One of the first poets to treat the legend of King Arthur, Chrétien is widely regarded as the founder of the medieval romantic tradition. More than anyone else, Chrétien defined the characteristics of romance for later generations. For example, his use of humor, irony, and symbolism influenced romantic authors such as Marie de France, Gottfried von Strassburg, and Wolfram von Eschenbach. His Perceval, which contains the earliest known use of the Grail legend in the Arthurian tradition, continued to be a model for romantic works as late as Richard Wagner’s Parsifal (1986). Moreover, Chrétien’s use of the supernatural inspired those who revived the Romantic and gothic traditions at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
The code of courtly love seen in Chrétien’s works is similar to that described in Andreas Capellanus’s The Art of Courtly Love (1969). Chrétien’s knights embody Christian virtues and combine physical strength with romantic devotion. Other values represented by the heroes of Chrétien’s poems are similar to the aristocratic code embraced by the author’s wealthy and well-educated audience.