Le Morte d’Arthur

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Isoud (La Beale Isoud) Character Analysis

The daughter of King Anguish, and Tristram’s one great love. Isoud is married off to King Mark, but she never forgets Tristram, even forgiving him when he briefly forgets about her and marries someone else (Isoud les Blanches Mains). Isoud is subject to the desires of men, who are physically stronger and politically more powerful than she is, but she is also clever enough to find a way to fulfill her own wishes whenever she can. Her love story with Tristram provides a parallel to that between Launcelot and Guenever, and at one point these four are referred to as the only true “lovers” in the kingdom.

Isoud (La Beale Isoud) Quotes in Le Morte d’Arthur

The Le Morte d’Arthur quotes below are all either spoken by Isoud (La Beale Isoud) or refer to Isoud (La Beale Isoud). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Le Morte d’Arthur published in 1970.
Book 10 Quotes

But wit ye well Sir Palomides had envy heartily, for all that night he had never rest in his bed, but wailed and wept out of measure. So on the morn Sir Tristram, Gareth, and Dinadan arose early, and then they went unto Sir Palomides’ chamber, and there they found him fast asleep, for he had all night watched, and it was seen upon his cheeks that he had wept full sore. Say nothing, said Sir Tristram, for I am sure he hath taken anger and sorrow for the rebuke that I gave to him, and La Beale Isoud.

Related Characters: Tristram (Tramtrist) (speaker), Isoud (La Beale Isoud), Sir Gareth (Beaumains), Sir Palomides, Dinadan
Page Number: Vol 2, 166
Explanation and Analysis:

During the tournament, Palomides, who has long been jealous of Tristram because he is also in love with La Beale Isoud, had hatched a plan to dishonor Tristram. He had borrowed a wounded knight's armor and had ridden out to fight against Tristram anonymously, making many at the tournament impressed with his skill. However, Isoud had been watching from a window in the castle, so she saw everything, and found Palomides' behavior shameful.

Now Palomides recognizes that his plan had backfired. Not only did he fail to win Isoud's admiration, but now she actively dislikes him, and Tristram - whom Palomides still admires despite his jealousy - is also irritated with him. Palomides' jealousy mingles with his sense of shame in a way that is so acute that he weeps all night long. Palomides is not even able to hide his feelings: Tristram, Gareth, and Dinadan witness his state of sorrow, and Tristram easily guesses where it results from. Palomides may be a valiant fighter in a tournament, but the opinion of a woman can easily triumph over him in other spheres.

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Isoud (La Beale Isoud) Character Timeline in Le Morte d’Arthur

The timeline below shows where the character Isoud (La Beale Isoud) appears in Le Morte d’Arthur. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 8
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
...in his daughter’s keeping, since she is a good surgeon. Her name is La Beale Isoud, and she is the fairest lady in the world. Tristram teaches her to play the... (full context)
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...for his cousin, the Lady of the Launds, whose winner will marry her. La Beale Isoud tells Tramtrist of the tournament, but he says he’s too weak to fight. Isoud says... (full context)
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Chapter 10 La Beale Isoud is impressed by this and loves Tramtrist more, seeing how the boy worships him. The... (full context)
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...lodged in Marhaus’s head. She cries to her daughter that he is a traitor, though Isoud is ashamed of this cruel cry. The queen rejoins the fragment to the sword and... (full context)
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Tristram goes to La Beale Isoud (now usually just referred to as Isoud) and shares everything with her. She is devastated... (full context)
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...now actively plots to destroy Tristram. He decides to send Tristram to fetch La Beale Isoud so that he, Mark, might marry her, thinking that Tristram might be slain that way.... (full context)
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...for Ireland, where the king shares what Tristram has done for him, and La Beale Isoud is wildly happy. (full context)
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...Tristram then asks King Anguish for his reward: that he might give him La Beale Isoud to wed his uncle Mark, as he has promised. Anguish is surprised that Tristram won’t... (full context)
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Chapter 25 In prison, a knight and lady come to cheer up Tristram and Isoud, and Tristram remarks at the incomprehensible custom of the place. The knight says that another... (full context)
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...says his lady is fairer, and he will prove it by fighting. When Breunor sees Isoud, he realizes no lady is fairer, but fears his own lady’s head should be cut... (full context)
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Chapter 29 Mark and Isoud are married, though she and Tristram still love each other. Two of Isoud’s ladies decide... (full context)
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Chapter 30 Palomides goes before King Mark and asks to take his wife, Isoud, away with him. The king thinks that Tristram will surely rescue Isoud, so he agrees... (full context)
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Meanwhile Isoud has escaped: she reaches a forest well, and is about to drown herself when a... (full context)
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...to wake Palomides up and bring him back to fight. They battle for hours. Finally Isoud says that though she doesn’t love Palomides, she wants him, a Saracen, to be baptized... (full context)
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Chapter 32 Tristram brings Isoud home to King Mark, and they all recover. But one day Sir Andred, Tristram’s cousin,... (full context)
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...Lamorak orders the knight to send it to King Mark instead, so as to test Isoud. Mark has Isoud and a hundred other ladies drink it: only four prove true. Mark... (full context)
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Tristram often spends the night with Isoud, and one night Sir Andred, who often spies on him, gathers twelve knights and comes... (full context)
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...Gouvernail seeks out his master and pulls him up from the rocks. Tristram asks after Isoud, who he says has been put in a lazar-cote (a leper’s house). Tristram fetches her... (full context)
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Isoud sends a lady to Tristram to tell him that, since she cannot help him, he... (full context)
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Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
...the encouragement of Howel and his son Kehydius, Tristram begins to fall in love with Isoud la Blanche Mains, such that he forgets La Beale Isoud. Finally they are married, but... (full context)
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Chapter 37 The knight reports back to Tristram, who is ashamed. La Beale Isoud writes to Guenever about Tristram’s falseness, but Guenever writes that he has surely been tricked... (full context)
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Chapter 38 Tristram meanwhile takes Isoud la Blanche Mains and Kehydius to go boating, and they are driven by wind to... (full context)
Book 9
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Meanwhile, Tristram sends a letter to Launcelot claiming that he has never slept with Isoud la Blanche Mains, and asking to renew his friendship, and for Launcelot to send his... (full context)
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Chapter 10 Meanwhile, La Beale Isoud has been sending pitiful letters to Tristram, and finally asks him via her maid Bragwaine... (full context)
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...friend of Tristram’s, and Bragwaine and Dinas ride to Mark’s court to tell La Beale Isoud that Tristram is close. She asks him to be brought secretly to a chamber in... (full context)
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Isoud secretly lodges Tristram in a turret (little tower atop a castle). One day Tristram, Kehydius,... (full context)
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...from Palomides to find out how Tristram is doing. Fergus continues on and finds that Isoud is, like Tristram, in an extreme state of grieving. Meanwhile Palomides’ damsel finds Tristram and... (full context)
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...the damsel sent by Sir Palomides returns to him and reports. Palomides meets Kehydius, whom Isoud has sent out of Cornwall, and they share that they both loved Isoud. They decide... (full context)
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...make Andred king of his own country of Liones. At this news Mark weeps and Isoud goes nearly out of her mind. She prepares to kill herself with a sword, saying... (full context)
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...a blanket over him and lead him to Tintagil, all ignorant of who he is. Isoud, hearing of the tale, goes to see him, resting in the garden. He looks familiar... (full context)
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Isoud always keeps a small brachet with her, a gift from Tristram, which never leaves her... (full context)
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...Dame Bragwaine comes upon him and, when he awakes, gives him letters from La Beale Isoud. Tristram is pleased to see how much she misses him. He tells Bragwaine to accompany... (full context)
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Dame Bragwaine arrives at the tournament from La Beale Isoud, pretending it’s to ask after Guenever, but actually looking for Tristram. Bragwaine rides through the... (full context)
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...was Launcelot or Tristram. Mark is afraid when Gaheris tells him it was Tristram, but Isoud is glad of it. Uwaine then comes to court and challenges all the knights. Sir... (full context)
Book 10
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...a pity, he says, for such a man as Mark to be with the glorious Isoud. (full context)
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...and approaches it, finding a knight sorrowfully exclaiming about his unrequited love for La Beale Isoud, who only loves Tristram, and whose husband is the falsest king in the world. Mark... (full context)
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...letter to Tristram warning him to be wary of Mark. She also brings letters to Isoud from Arthur and Launcelot. But Mark intercepts these letters and is angry, supposing that Tristram... (full context)
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...begin to laugh, and Mark bemoans the loss. But then Tristram thinks of La Beale Isoud, and rises up again, his strength renewed, and strikes Elias many times, until Elias staggers... (full context)
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...cries that he is a liar, and kills him. Anglides (Boudwin’s wife) swoons in grief. Isoud sends a messenger to Anglides and tells her to leave court with her son Alisander... (full context)
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...night, however, he spirits Tristram off to another castle, where he puts him in prison. Isoud, wondering where Tristram is, asks Sadok to find him. Sadok learns he’s been imprisoned by... (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
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...for the Pope, a noble battle. Dinas tells his men to go home. Mark finds Isoud with Tristram, and imprisons him again. Isoud sends for Dinas and Sadok to have them... (full context)
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Chapter 52 Tristram and Isoud arrive to England, where Tristram joins a jousting of Arthur’s in disguise. Launcelot prepares to... (full context)
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Chapter 53 Isoud warns Tristram not to go out hunting unarmed, since he should be wary of Mark... (full context)
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...fight. Tristram strikes down Gaheris and Agravaine. Then he returns to the castle and tells Isoud of his adventures. Isoud says that Dinadan is the one who had the harp song... (full context)
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...at Dinadan’s helmet (which is actually Tristram’s), which the Queen of Northgalis had given to Isoud, and Isoud to Tristram, and asks where he got it. The king declares he’ll joust... (full context)
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...Palomides ride back to the castle, and the next morning they ride to Lonazep with Isoud and Dinadan. On the way they meet the knight Galihodin with twenty others around him.... (full context)
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...and they compare notes, saying that the people they encountered must be Tristram, Palomides, and Isoud. Meanwhile Tristram leaves the others at a pavilion and rides on Palomides’ white horse to... (full context)
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...on his side, so they will gain great glory if they win. The next morning Isoud watches everything from a bay window, veiled so as not to be known. Arthur wonders... (full context)
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Chapter 70 Isoud had wept upon seeing Tristram unhorsed, but now delights at seeing him recovered and fighting... (full context)
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...glory as he has now. Launcelot recognizes that Palomides won such glory for love of Isoud, but he tells Palomides not to let Tristram find out. (full context)
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...two sides, and that day Palomides receives the prize again. Tristram orders Dinadan to fetch Isoud and bring her to his pavilion. Launcelot says to Arthur that he suspects Palomides is... (full context)
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Chapter 73 In the morning Launcelot departs and Tristram prepares to ride in with Isoud, Palomides, and Gareth. Watching from a window, Launcelot remarks at the woman’s beauty, and Arthur... (full context)
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...Tristram to fight. Tristram marvels at this knight’s prowess, and wonders who he is. Only Isoud, watching from the bay window, sees everything, and begins to weep in anger at Palomides.... (full context)
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Chapter 77 The fighting ends, and Isoud goes to the pavilion, still furious with Palomides. Tristram, Gareth, and Dinadan meet there, and... (full context)
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Chapter 78 Two armed knights arrive at the pavilion to see Isoud. They take off their helmets, and Dinadan tells Tristram that they are Launcelot and Arthur.... (full context)
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...come upon Palomides and bring them along with him. When they pass by Tristram and Isoud’s pavilion, Palomides goes to Tristram and declares him a traitor—he says he’ll kill him if... (full context)
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...cannot be greater than his own. He shares that he’s in love with La Beale Isoud, and fears he’s lost her love and Tristram’s friendship forever. He never thought Isoud was... (full context)
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...embrace. Launcelot leaves after a few days, and Palomides begins to grieve again at seeing Isoud. He goes to sit by a well and make up a song about Isoud. Tristram,... (full context)
Book 12
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Chapter 11 Meanwhile Tristram has gained even greater renown. Tristram and Isoud speak of Launcelot’s return, and decide to go to court for the celebratory feast. Isoud,... (full context)
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Chapter 12 Tristram leaves Isoud and comes across a knight who has been wounded by Palomides. Tristram regrets aloud that... (full context)