Nothing is known of the life of Gottfried von Strassburg (GAWT-freet fawn SHTRAHS-burk) beyond what can be gleaned from his own work and from references to him by his contemporaries. He was certainly born in the late twelfth century. Unlike his contemporary court poets, Gottfried was probably from a bourgeois family, since he is referred to as meister rather than herr. The commercial center of Strassburg may have been his birthplace or may simply have been where he lived. The name Dietrich, perhaps a wealthy bourgeois patron from Strassburg, appears as an acrostic at the beginning of Tristan.
Whether in Strassburg or elsewhere, perhaps at a monastery school, Gottfried received an excellent education. The title meister may suggest that he was a learned man. He knew French and Latin very well and was particularly fond of Vergil and Ovid. He was acquainted with scholasticism and with law. He was a skilled versifier and was aware of the poetic currents of his time. In Tristan and Isolde, he refers to Hartmann von Aue as his master. He also refers to Reinmar der Alte as having died (Reinmar died in 1210) and alludes to Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival (c. 1200-1210) disparagingly. Wolfram responded to Gottfried’s criticism in Willehalm(begun c. 1212), which fixes the date of composition of Tristan and Isolde around 1210.
(The entire section is 489 words.)