“Christ as a Windblown Sleeve”: The Ambiguity of Clothing as Sign in Gottfried von Straßburg’s Tristan

  • Margarita Yanson
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


In Gottfried von Straßburg s romance of Tristan, written around 1210 and presenting by far the most elaborate version of the legend, the scene of Isolda s ordeal occupies one of the central places. Isolda, the famous medieval adulteress, succeeds in passing her trial by hot iron to the great surprise of King Mark, the bishops, and the courtiers. The author, who never fails to provide his own comments and explanations for the major events in the narrative, attributes the heroines success to the judgment of Christ—an arbitrator superior to the court of human justice. Gottfried explains that

dâ wart wol g’offenbaeret

und al der werlt bewaeret,

daz der vil tugenthafte Crist

wintschaffen alse ein ermel ist.

er vüeget unde suochet an,

dâ man ‘z an in gesuochen kan,

alse gevuoge und alse wol,

als er von allem rehte sol

[Thus it was manifest and confirmed to all the world that Christ in His great virtue is pliant as a windblown sleeve. He falls into place and clings, whichever way you try Him, closely and smoothly, as He is bound to do.]1


Great Virtue Royal Representation Golden haIr Human JustICe IrIsh Court 
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  1. 1.
    Tristan (Stuttgart: Philipp Reclam Jun., 1996), 2, 15733–40. Translation by A. T. Hatto, Tristan with the ‘Tristan’ of Thomas (Penguin Books: New York, 1967), 248.Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    Walter Haug. Vernacular Literary Theory in the Middle Ages. The German Tradition, 800–1300, in its European Context (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1997), 209–11.Google Scholar
  3. 20.
    See Dietrich von Apolda. Die Vita der heiligen Elisabeth, ed. Monika Rener (Marburg: N. G. Elwert Verlag, 1993).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Désirée G. Koslin and Janet E. Snyder 2002

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  • Margarita Yanson

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