Orgeluse and the Trial for Rape at the Court of King Arthur: Parzival 521, 19 to 529, 16
Arthuriana 20.3 (2010)
The rape in book ten of Wolfram’s Parzival elicits varied legal remedies: a trial at Arthur’s court transitions into a reconciliation that in turn fuels a feud. This essay uses literary evidence to detail the social mechanisms of justice through the filters of gender, status, and point of view.
The rape trial of Urjans, Prince of Punturtoys, is narrated early in book ten of Wolfram’s Parzival. The issue before the court is similar to what we would now call ‘sexual assault’ or simply ‘rape’ in common speech— unwanted, nonconsensual, forced intercourse. The perpetrator, Urjans, is a man of royal status and chivalric reputation and the victim is a young virgin of the nobility who is never named in the text. My focus in this essay will be the processes of legal dispute resolution, specifically the connections and misconnections between trial litigation and two other modes of settlement: feuding or private self-help, and reconciliation of the parties through formal negotiation.