And therefore, I think, implicitly love brings with it death...

Death is what actually insures the perpetuation of your love because it means you won't ever wake up from the night of your love. That's what the lovers sing in that duet in the second act of Wagner"
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