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Chapter Two Malory's Weeping Castle

1. "Li tost le non de pucele" (448.13). I cite the prose Tristan from the edition of Renée Curtis, giving paragraph and line numbers. For this study her text is a reasonable approximation of what Malory had before him, although work in progress by Michael Salda promises new light on Malory's sources. When referring to the French source, I use the spelling Tristan and Iseult and Galehaut; for Malory, I use Tristram and Isode and Galahalt. Translations from the prose Tristan are my own, except where they appear in Curtis's Romance of Tristan , an abridgement of the prose Tristan . For details, see the Bibliographical Note. [BACK]

2. I have taken the translation of this passage from The Romance of Tristan , trans. Renée Curtis, Oxford World's Classics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 88-89. [BACK]

3. "Two enchanters, two ghosts, two ferlies are always half as impressive as one" (C. S. Lewis, "The English Prose Morte, " in Essays on Malory [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963], 7-28, 12). [BACK]

4. On my use of Vinaver's second edition, see the review article by Michael Salda, Chaucer Yearbook 1 (1992): 264-271, which authorizes retention of the 1973 text despite new editions. I generally have modernized Malory's language in the interests of readability, basing my text on Le Morte D'Arthur , ed. Janet Cowen, 2 vols. (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969), which I have silently emended in many places. Some citations are from Vinaver's edition. [BACK]

5. Emmanuèle Baumgartner, Le "Tristan en prose " (Geneva: Droz, 1975), 169. [BACK]

6. J. R. Lander reveals that "taxation returns made in 1436 list 51 lay peers, 183 greater knights, 750 lesser knights, 1200 esquires, 1600 men with incomes of £10 to £19 a year from land and 3400 between £5 and £9 that is on the fringe between yeomen and gentlemen" ( Conflict and Stability in Fifteenth-Century England [London: Hutchinson University Library, 1969], 173). [BACK]

7. English Historical Documents: 1327-1485 , 410. [BACK]

8. Sir John Fortescue, A Learned Commendation of the Politique Laws of England , trans. Robert Mulcaster (1573), 26. I have modernized the spelling of the translation by Spenser's teacher. This edition includes the Latin text. [BACK]

9. The following discussion is based on Fritz Kern's classic study, Kingship and Law in the Middle Ages (1914; Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1968), 149-180. [BACK]

10. Kern, Kingship , 179. [BACK]

11. These borough customs—perpetual succession, legal power to hold lands—often "secured by the terms of a written document," were closely entangled with merchant law. See Mary Bateson, Borough Customs , Selden Society, vol. 18 (London: Bernard Guaritch, 1904), xiv. The rights of towns particularly characterized Irish affairs: the Dublin customal was copied by Waterford (Bate-son, Borough Customs , xxiv). The ruling class of the towns had often purchased its privileges, and were at odds with growing craft guilds. See English Historical Documents: 1327-1485 , 391. Thomas More edited the customal of the Cinque Ports (Bateson, Borough Customs , xxii). [BACK]

12. F. W. Maitland comments, "We ought to carry our thoughts back to a time when England was full of private prisons—the prisons of lords who claimed jurisdiction by royal grant or by prescription. At the suit of the imprisoned subject the king would send his writ to the keeper of the gaol, bidding him have the body of that subject before the king's court, to undergo and receive what that court should award" ( The Constitutional History of England [Cambridge: At the University Press, 1948], 271). [BACK]

13. Beverly Kennedy, Knighthood in the Morte Darthur , Arthurian Studies XI (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1985), 159-160. [BACK]

14. Elizabeth Pochoda, Arthurian Propaganda (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1971), especially chapter 2. [BACK]

15. A useful introduction on these matters is Alan Harding's A Social History of English Law . [BACK]

16. Edward IV's years of rule (1461-1470, 1471-1483) coincided with Malory's composition of the Morte Darthur : Malory presumably worked during the 1460s; William Caxton printed the manuscript in 1485. [BACK]

17. Lander, Conflict and Stability in Fifteenth-Century England , 102. [BACK]

18. Bloch, Feudal Society , 113. [BACK]

19. Ibid. [BACK]

20. See, for example, Malory's Originality , ed. R. M. Lumiansky (Baltimore:

The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1964). Other critics and a bibliography can be found in Aspects of Malory , ed. Toshiyuki Takamiya and Derek Brewer, Arthurian Studies I (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1981) and Studies in Malory , ed. James W. Spisak (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 1985). [BACK]

21. The motif can also be at Dolorous Guard, one of the most important sources of the Weeping Castle, which Lancelot disenchants to prove himself worthy of Guenevere. In the prose Lancelot , the confusion of tasks at Dolorous Guard corresponds to Lancelot's unsureness in the ways of love. The young hero learns his name and lineage after he disenchants the castle and overcomes one of the many customs that replay Chrétien's cart episode and the custom of Gorre, which traps Arthur's subjects who enter the foreign realm in Chrétien's Chevalier de la charrete . The point of Dolorous Guard seems to be that Lancelot's royal birth and prowess qualify him for the love of the queen that he has felt from the time she knighted him.

This type of love allegory based on enigmatic, almost elliptical analogy shadows the custom of the castle topos from Chrétien to Spenser. When the author of the first part of the prose Tristan , who identifies himself as Luce of the Castle of Gail (or Gat) near Salisbury, proposed to integrate Tristan into the world of the Round Table, he drew on the Arthurian convention of the custom of the castle to create a dense network of personal relations, themes, duplications, enigmas, analogies, and etiologies. The author of the prose Tristan learned to concentrate themes—love, friendship, cultural otherness—in a single, symbolic episode, using duplication and analogy to create a mise-en-abîme after the lovers first make love on board ship. Later, after his marriage to Iseult of the White Hands, Tristan encounters another land of confinement. He drifts, asleep, with the second Iseult and her brother Kahedin in a small boat to the Servage, a land of harsh ways controlled by Nabon le Noire. Later still, when Tristan exchanges his excessive devotion to Iseult for life among Arthur's adventurers, he and his companion Dynadans face a foul custom that requires that they joust to establish their right to hospitality. In stark contrast to his earlier confinements, the errant knight, now less encumbered by the curse of his passion for Iseult, resolves the issue simply by walking away from the castle, unconfined by its "custom" ( T2 2:124ff.; cf. MD 9.23: one of the epigraphs of this book). If there is an uncertain correspondence in details, nonetheless the stories reveal a general pattern wherein key Arthurian characters face evil customs whenever the lovers' fortune changes. [BACK]

22. Larry Benson, Malory's " Morte Darthur " (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976), 70. Benson also analyzes Gareth's struggle against the Red Knight, which may be compared to Chrétien's "Joi de la cort" episode at the end of Erec et Enide ( Malory's " Morte Darthur ," 93, citing Vinaver, Works of Sir Thomas Malory , 1428). Benson finds a Bildungsroman pattern: "Malory introduces the proof-of-knighthood theme, which requires, after a preliminary bat-de (here the whole Red Knight adventure), success in a tournament, then a quest in which an evil custom is abolished (and usually prisoners are freed and some enemy of Arthur's is punished), and finally the jousting of the hero, unrecognized, with some of Arthur's knights" ( Malory's "Morte Darthur,'' 105). But we need to look at the episode from the perspective of the Red Knight, who keeps the custom thirty winters, not just Gareth, who undoes it. [BACK]

23. John Ladd, "Custom," in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy (New York: Macmillan, 1967). [BACK]

24. Northrop Frye, The Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957), 193. [BACK]

25. John Ladd, The Structure of a Moral Code: A Philosophical Analysis of Ethical Discourse Applied to the Ethics of the Navaho Indians (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1957), 256. [BACK]

26. Ibid., 257. [BACK]

27. Ibid., 269. [BACK]

28. Caxton substituted "destroy" for Malory's "distress," making it seem as if Tristram already knows that he must fight Sir Breunor to the death. Malory's original word suggests that Tristram is only reacting to his imprisonment. Either way, Tristram expects to find good customs at a caste. [BACK]

29. Paul Zumthor invented the term mouvance to describe the practice that followed from the presumption that the text was subject to critical review and clarification, to new intentions and a new audience. "Scribal adaptation is a fact of medieval writing," and nowhere more so than in the vast compilation known as the prose Tristan , the most important—because the most direct—source of the convention for Malory and later writers. See Donald Kelly, The Art of Medieval French Romance , 146.

Scholars date the prose Tristan from 1225-1230, but its mouvance carries it along from at least another century. We read the work as unsure of its provenance as Malory and Spenser were when they encountered it. Perhaps it suffices that, like Malory, we know the story was written in French during the Middle

Ages and that it refers to other French stories, particularly the prose Lancelot .

The Lancelot is itself of uncertain origin, but it served as a source for scenarios involving customs and castles, including the "male costume" of Morgan's Val Sans Retour ( L 1:277), Lancelot's disenchantment of the "malvaises coustumes" of Dolorouse Garde ( L 7:312), Dolorouse Chartre (where Gawain is lured by a vavasor of Brandon des Isles, who controls Dolorouse Garde, L 7:353), and at least four castles which involve problems of women: two adventures of Gawain's cousin Galescalain, the duke of Clarence, first against the "doleroses costumes" at Pintaduel ( L 1:228) and second, his attempt to enter Escalon le Tenebros, where darkness has descended following the rape of a woman in a monastery ( L 1:232). At Estroite Marche, Hector fights Marganorre (the name Ariosto used) and the people legislate the custom of drafting strangers because the lord has no son to inherit his estate ( L 8:279). Perhaps the most important scene, because it anticipates the joust and beauty contest motifs of the Weeping Castle, involves Sir Hector's battle against Persidés, husband of Helen sans per, after he is brought to her aid by her sister. He is higher class than she and his family will not accept her. She claims she is more beautiful than he is strong, so he locks her in a tower and is not allowed to leave until Sir Persidés meets someone stronger or a more beautiful woman arrives ( L 8:397-406).

The prose Tristan fragments and mirrors these scenes, as Tristan's main goal is to imitate Lancelot, the world's greatest knight and lover. Tristan comes to reside at Lancelot's castle of Joyous Guard (the former Dolorous Guard), when he and Iseult match the fame of Lancelot and Guenevere (the point where Malory leaves his story). [BACK]

30. A "descriptive ethics" relies on an analysis of an informant's thinking as one means for overcoming an ethnocentric view of someone else's social customs. It is similar to descriptive linguistics, which analyzes "how people actually talk, rather than setting up norms or prescriptions for the way they ought to talk." Its purpose is to determine what acts are objects of moral prescription, and what establishes their claim to that status. See John Ladd, The Structure of a Moral Code , 26. [BACK]

31. Vinaver ( Works , 1450) notes that Malory adds the words "all the astatis and comyns of that lordshyp were there ready to behold the battle and judgement" ( MD 8.25). The public attends constantly in the French source, but only here are we suddenly aware of its presence in the English text. Malory therefore condenses his source and then summarizes at a dramatic moment, maximizing

the impact of his words. Baumgartner observes the role in Malory's source played by those of Cornwall ("cil de Cornoalle"), the common people in Mark's realm who are always ready to help Tristan against his uncle ( Le "Tristan en prose, " 321). At the Weeping Castle, by contrast, Tristram is at odds with the population. [BACK]

32. Mark Lambert draws attention to the role of the collective voice in Malory's works ( Malory: Style and Vision in "Le Morte Darthur " [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975], 16-19). [BACK]

33. Catherine La Farge, who has also studied Malory's speakers, notices that they are often at cross-purposes. They respond with more emotion than relevance, and rarely speak at length. They retreat from known facts and recast indicative statements in the subjunctive. She writes that Malory "adds confusion and ambiguities to the received narrative by making the reader depend upon the dialogue of his self-defensive and, all in all, rather unreliable speakers" ("Conversation in Malory's Morte Darthur," Medium Aevum 56 [1987]: 225-238, 230). [BACK]

34. Y 6211-6377. Maddox finds in Yvain a manipulation of rights by "ruse" rather than heroic might, royal proclamation, or majority rule ( The Arthurian Romances of Chrétien de Troyes , 70-77). Elspeth Kennedy cites other examples in her edition of Lancelot do Lac , 2:347. [BACK]

35. "car trop a li rois petit gent, 'et se je conquerroie,' fait il, 'sa terre en cest point, je n'i aroie pas honor, mais honte'" ( L 8:12). [BACK]

36. Before he sails for Cornwall, Tristan promises to visit Galehaut in Sorelois or Logres, "but it was not long before he heard that Galehaut was dead" ("mes il ne demora pas granment qu'il oï qu'il estoit morz," T 481.27-28). [BACK]

37. In the French story, the King of the Hundred Knights destroys the Castle of Tears, but Galehaut himself must go to the site, after he has recovered from his wounds, and exact oaths from the former inhabitants that they will remove the custom. [BACK]

38. The Weeping Castle symbolizes Isode's situation, which is not a happy one. She must endure an arranged marriage to King Mark, made worse because she and Tristram fall in love, yet Tristram refuses to or cannot break the convention of marriage to release her from her bondage. (She must also endure Malory, who hardly hints that her marriage is a problem and suppresses all of her speaking parts.) Besides confronting the custom of the castle, where she risks losing her head if she loses a beauty contest, Isode also suffers from Tristram's inattention, particularly as Malory tells the story. Tristram's main concern is with hunting (one of the "customs of noble gentlemen," for which Tristram

wrote the book, MD 8.3), or with how he compares to Lancelot. In a striking addition to his source, Malory has Tristram regret, when the Weeping Castle episode ends, that he cannot immediately seek out Lancelot because he must first deliver Isode to Mark: "'Alas,' said Sir Tristram, 'and I had not this message in hand with this fair lady, truly I would never stint or I had found Sir Lancelot'" ( MD 8.28). Tristram not only complains about this delay, but about the money the woman costs him. In a sentence that Malory adds to his source, Tristram says that he expects Mark to treat him well because of the "fetching and costs of Queen Isode out of Ireland, and the danger than I was in first and last, and by the way coming home what danger I had to bring again Queen Isode from the Castle Pluere" ( MD 9.21).

Isode's sad situation continues after she leaves the Weeping Castle. In Cornwall, the Irish princess finds herself in a strange land, uncertain how to behave. There is a clash of cultures between the bridal party and the locals. Two Cornish women envy Dame Bragwaine, who accompanies Isode from Ireland, and they arrange for Bragwaine's abduction. Isode shows signs of homesickness when she finds her maid missing: "Wit ye well she was right heavy as ever was any queen. . . . The cause was for she came with her out of her country" ( MD 8.29).

Homesick, vulnerable in a male world, Isode must then endure Palomides, who pesters her for favors. She makes him a rash promise that if he will return Bragwaine to her, she will reward him. When he does, she discovers that she is expected to keep her bargain. King Mark proves unable to fend off Palomides, and Tristram is "in the forest a-hunting" in her hour of need ( MD 8.30). Palomides bears her away, but she manages to escape when he has to fight Sir Lambegus, Tristram's knight. She flees like Ariosto's Angelica, Tasso's Erminia, or Spenser's Florimell: "So the queen ran into the forest, and there she found a well, and therein she had thought to have drowned herself" ( MD 8.30).

Tristram's chivalry may contrast to Sir Breunor's crude social customs, but he has little refinement or cortoisie : He hardly meets the requirement that Gaston Paris listed among the elements of what he called Courtly Love, that the lover grovel as an inferior before his lady. (For a reassessment of the nineteenth-century origins of courtly love—that love be adulterous, secret, debasing to the male—see R. Howard Bloch, "'Mieux vaut jamais que tard': Romance, Philology, and Old French Letters," Representations 36 [1991]: 64-86.) The English knight is not a doting Lancelot, however, but a colder man. He resembles Ariosto's Tristan, who taunts Clodione and offers him a woman without asking her first ( OF 32.90), and Spenser's Tristram, who seems more interested in his armor

than in his lady's welfare: having despoiled a dead knight, he "long fed his greedie eyes with the faire sight / Of the bright mettall" ( FQ 6.2.39). The name of the Weeping Castle seems to reflect Tristram's faults in the story at large, creating an image of Isode's social situation in the outside world.

It is only fair to notice, however, that within the castle the custom which Tristram calls foul plays into Isode's own best interests. She easily wins the beauty contest against Breunor's wife. Moreover, the French text makes clear what Malory's scene offers only elliptically: once the couple establish themselves, they are perfectly happy. The Castle of Tears is described from the beginning as handsome and well appointed ("biax et bien seanz," T 452.3). Even King Mark could not object to their being together ("il n'i penseroit ja nul mal," T 474.5). Their cohabitation is justified because they are prisoners. Prison is therefore so pleasing to them, in the French story, that they want never to leave. Iseult can forget the world ("tot le monde oblier," T 474.7) and regard only Tristan. Tristan feels the same way, and they spend three happy months together ("I1 demeurent en la tor bien trois mois entiers,'' T 474.15-16). Their isolation and happiness excuse the custom of the castle, which confines them within its law.

Malory characteristically suppresses Isode's happiness. And the essence of the episode that Malory retains from his source despite many changes is that the custom of the castle represents total constraint. Its customs are so powerful that they implicate Tristram, who furthers their purpose even as he resists. By his eventual success in fleeing himself from the castle's customs, moreover, Tristram unwittingly destroys Isode's happiness. [BACK]

39. Paul Zumthor comments, "Les monstres des romans 'bretons' symbolisent les forces anticourtoises" ( Essai de poétique médiévale [Paris: Seuil, 1972], 360, cited by Jacques Le Goff, introduction to Erich Köhler, L'aventure chevaleresque: Idéal et réalité dans le roman courtois [Paris: Gallimard, 1974], xiii: Zumthor is citing P. Lakits, La Châatelaine de Vergi et l'évolution de la nouvelle courtoise [Debrecen, 1966]. [BACK]

40. There seems to be no good evidence that the rapist thief Sir Thomas Malory of Newbold Revel, Warwickshire, wrote the Morte Darthur , according to William Matthews, The Ill-Framed Knight (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), who suggests Thomas Malory of Yorkshire instead. See Benson, Malory's "Morte Darthur; " ix, and R. M. Lumiansky, "Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur ; 1947-1987: Author, Title, Text," Speculum 62 (1987): 878-897. [BACK]

41. Caxton's Own Prose , ed. F. N. Blake (London: Andre Deutsch, 1973), 47. [BACK]

42. Ibid. [BACK]

43. Northrop Frye, On Shakespeare (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986), 38. [BACK]

44. E. K. Chambers, English Literature at the Close of the Middle Ages (New York: Oxford University Press, 1947), 196. [BACK]

45. For Caxton's text, see Blake, ed., Caxton's Own Prose , 126. I have modernized the English. On Lull and the prose Lancelot , see Maurice Keen, Chivalry (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984), 11. [BACK]

46. Chambers, English Literature at the Close of the Middle Ages , 197. [BACK]

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