Richard Wagner

Tristan and Isolde

Wagner - Tristan und Isolde (Barenboim, Ponnelle, 1983) 

Direction musicale : Daniel Barenboim
Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele

Tristan, chevalier de Cornouailles, neveu du roi : René Kollo (ténor)
Isolde (Iseult), princesse d'Irlande : Johanna Meier (soprano)
Le roi Mark de Cornouailles : Matti Salminen (basse)
Kurwenal, écuyer de Tristan : Hermann Becht (baryton)
Melot, chevalier, ami de Tristan : Robert Schunk (ténor)
Brangäne, suivante d'Isolde : Hanna Schwarz (mezzo)
Un jeune marin : Robert Schunk (ténor)
Un berger : Helmut Pampuch (ténor)
Un timonier : Martin Egel (baryton)

Chœurs de marins, d'écuyers, de chevaliers : Chor der Bayreuther Festpiele
(dir. : Norbert Balatsch)

John Duncan - Tristan und Isolde

Tristan und Isolde is generally rated—and with very good reason—the greatest paean to pure erotic love ever composed. Its history is intimately bound up with this passion. During much of its composition Wagner was living with a wealthy silk merchant of Zurich, one Otto Wesendonck, and the composer was in love with his host's attractive young wife, Mathilde. Later, when the opera was completed, it was given no fewer than fifty-four rehearsals at the Court Opera in Vienna- only to be withdrawn. The reason may have been that it was too difficult and new in style for the company—at least that was the published reason. But love and politics (two great motives in Wagners life) also had much to do with the with-drawal. For there were pro-Wagner and anti-Wagner camps in the company, the former led by the soprano scheduled to sing the role of Isolde, Luise Dustmann-Меуег. She, however, withdrew her support when she found the composer carrying on a love affair with her younger sister.

Even before Vienna, Wagner had attempted to secure performances at Strasbourg, Karlsruhe, Paris, Weimar, Prague, Hanover, and, of all places, Rio de Janeiro, where it was to have been done in Italian! Mostly for political reasons none of these worked out. It finally achieved its premiere at Munich, six years after the score was completed, under the patronage of Wagner's great but unbalanced friend, King Ludwig II Of Bavaria.

The conductor of the premiere was Hans von Biilow, a fierce champion of Wagner’s music. Two months before the performance Frau von Biilow bad given birth to a daughter, whom she named Isolde. Very probably the conductor did not realize at this time that the composer, in addition to being the godfather, was alsp little Isolde's real father. In fact, Cosima von Bulow (an illegitimate daughter of Franz Liszt's) bore Richard Wagner three children before Hans finally divorced her and she married the composer.

One need not find in the opera reflection of Wagners own series of passions for other men's wives: the love of Tristan and Isolde is a far more idealized and purer thing throughout than any page of the composer's shocking life-story. It is basically a very simple tale; and the score, perhaps more than any other Wagner ever composed, carries out his theories of what a music drama (as opposed to a traditional "opera") should be. Gone are the set pieces of his latest produced opera, Lohengrin; and here, for the first time,the world heard a music drama in which the orchestra plays thе unquestioned dominant role, commenting on every psychological and dramatic development with an elaborate system of leitmotivs, pursuing its way with the “endless melodizing” that Wagner had substituted for the arias, duets, quartets, and so forth to which everyone was accustomed. It created a violent war of the critics that is still being waged.

Tristan takes Leave from Isolde - August Spiess 



KING MARKE OF CORNWALL: Bass. King Mark (Konig Marice) of Cornwall, uncle of Tristan who is expected to inherit the throne from Mark. He comes to meet the ship carrying Isolde, escorted by Tristan, from Ireland to marry the King. Mark is unaware that Isolde and Tristan have fallen in love. Melot, supposedly Tristan's friend, in the hope of currying favour, tells the King about ЬоШе and Tristan’s love. Marie is very upset by Tristan’s betrayal, for it was Tristan who suggested in the first place that she would be a suitable bride for him. What the King does not know is that Tristan and Isolde were given a love potion by Brangane, and it is this elixir which is responsible for them declaring their feelings tor each other. Mark now becomes compassionate, ready to bless the young lovers, but Tristan, feeling guilty at letting down his uncle, deliberately falls on Melons sword and is fatally wounded. When Marie arrives to forgive him, Tristan is dead, and Mark's distress is overwhelming. Aria: Tatest du's wirklich? ('Have you indeed?').  Created (1865) by Ludwig Zottmayer.

Opera in three acts by Richard Wagner with libretto in German by the composer, based on old legends


TRISTAN, his nephew
KURWENAL, Tristan's faithful follower
ISOLDE, an Irish princess
BRANGAENEIsolde’s attendant
MELOT, a Cornish courtier



Time: the legendary days of King Arthur
Place: Cornwall,Вrittanу, and the sea
First performance at Munich, June 10, 1865

Kurt Moll: Wanger - Tristan und Isolde, 'Tatest du's wirklich?'

TRISTAN: Tenor. (Heldentenor). A Cornish knight, nephew of King Marie of Cornwall. Before the opera opens, he killed Morold, who was to marry the Irish Princess Isolde. She swore revenge. Tristan was injured in the fight with Morold and his boat landed in Ireland, where Isolde nursed him back to health. He was presented to her as ‘Tantris", and at first she did not know who he was, but she saw his sword with a small piece missing from the blade and realized that this matched exactly the piece of metal which had been lodged in Morold's skull. She vowed to kill Tristan, but could not bring herself to do so, for when she looked into his eyes they fell in love. She allowed him to return to Cornwall where, as King Mark's favourite nephew, he was due to inherit the throne. The King's courtiers suggested he should marry the princess of whom Tristan spoke, and Tristan, despite his own feelings for Isolde, offered to escort her from Ireland to meet her elderly bridegroom. This is where the opera begins, as they sail towards Cornwall. Isolde is accompanied by her maid Brangane and Tristan by his loyal servant and friend Kurwenal. Brangane enters his quarters to summon him to speak to her mistress, but he refuses to go. When he enters her apartment, she is cleariy upset that he has avoided her throughout the journey, but he explains that this was the best plan for both of them. Isolde reminds him that, as the slayer of Morold, he is still in her debt and must drink with her a draught of reconciliation - Brangine will prepare the drink. Unknown to Tristan, Isolde has chosen a death-potion for them both, but Brangine surreptitiously exchanges it for a love-potion. As soon as Tristan and Isolde drink the fluid, they fall into each other's arms and declare their love. Kurwenal interrupts their passionate embrace to warn them King Mark is about to come on board. After their first few days at Mark's castle, Tristan and Isolde arrange a meeting in her apartment. Once together, they have eyes and ears for no one else and ignore Brangane's warning of treachery ahead—die is sure that Tristan friend Melot will betray them to the King. Kurwenal bursts in to the room to try to save them, but is closely followed by Mark and Melot. Mark laments the betrayal by his favourite nephew and Tristan is genuinely upset at having caused his uncle such distress. He is unable to explain his actions (for he is unaware of having taken the love-potion). He asks Isolde if she will follow him even unto death and she at once concurs. Melot approaches with his sword drawn and Tristan deliberately falls on to Melot's sword. Seriously wounded, he collapses into Kurwenal's arms as Isolde throws herself at his inert body. Karwenal carries the unconscious Tristan to the boat and takes him to his estate in Kareol, Brittany, to nurse him. It is dear that his condition is deteriorating, and Kurwenal sends for Isolde—her magic healing powers cured him once, and hopefully will do so again. Slowly Tristan recovers consciousness, but makes it clear he would rather stay oblivious to the world - oblivion is the only state which appeals to him now that he has lost Isolde. When Kurwenal explains to him that he has sent for her, Tristan rallies a little to express his thanks to Kurwenal for his loyalty all the years they have known each other. Kurwenal describes to his master the slow approach of the ship carrying Isolde and Tristan sends him to bring her to his room. He tears off his bandages, rouses himself from his couch, and lurches towards Isolde. In her arms, he sinks to the ground, dead. The last word he speaks is 'Isolde'. The arrival of Marie to forgive him and give the couple his blessing has come too late. Arias: О Konig, das kann ich dir nichtsagen ('O King, I cannot tell you tha'); Welches Sehnen! Welches Bangen! ('What longing! What fearing!'); Muss ich dich so verstehn
('Must I understand you thus'); О diese Sonne! ('Oh, this sun!'); duets (with Isolde): Isolde!... Seligste Frau! (Isolde!... Blessed lady!'); Isolde! Geliebte! (Isolde! Beloved!'). 
Created (1865) by Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld.

Tristan und Isolde - End of Act 3 - Liebestod

KURWENAL:  Baritone. One of Tristan's retainers and his close friend. He is with his master on board the ship in which Tristan is escorting Isolde to Cornwall where she will marry Trstan’s uncle, King Mark. When Brangane comes to Tristan with a message from her mistress, summoning him to her presence, Kurwenal is angry—how dare anyone speak to his master in tWs way? Before they land, Isolde and Tristan declare their love, under the influence of the love potion given to them by Brangane, and arrange to meet that night in the king's castle. Kurwenal arrives to warn them of King Mark's approach. After Tristan has been seriously wounded on the treacherous Melot’s sword, Kurwenal carries him back to his estate at Kareol in Brittany and devotedly nurses him. He sends for Isolde to cure Tristan's wound and anxiously awaits her arrival, distressed by his beloved masters rapidly deteriorating condition. At last Kurwenal sees Isolde's ship and describes to Tristan how it is coming nearer. He rushes to meet Isolde. Tristan dies in Isolde's arms. King Mark and Melot also arrive at Kareol, and holding Melons betrayal responsible for Tristan’s death, Kurwenal kills Melot and is fatally wounded in the attack. He dies at Tristan's side一a servant faithful to the end. Aria: Auf! Auf! Ihr Frauen! ('Up! Up, you ladies!'); Mein Herre! Tristan! Schrecklicher Zauber! ('My Lord! Tristan! Dreadful magic!'); duet (with Tristan): Wo du bist? In Frieden, sicher und frei! ('Where are you? In peace, safe and free!'). Created (1865) by Anton Mitterwurzer.

Richard Wagner - Tristan und Isolde - Kurwenal! Hör! Ein zweites Schiff!

Tristan and Iseult as depicted by Herbert James Draper 

Tristan and Iseult as depicted by Edmund Leighton 

ISOLDE: Soprano. An Irish Princess. As the opera opens, she is on board ship, accompanied by her maid and companion Brangane, travelling from Ireland to Cornwall. She is being escorted by Tristan to meet and marry his uncle, King Mark. Before the opening of the opera, Isolde had been engaged to Morold, who was killed in a fight with Tristan. Tristan was wounded and came to be nursed by Isolde, who was known to have magic healing powers. She did not recognize him as her betrothed's killer until she saw there was a sliver missing from his sword and realized it matched the splinter found in Morold's skull. Isolde wanted to кill Tristan, but when she looked into his eyes she fell in love with him and was unable to carry out her intention. Now she is on her way to marry the King. As the ship approaches the shores of Cornwall, Isolde becomes more agitated, not wanting to meet Mark. She sends Brangane to fetch Tristan, but he demurs. Isolde decides that, as he is not interested in her, he shall die rather than take her to his aged uncle, and she will gladly die rather than go without the love of Tristan. Brangane is sent to fetch the box of potions which Isolde’s mother gave her, and from these Isolde takes the death-potion and orders Brangane to mix a drink from it. Tristan comes to tell her to make ready to meet his uncle. Isolde persuades him that, as she spared his life, he must share with her a drink of гесоnciliation. Together they drink from the potion, but Brangane has switched the drink and has mixed the love-potion instead. All inhibitions are released and Tristan and Isolde join in a passionate embrace. Tristan's servant and friend, Kurwenal, rushes in to tell them that King Mark is about to come on board. Realizing their predicament, Isolde falls unconscious. In the King's castle Isolde and Tristan plan to meet later that they have arranged a signal—the torch outside Isolde's apartment will be extinguished as a sign that it is safe forhim to come. Brangane is reluctant to put out the torch, warning Isolde that she fears a plot to expose them to the King, so Isolde quenches the flame herself, ignoring Brangane's warning. Tristan enters and he and Isolde, reunited, make passionate love, again ignoring Brangane warning of trouble ahead. They are brought to their senses by the sudden arrival of Kurwenal—Melot has betrayed his friend Tristan and Mark is on his way to catch the lovers together. Melot challenges Tristan to fight and Tristan deliberately throws himself on to Melot's sword.

Isolde (Gemälde von Gaston Bussiere, 1911)

He is seriously wounded  and carried off by Kurwenal. Isolde is sent for to come to Kareol, Tristan's estate in Brittany, where Kurwenal has taken her lover. Isolde was able to heal him once before, now she departs to join him again. She is met by Kurwenal who takes her to Tristan, but as she arrives he dies in her arms. Distraught, she first pleads with him to wake up, then berates him for deserting her, and finally collapses over his body. She recovers consciousness to find Brangane bending over her, having arrived with Mark who, now aware of the truth about the love-potion, had come to give them his blessing. However, Isolde wants only to be united with Tristan, if not in life, then in death—feelings she pours out in her famous Liebestod (love-death). Arias: Von seinem Lager blickt' er her ('From his bed he looked up'); О blinde Augen! ('Oh, blind eyes!'); Mild und leise ('Softly and gently'—this is the Liebestod); duets (with Tristan): Tristan!... Isolde!... Treuloser Holder! ('Tristan!...Isolde!...Faithless darling!’);O ew'ge Nacht... ('O eternal night'). Created (1865) Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld.

TRISTAN UND ISOLDE de Richard Wagner «O blinde Augen!» (acte I)

BRANGAENE: Soprano. (but usually sung by mezzo). Isolde’s attendant and companion. She accompanies Isolde in the ship in which she is being taken by Tristan to meet and marry King Mark. Knowing nothing of Tristan's history (he lolled Isolde's previous fiance), Brangane is puzzled by her mistress's obvious antagonism to Tristan. Sent to summon Tristan, she has to deal with Kurwenal, Tristan’s loyal friend, and returns to tell Isolde that she has not been able to get a t answer—he seems reluctant to come, point Isolde tells Brangane the whole story, but fails to mention that, despite everything, she and Tristan have fallen in love. Brangane is asked to fetch a box of potions and is horrified when Isolde takes out a death-potion. Isolde asks her to prepare this for her to drink, but Brangane substitutes a love-potion: she at last knows that Isolde and Tristan love each other but cannot admit it, for she is the King's intended bride and he is the Kin's loyal nephew. Isolde shares the drink with Tristan and the two declare their love. As the ship arrives in Cornwall and King Markus presence is imminent, Brangane admits to her mistress what she has done. She now realizes that she has only made matters worse, as Isolde is not interested in the King. The lovers arrange to meet secretly while the King is out hunting. The signal that it is safe will be the extinguishing of a light at the door to their apartment. Brangane is reluctant to extinguish the flame—she is worried a trap is being laid for the lovers and that Melot, Tristan's supposed friend, is at the bottom of it She tries to warn her mistress, who will have none of it, and puts out the torch herself. While the lovers are together, Brangane keeps watch, but when she tries to warn them that Mark and his men are arriving, they ignore her. Melot and Tristan fight and Tristan is badly wounded. He is taken back to his home by Kurwenal. Isolde is sent for and goes to join them. Brangane realizes that the only way to make amends is to admit to Mark what she has done. He forgives everything. He will go with her to Tristan's estate and bless the couple’s union. They set off for Brittany. On arrival, they find Isolde unconscious across Tristan's body. Aria: Einsam wachend in der Nach ('Keeping solitary watch in the night'). Created (1865) by Anna Deinat.

Hermine Haselböck as Brangäne - Einsam wachend in der Nacht - Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

MELOT  - Tenor. A courtier of King Marie in Cornwall. He poses as a friend of the King's nephew, Tristan, but is jealous of him. It is Melot who informs King Mark that Tristan and Isolde (whom the King is intending to marry) are in love. Tristan is distraught at Melons betrayal and challenges him to fight. Tristan deliberately falls on Melot's sword and is fatally wounded. Later, Tristan's servant and closest friend, Kurwenal, kills Melot. Created (1865) by Karl Heinrich.

A HELMSMAN  - Baritone

Salvador Dalí: Tristan and Isolde

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David Hockney’s set design for Act I of Tristan und Isolde




Act 1

Isolde is a princess of Ireland, the daughter of a distinguished witch, and herself entirely at home with poisons, drugs, and the medieval arts of healing. When the curtain rises, we find her on a ship. This is taking her, against her will, to become the bride of King Marke of Cornwall. The man taking her to Cornwall, the captain of the ship, is Tristan, nephew of King Marke. And Isolde, in a long and angry narrative, explains her anger to her attendant^ Brangaene. She had had а fiance named Morold. Tristan had fought Morold to decide whether or not Cornwall should continue to pay tribute to Ireland, and Tristan had won. But he had been wounded, and, disguised as a harper, he came to Isolde's castle. Isolde was nursing him back to health, when she found a piece of Morold’s sword blade in Tristan’s head,and in that way she recognized who he was. She was about to kill him with it, when he looked into her eyes—and she fell in love. But now, on orders from his uncle, he is taking her to be married to the old man. No wonder she is angry!

She sends for Tristan, but, being busy with the ship, he sends his henchman, Kurwenal, instead. Kurwenal is a pretty down-to-earth and rude sort of baritone. He gruffly tells Isolde that Tristan will not come and impolitely sings her a ballad about Tristan's victory over Morold. This makes Isolde angrier than ever, and she decides to kill Tristan and herself rather than be married to Marke-whom, by the way, she bas never met. She tells Brangaene to prepare a poisoned drink and again summons Tristan. This time he comes, for it is almost time; to land. Brutally she reminds him that he has killed her betrotihed and, to atone, be offers her his sword to kill him. Instead, she suggests a drink. Fully expecting to be poisoned, Tristan accepts the cup. But Brangaene - without telling Isolde - has substituted a love philter for the death philter; and when Tristan has taken half the drink and Isolde the other half, there is an unexpected result. For a very, very long moment (while the orchestra plays music from title prelude) the two look into each other’s eyes. Hastily they embrace, uttering ecstatic phrases of rapture.

But suddenly the sailors are heard singing, for land has been sighted, and the journey is over. Together the two lovers rush off, utterly unprepared to meet King Маrke

David Hockney’s set design for Act II of Tristan und Isolde

Act 2

There is a quick-moving introduction to Act II, clearly depicting impatience, before the curtain rises on Isoldes gardai, outside her chambers in the castle of King Marke. (Whether or not a wedding ceremony has taken place between Acts I and II Wagner never makes cleat. It is sufficient that Isolde, like everyone telse, regards herself as Marked bride.) The King has gone hunting, and at the beginning of the act, we may hear the hunting horns off-stage. But while the King hunts, Tristan and Isolde have planned to meet. By the side of the castle there is a burning torch, and when that torch is extinguished, it is the sign for Tristan to come to the garden.

Brangaene, Isolde's maid-in-waiting, fears a plot. She believes that Melot, a Cornish knight who is supposed to be

Tristan's particular friend, will betray them. She warns Isolde to keep the torch burning till the hunting horns can no longer be heard. But Isolde is impatient. She says she cannot hear the horns, and she refuses to believe that Melot may be treacherous. She extinguishes the torch, climbs some steps, and waves her bright scarf in the moonlight to give Tristan a second signal.

As the orchestra mounts to a feverish climax, Tristan rushes in. "Isolde! Bdoved!" he cries; and Isolde echoes him: "Веloved!" It is the beginning of the great love duet known as the Liebesnacht—a long, eloquent, moving expression of transfigurea love-love that prefers night to day, and love that prefers death to life. At the end of the duet they are singing the familiar and beautiful melody of the Liebestod; and just as they reach the climax, Brangaene, who has stood watch, utters a piercing shriek. The King and his hunting party have unexpectedly returned. They have been brought back by Tristan's supposed friend, Melot, who is himself secretly in love with Isolde and therefore acts from rather reprehensible motives. The noble King’s principal emotion is sorrow—sorrow that the honor of his dearly beloved nephew, Tristan, is besmirched. He sings of this in a very, very long monologue, while Isolde turns aside in deepest shame.

At its close Tristan asks her whether she will follow him; and when she assents, he denounces Melot and in a brief fight deliberately permits himself to be wounded. Before Melot can kill him, King Marke thrust Melot aside. With Isolde throwing herself on the wounded hero's breast, the long act closes.

David Hockney’s set design for Act III of Tristan und Isolde

Act 3

Tristan has been brought to his castle in Brittany by his faithful henchman, Kurwenal. There he lies, wounded and Ш, before the casfle. He is waiting for a ship—the ship that bears Isolde, who will come to heal him. Off-stage, a shepherd plays a very doleful tune on his pipe. He is to шаке it cheerful only when he sees the ship. The doleful tune, the fever of his illness, the tragedy of his life-these all combine ta help confuse poor Tristan's mind. It wanders over many things— his friendship for Kurwenal, his hatred of his enemies, his love for Isolde, the death of bis parents. All these themes (and others too) go through his agonized brain as be lies there, while poor, simple Kurwenal tries in vain to comfort him.

Suddenly the shepherd's tune changes. It brightens in a major key. The ship has been sighted. It disappears again— and it reappears—and a few moments later, Isolde comes rushing in. She is almost too late to see her lover alive, for in his excitement be has pulled off his bandages. As he embraces bis beloved Isolde, be falls and breathes his last.

But another ship is seen. It is the ship bearing King Marke —and thе villain, Melot, too. Marke has come to forgive the lovers, but Kurwenal does not know this. He rallies his few men,valiantly disputing the way with Marke’s followers,and be manages to kill Melot. But he himself also receives a mortal wound, and he falls, dying, at bis heroes feet. Then quietly, in the presence of King Marke and of Brangaene and the few survivors, Isolde takes the dead body of Tristan in her aims. Transfigured by her emotions, she sings the great Liebestod —the Love-death—and at its end she herself expires. Marke quietly blesses the dead, as the opera closes on two soft, long В-major chords.

Tristan and Isolde with the Potion (1916) by John William Waterhouse

Legend of Trstan and Isolde

Tristan and Iseult is a tale made popular during the 12th century through Anglo-Norman literature, inspired by Celtic legend, particularly the stories of Deirdre and Naoise and Diarmuid Ua Duibhne and Gráinne. It has become an influential romance and tragedy, retold in numerous sources with many variations. The tragic story is of the adulterous love between the Cornish knight Tristan (Tristram) and the Irish princess Iseult (Isolde, Yseult, etc.). The narrative predates and most likely influenced the romance of Lancelot and Guinevere in the Matter of Britain and has had a substantial impact on Western art, the idea of romantic love, and Western literature since it first appeared in the 12th century. While the details of the story differ from one author to another, the overall plot structure remains much the same.

There are two main traditions of the Tristan legend. The early tradition comprised the French romances of two poets from the second half of the twelfth century, Thomas of Britain and Béroul. Later traditions come from the Prose Tristan (c. 1240), which was markedly different from the earlier tales written by Thomas and Béroul. The Prose Tristan became the common medieval tale of Tristan and Iseult that would provide the background for the writings of Sir Thomas Malory, the English author, who wrote Le Morte d'Arthur (c. 1469).

The story and character of Tristan vary from poet to poet. Even the spelling of his name varies a great deal, although "Tristan" is the most popular spelling. Most versions of the Tristan story follow the same general outline.

After defeating the Irish knight Morholt, Tristan travels to Ireland to bring back the fair Iseult for his uncle, King Mark of Cornwall, to marry. Along the way, they ingest a love potion which causes the pair to fall madly in love. In the courtly version, the potion's effects last a lifetime, but, in the common versions, the potion's effects wane after three years. In some versions, they ingest the potion accidentally; in others, the potion's maker instructs Iseult to share it with Mark, but she deliberately gives it to Tristan instead. Although Iseult marries Mark, she and Tristan are forced by the potion to seek one another, as lovers. While the typical noble Arthurian character would be shamed by such an act, the love potion that controls them frees Tristan and Iseult from responsibility. The king's advisors repeatedly endeavour to have the pair tried for adultery, but the couple continually use trickery to preserve their façade of innocence. In Béroul's version, the love potion eventually wears off, and the two lovers are free to make their own choice as to whether to cease their adulterous relationship or to continue.

As with the Arthur-Lancelot-Guinevere love triangle, Tristan, King Mark, and Iseult all love each other. Tristan honours, respects, and loves King Mark as his mentor and adopted father; Iseult is grateful that Mark is kind to her; and Mark loves Tristan as his son and Iseult as a wife. But every night, each has horrible dreams about the future. Tristan's uncle eventually learns of the affair and seeks to entrap his nephew and his bride. Also present is the endangerment of a fragile kingdom, the cessation of war between Ireland and Cornwall. Mark acquires what seems proof of their guilt and resolves to punish them: Tristan by hanging and Iseult by burning at the stake, later lodging her in a leper colony. Tristan escapes on his way to the gallows. He makes a miraculous leap from a chapel and rescues Iseult. The lovers escape into the forest of Morrois and take shelter there until discovered by Mark. They make peace with Mark after Tristan's agreement to return Iseult to Mark and leave the country. Tristan then travels to Brittany, where he marries (for her name and her beauty) Iseult of the White Hands, daughter of Hoel of Brittany and sister of Kahedin.

In the Prose Tristan and works derived from it, Tristan is mortally wounded by Mark, who treacherously strikes Tristan with a poisoned lance while the latter is playing a harp for Iseult. The poetic versions of the Tristan legend offer a very different account of the hero's death. According to Thomas' version, Tristan was wounded by a poison lance while attempting to rescue a young woman from six knights. Tristan sends his friend Kahedin to find Iseult, the only person who can heal him. Tristan tells Kahedin to sail back with white sails if he is bringing Iseult, and black sails if he is not. Iseult agrees to return to Tristan with Kahedin, but Tristan's jealous wife, Iseult of the White Hands, lies to Tristan about the colour of the sails. Tristan dies of grief, thinking that Iseult has betrayed him, and Iseult dies swooning over his corpse. Several versions of the Prose Tristan include the traditional account of Tristan's death found in the poetic versions.

Ford Madox Brown - Death of Sir Tristram