The Forbidden Fruit That Has Never Spoilt

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Fate, out of the deep sea's gloom,
When a man's heart's pride grows great,
And naught seems now to foredoom
Fate,

Fate, laden with fears in wait,
Draws close through the clouds that loom,
Till the soul see, all too late,

More dark than a dead world's tomb,
More high than the sheer dawn's gate,
More deep than the wide sea's womb,
Fate.

~ Algernon Charles Swinburne

A simple enough poem that describes a pair of ill fated lovers whose death was foretold when they meet. A plot that almost everybody knows from the famous tragedy Romeo & Juliet and yet this poem was not written about Romeo & Juliet, it was written about another more obscure tale with a similar plot of love at first sight, forbidden romance, family tension, and ultimately sorrow. This story is Tristan & Isolde, for a tale with such a similar plot there are just too many different versions to just write a decent essay, so for the sake of consistency I will use the most basic version of Tristan and Isolde ("Timeless Myths")

The first aspect that I am going to look at is the life of the characters before they fell in love. We’ll start with the boys, Tristan and Romeo. Romeo, before Juliet, Was an emotional wreck just coming from a horrible relationship with Rosaline. He was depressed, never wanted to see his friends, and could not even think of another girl. While on the other hand we has Tristan who lead a perfectly happy life, he fought, courted girls regularly, and was on is way to becoming a knight. Romeo and Tristan were as different as day and night, the only real similarity is that both would fall in love with the girl that was forbidden to them.

So if the boys were that different then the girls must be Complete opposite to, right?
Well, Not quite, Juliet and Isolde though falling in love with complete opposites, were nearly identical in character. They were upper class to be married to royalty, they meet there loves by complete chance, and once they meet there loves they both became almost oblivious to anything other than the love. The only really important difference between the two is that Isolde seemed to be more impulsive where as Juliet seemed to think things through a bit more such as dealing with the nurse. Such as in act IV scene III where Juliet says,
“I’ll call them back again to comfort me
Nurse! - What she do here?
My dismal scene I needs must act alone”. (Shakespeare 88)
This line shows that Juliet almost thought to call her nurse back before thinking it over and relieving that she didn’t trust her enough and that the nurse didn’t really need to be there any way. Isolde on the other hand was much more irrational especially after she found out that her nurse, Brangwain, had feed them the love potion on accident and may someday betray her.

“Though, Isolde got away with committing adultery with Tristan and deception of Brangwain taking her place, she realized that her loyal companion may betray her one day. So Isolde ordered two serfs or squires to take Brangwain out into the forest and kill her.
Brangwain knew what her mistress had plan for her, so when the serfs brought her to the woods outside of Tintagel, she did not resist. The serfs taking pity on the girl just tied her to a tree before returning to the queen.
When the two serfs told Isolde that they had killed her companion, Isolde was overcome with grief and remorse. Seeing the queen’s real feeling for Brangwain, the serfs told Isolde that they had lied to her and that they had not harmed Brangwain.
They brought Brangwain back to the queen. Isolde was happily reunited and reconciled with Brangwain.” ("Timeless Myths" Brangwain)
Isolde seems to do everything on more of an impulse, Juliet calmly thought about making the nurse a part of her plan, Isolde saw a bit of mistrust and nearly had her executed, then was remorseful for it, then completely overjoyed when she was alive. Not the most logical type of person.

The next scene which I would like to look at is how they fell in love, while there are not that many differences here; there is one really big theme in common, Destiny.
Romeo and Juliet meet by chance when Romeo was dragged to a party by his friends that juliets family was hosting, where the two happened to catch eyes from across the room, love at first sight.
Tristan and Isolde however did not fall in love at first sight as Tristan had been hired to escort the lady Isolde to Ireland, yet they had no more control over their love than Romeo and Juliet, As they fell in love over the voyage and supposedly under the influence of the love potion that Brangwain had brought for Isolde and King Mark to share. That is also the biggest difference, Tristan and Isolde had known each other already, they had talked and most likely trusted one another considering that Tristan was her escort and the nephew of the man that she was to marry.

While the rest of the story holds true in the plot and themes being alike, but the details are completely different so I’m going to skip ahead to the ending. Everyone knows the iconic ending of Romeo and Juliet with both lovers committing suicide when they believe that they cannot be with their beloved. But compared to the endings of Tristan and Isolde you see the differences that got me the most, since there are three widely known ends to this tale I’ll look at all of them,
Let’s start with the murder ending in which King mark finds out of the two’s affair and invites Tristan on a hunting trip to kill him then returns home to kill the adulteress Isolde in her bed. This ending is not so well known as the other because it doesn’t fit the theme of romance and destiny as much as the other, yet with this ending you can really see the differences between the two stories emerge. The only real similarity between the two endings is that is there love and the folly of the boy is what gets them killed, by them self or by another.
The next ending is the one that most people consider the cheap ending, the happy ending in which Tristan and Isolde escape Ireland and flee to England with Isolde becoming a bountiful lady in waiting for the queen and Tristan becoming a knight of the round table.
This ending is in no way similar to Romeo & Juliet, there is no real resolution and the couple just seems to go on and never get caught, which was Friar Lawrence’s original plan, But it did not work out for Romeo and Juliet as it did for Tristan and Isolde.

The final ending we’ll look at is the one most people chose when they retell the story,
The death ending. Where before king mark can find out about their love Tristan flees to Brittany and marries a woman by the name of Iseult, but Tristan quickly became unhappy and became Sick with grief, and after Iseult lied about Isolde not arriving he died of grief, when Isolde finally reached him and found him dead she too died of grief.
“After falling ill, he sent for Isolde in hopes that she would be able to cure him. If she agreed to come, the returning ship's sails would be white, or the sails would be black if she did not agree. Iseult, seeing the white sails, lied to Tristan and told him that the sails were black. He died of grief before Isolde could reach him. Isolde died soon after of a broken heart. Iseult regretted her actions after she saw the love that the two had for each other.” ("AngelFire: Arthurian Romances ")
It is important to note that some people believe that “died of grief” and “ died of a broken heart” Actually meant that the person had committed suicide and the family did not want to Admit it to the public. (Sweet)
This ending is the most alike to Romeo and Juliet, especially if you believe the above, with the two lovers thinking that they cannot be together and so the only option for them is death. This ending is almost identical in structure to the ending of Romeo and Juliet without the irony of their love still being alive and only feigning death, either way its easy to see why this is the most popular ending and the one that people use the most.

We reach the end of two tales that twist and turn through romance, deceit, and sorrow. Knowing that as long a tales are told that forbidden love will always catch our interest and there will be stories spun of lies and fate and even though people will always think of Romeo & Juliet they were not the first, for long before the woeful tale of Romeo & Juliet there was Tristan & Isolde and before that there were even more stories of forbidden love that have peaked the interest of countless people before us. Before I close I would just like to inquire as to why people love these stories so much. Is it because we always wish for excitement that the characters experience or that we wished to love and be loved so devotedly? Regardless of the reason why, there is no doubt that people have always loved these stories and will always want more. We can also be sure that we have not seen the last adoptions of two of the most timeless love stories ever told
dancing and partying all night,
flirting with Romeo
marrying Romeo at the Church
mourning and weeping over Tybalt’s death and Romeo’s banishment
sleeping with Romeo on their wedding night
disobeying her father when he told her she was to marry Paris
drinking the potion Friar Lawrence gave to her so she will not have to marry Paris
waking and seeing Romeo dead with poison and his dagger by his side
killing herself with Romeo’s dagger so they will together in heaven
O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo

~ B (Juliet Montague)













Works Cited

Swinburge, Algernon. "Prelude." poemhunter. N.p., 01 01 2004. Web. 12 Jun 2011. <http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/prelude-tristan-and-isolde/>.
"Tristan and Isolde." Timeless Myths. Timeless myths, 24 06 2006. Web. 12 Jun 2011.
<http://www.timelessmyths.com/arthurian/tristan.html>.
Shakespeare, William. Four Tragedies. Washington Square Press ed. NY,NY: Washington Square Press, Inc, 1948. 88. Print.
"Tristan and Isolde." Timeless Myths. Timeless myths, 24 06 2006. Web. 12 Jun 2011. <http://www.timelessmyths.com/arthurian/tristan.html>.
"Tristan and Isolde." AngelFire: Arthurian Romances . N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Jun 2011. <http://www.angelfire.com/me2/legends/>.
Sweet, Rose. "Broken Heart." MUNDANE MUSINGS OF A V I R G O. blogspot, 21 004 2007. Web. 12 Jun 2011. <http://tinkling-anklet-bells.blogspot.com/2007/04/broken-heart.html>.
Montague, Juliet. "Romeo + Juliet Related Poems."AngelFire: RomeoetJuliet. Anglefire.com, n.d. Web. 12 Jun 2011. <http://www.angelfire.com/hi/romeoetjuliet/rjpoem.html>.





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