Gottfried von Strassburg Additional Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

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.

Gottfried based...

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(European Poets and Poetry)

Little is known about Gottfried von Strassburg’s life, although there is no doubt about his authorship of Tristan and Isolde. Contemporary sources mention “Gottfried” as the poem’s author, often referring to him as “Meister” and appending “von Strassburg” to his given name. These scant details, as well as internal evidence from Tristan and Isolde, make it possible to reconstruct a sketch of his career. The date of Gottfried’s birth is unknown, but it is thought that he was probably born in Alsace. The wide array of learning he displays in Tristan and Isolde suggests he was educated in the classics, rhetoric, literature, music, and possibly law and theology. He was probably not a nobleman, but instead was a member of the patrician class of bureaucrats that handled administrative tasks in the city of Strassburg, which in the twelfth century was a growing urban center on the Rhine River. The date of Gottfried’s death is also uncertain, but scholars have been able to determine the date of composition of Tristan and Isolde to be around 1210. Because the poem remained unfinishedall of the thirty surviving manuscript versions break off in the middle of the taleconsensus among scholars is that Gottfried died before he could complete it.