One of the great romances of the Middle Ages, Tristan, written in the early thirteenth century, is based on a medieval love story of grand passion and deceit. By slaying a dragon, the young prince Tristan wins the beautiful Isolde's hand in marriage for his uncle, King Mark. On their journey back to Mark's court, however, the pair mistakenly drink a love-potion intended for the king and his young bride, and are instantly possessed with an all-consuming love for each another - a love they are compelled to conceal by a series of subterfuges that culminates in tragedy. Von Strassburg's work is acknowledged as the greatest rendering of this legend of medieval lovers, and went on to influence generations of writers and artists and inspire Richard Wagner's Tristan and Isolde.
Gottfried von Strassburg was probably a member of the urban patriciate in Strassburg. Judging from his writing he appears to have been a cultured man, well read in Latin, French and German; a lover of music and hunting, and a skilled linguistic stylist. He chose Thomas as his source for Tristan, and completed five-sixths of the work. A.T. Hatto has translated The Niebelungenlied and Eschenbach's Parzival for Penguin Classics.