Knightly novel – a new epic genre, which is formed in European literature in the XII century. Originally the word “romance” refers to works written not in Latin, but in one of the Romance languages (hence the word “romance”). However, later it began to designate a new epic genre, formed within the knightly courtly culture. Unlike the heroic epic, correlated with the myth, the novel is correlated with a fairy tale. The core of the knightly novel is “adventure” – the combination of two elements: love and fantasy (under fantasy, as applied to this genre, one should understand not only the incredible, fabulous, but also the unusual, exotic). For readers (listeners) of the knightly novel, there is no need to believe in the truth of the narrative (as it was in the situation of the heroic epic perception).
The central hero of the knightly novel is a knight (ideal or close to the ideal by the standards of the court). He is shown in
action – traveling alone or with a minimal environment and performing feats. The knight’s wanderings are a fundamental moment organizing the structure of the “novel of the road”: in the course of the knight’s movements, opportunities are revealed in any number of episodes to demonstrate his knightly qualities, to tell about his exploits. The figure of the knight is not individualized yet (from the novel to the novel the names of the main characters change, but their idealization makes them look alike), the hero appears more as a function of the plot structure (“road romance”), but, unlike knights from the heroic epic ( the vaguely personal function of the epic world), the heroes of knightly novels are endowed with personal motives for accomplishing feats: not in the name of the country,
The most important feature of the knightly novel, which distinguishes it from the heroic epic, is the author’s presence with a certain position and the emerging author’s beginning in the choice of heroes, plots (which, according to his will, can unite freely, surprising medieval
readers with the novelty and unexpectedness of plot twists), artistic means.
In the XII century, novels were written in verse (usually an eight-compilation with a pair rhyme). A special case is the “Roman about Alexandre” (about 1175) by Lambert Le Tors, completed after his death by Alexandre de Paris. He wrote a 12-complex verse with a pair rhyme and caesura after the 6th syllable. This verse was named after the title of the novel “Alexandrine verse”, it is the main form of verses in French classic tragedies and comedies of the XVII-XVIII centuries, in the poetic drama of French romantics, neo-romanticists and neoclassicists, in the works of many French poets and imitators of poets of other countries, in including Russian ones. Prose novels appeared only in the XIII century.
In the XIII century, the knightly romance is going through a crisis, the signs of which are the parodying of courtly norms and values (in the novels of the beginning of the 13th century, “Oucassin and Nicolette” – “Aucassin et Nicolette”). However, the romance of the knight has long remained a favorite reading of the French.
A novel about Tristan and Isolde is one of the examples of a knightly novel
At the heart of the work is the Celtic legend of Tristan and Isolde.
Tristan as a child lost his parents and was kidnapped by merchants. Having escaped from captivity, he came to the court of his uncle King Mark, who was childless and intended to make him his successor. Once Tristan was wounded with poisoned weapons, and he desperately sits down in a boat and swims at random.
The wind carries it to Ireland, the queen, not knowing that Tristan killed her brother Moralt in a duel, heals him.
Upon the return of Tristan, the barons demand that Mark marry and give the country an heir. The king announces that he marries only a girl who owns a golden hair, dropped by a flying swallow. Tristan is sent to search for the beauty.
He again goes to Ireland, where he recognizes in the royal daughter, Isolde Goldilocks, a girl who owns a golden hair.
Tristan defeated the dragon and received Isolde’s hand from the king. On the way back, Tristan and Isolde mistakenly drink the “love drink” that Isolde’s mother gave her so that her and King Mark forever bound love. Isolde becomes Mark’s wife, but secretly meets with Tristan. In the end, the lovers are caught, and the court sentences them to execution.
Tristan manages to escape with Isolde, and they wander for a long time in the forest. Finally, Mark forgives them on the condition that Tristan retires into exile.
In Brittany, Tristan marries another Isolde, nicknamed Beloruka. Mortally wounded, he sends a loyal friend to Cornwall, so that he brought him Isolde. In case of success, his friend must put a white sail. A jealous wife tells him to tell Tristan that the sail is black. Upon hearing this, Tristan dies. Isolde comes to him, lies with him and also dies. They are buried, and the same night two trees grow from two graves, the branches of which are weaved.
The attitude of the author to the moral and social conflict of Tristan and Isolde with the environment is dual.
On the one hand, he recognizes, as it were, the correctness of the prevailing morality. But at the same time he does not hide his sympathy for this love. From the contradiction of the author externally saves the motif of a fatal love drink.
Not reaching the open exposure of the feudal-knight system with its oppression and prejudices, the author internally sensed his wrong and violence.
The novel about Tristan and Isolde has caused many imitations in most European countries – in Germany, England, Scandinavia, etc.