Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Carlisle Castle

*Carlisle Castle (CAHR-lil). Castle of King Arthur where Calogrenant narrates the tale of his own disgrace. The knight Yvain wishes to avenge Calogrenant and decides to take on this task as a personal challenge. As with Chrétien’s other romances, this castle represents chivalry and grandeur—a place at once mystical and real that still exists in the great border city between England and Scotland.


Spring. Yvain mortally wounds the knight who guards it. He returns later, only to find the maiden who saved him imprisoned there. It is a place of circumstances that defy logic and appeal to the imagination. It is a part of the world, yet it is enigmatic.


Forest. Sylvan location in which Yvain goes mad after breaking his promise to his beloved. The setting is analogous to Yvain’s mind: Just as he exists in a state of madness here, the forest represents the instability of life and a mind that is not functioning properly. The deep woods also seem to reflect the inner workings of Yvain’s mind. In the context of the work, a battle in the deep woods signifies the struggle between good and evil, or stability and madness, with the lion symbolizing the first image and the dragon, the latter. The honorable knight chooses to help the lion that repays him with much loyalty.


Tower. Setting of the “Dire Adventure,” in which Yvain, with the help of his trusted companion the lion, vanquishes the two evil beings that guard the young women in the tower. The setting is of unknown origin.