Mark

This espied King Mark, how she kneeled down and said: 'Sweet Lord Jesu, have mercy upon me, for I may not live after the death of Sir Tristram de Liones'

Mark

CharactersName Variants: MarchBackground Essay Author: Alan Lupack
Mark is King of Cornwall and as brother of Tristan's mother (named Elyzabeth in Malory; Blanscheflur in Gottfried; Blauncheflour in Sir Tristrem) he is Tristan's uncle. Mark appears in early Celtic literature such as the Triad telling the story of Tristan as one of the three powerful swineherds of Britain. In this Triad, "Drystan son of Tallwch" watches over the swine of "March" (Mark) while the swineherd delivers a message from Drystan to Essylt. The Welsh work was the source for an episode in Masefield's play Tristan and Isolt, in which Arthur appears as a "Captain of the Host" and is subordinate to Mark. There is some evidence for an actual Welsh nobleman, March son of Meirchyawn, behind the figure of Mark. In the ninth-century Life of Paul Aurelian (St. Pol a monk of Landevennec and patron saint of Paul in Cornwall) by Wrmonoc, Mark is identified with Cunomorus (Welsh Kynvawr), who ruled Cornwall in the early sixth century, and who probably had his seat at Castle Dore, a hillfort near Fowey. Wrmonoc says of St. Paul: "fama ejus regis Marci pervolat ad aures quem alio nomine Quonomorium vocant" (see Revue Celtique 5 [1881-83]: 431) [his fame flew to the ears of King Marc, known also as Cunomorus]. Cunomorus and Tristan are associated on the famous Tristan Stone (also located in Fowey), a memorial stone commemorating Drustanus, son of Cunomorus. Mark figures in the medieval Tristan and Isolt tales as the rival to Tristan, originally as a basically noble man caught up in the tragic circumstances, but increasingly as a figure who exhibits traits inconsistent...

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