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Parsifal (pär´sĬfäl), figure of Arthurian legend also known as Sir Percivale, who is in turn a later form of a hero of Celtic myth. The name originally occurs as Pryderi, an alternative name of Gwry in Pwyll Prince of Dyved, a tale in the Mabinogion. Gwry is the original of Gawain, and in the later Percivale stories Gawain appears, often fulfilling the same role as the hero. The great feature of the Percivale cycle is the Holy Grail, and Welsh sources connect this sacred talisman with Percivale, who finds the Grail. Chrétien de Troyes is the author of the first great artistic treatment of the theme; in Chrétien's unfinished poem Percivale finds the Grail at the Fisher King's castle and heals the king. The Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach is one of the greatest medieval poems. Drawn largely from Chrétien, von Eschenbach's story is highly spiritualized and appears essentially in the form used by Richard Wagner in his music drama Parsifal. In the Morte d'Arthur of Sir Thomas Malory, Percivale is admitted to the Grail with Galahad and Bors.

See R. S. Loomis, Arthurian Tradition & Chrétien de Troyes (1949) and Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages (1959); R. Cavendish, King Arthur and the Grail (1985).

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Parsifal. Sacred fest. drama (Bühnenweihfestspiel) in 3 acts by Wagner to his own lib. His last opera, composed 1877–82, f.p. Bayreuth 1882 cond. Levi, NY Met 1903, CG 1914. (Concert perfs., London 1884, NY 1886.) Wagner wanted Parsifal to be perf. nowhere but at Bayreuth, and the Bayreuth Fest. had a copyright on the work until 31 Dec. 1913. Nevertheless this was infringed by the NY Met and in Zurich in 1903 and by perfs. in Boston, Mass., and other Amer. cities 1904–5, in Amsterdam 1905, and in Buenos Aires and Rio 1913.

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