Characters and Narrators as Interpreters of Fidelity Tests in Medieval Arthurian Fiction
This article discusses a number of fidelity-testing tales and episodes, focusing on the function of characters and narrators who provide interpretations of the outcome of the tests. The testing of a series of characters takes place during a social gathering, involves a testing device, most often a mantle or a drinking horn, and discloses infidelity or othershortcomings. In most tales, ethical interpreters confront the spectators with social criticism and moral lessons, either seriously, as in Ulrich’s Lanzelet and Albrecht’s Jungerer Titurel, or humorously, as in the Manteau mal taille. In Heinrich von dem Turlin’s Diu Crone, however, the interpreters are innocuous. Kei the seneschal and the narrator participate in an intratextual as well as literary game. Their comments are meant to amuse other characters, and to challenge the literary expertise of the listeners to Heinrich’s romance.