Malory’s “Arthur” and Tintagel Castle

As noted in my last post,  in the English Heritage book Tintagel Castle,  Colleen Batey reveals that in his Historia Regum Britanniae, a fictionalised history of the kings of Britain originally written in Latin, the language of learning and literature in Europe in the medieval period, Geoffrey Monmouth  expanded on the tales and legends surrounding King Arthur, adding his own details to promote and further romanticise the story of Arthur.

I took the information below from the net:

Geoffrey of Monmouth …. (c. 1100 – c. 1155) was a Welsh cleric and one of the major figures in the development of British history and development of British historiography  and the popularity of tales of King Arthur.  He is best known for his chronicle Historia Regum Britanniae (“History of the Kings of Britain”), which was widely popular in its day and was credited, uncritically, well into the 16th century, being translated into various other languages from its original Latin ….

[Geoffrey’s Historia] relates the purported history of Britain, from its first settlement by Brutus, a descendant of the Trojan hero Aeneas, to the death of  Cadwalader in the 7th century, taking in Julius Caesar’s  invasions of Britain, two kings, Leir and Cymbeline …. (Geoffrey of Monmouth, wikipedia, accessed 15 Jan 2016)

Geoffrey’s Historia, even though a relatively small (as in brief) book, it is one of the first developed narratives of King Arthur.  In his accounts in Historia, Geoffrey does not distinguish between the information he gained from the various sources, and does not distinguish between what he has taken from the various sources and his own imaginative input as the writer.  Despite being a fictionalised historical account Geoffrey’s work was accepted by many as being fact, and his fictions became embedded in popular history.

Batey writes that “About 20 years after  Geoffrey’s Historia, an Anglo-Norman poet and courtier to Henry II,” Robert Wace, translated Geoffrey’s works into Norman French, “adding details of his own” such  as the Round Table and Arthur’s sword Excalibur. Batey also says that Wace’s work,  Roman de Brut (c. 1155), which was based on Geoffrey’s Historia,

cannot be regarded as a history in any modern sense, although Wace often distinguishes between what he knows and what he does not know, or has been unable to find out. Wace narrates the founding of Britain by Brutus of Troy to the end of the legendary British history created by Geoffrey of Monmouth. The popularity of this work is explained by the new accessibility to a wider public of the Arthur legend in a vernacular language. In the midst of the Arthurian section of the text, Wace was the first to mention the legend of King Arthur’s Round Table and the first to ascribe the name Excalibur to Arthur’s sword …. (Batey, Tintagel Castle, p. 30)

I found this piece on the net:

[Wace’s] extant works include the Roman de Brut, a verse history of Britain, the Roman de Rou, a verse history of the Dukes of Normandy, and other works in verse, including the Lives of Saint Margaret and Saint Nicholas.  Roman de Brut, or Brut, consists of 14,866 lines…. It was intended for a Norman audience interested in the legends and history of the new territories of the Anglo-Norman realm, covering the story of King Arthur and taking the history of Britain all the way back to the mythical Brutus of Troy. (Wace, wikipedia, accessed 15 Jan 2016)

The Brut was the most popular of Wace’s works and survives in more than 30 manuscripts or fragments. It was used by Layamon as the basis for his Brut. … (Roman le Brut, wikipedia, accessed 15 Jan 2016)

As I noted in a prior post, Wace’s Roman added to the  influences  that Geoffrey’s works on Arthur had had on European literature and the royal courts, and helped to bring about change:

The tales of the Knights of the Round Table became the pattern for a new order, a code of chivalry–the good conduct expected of a knight towards his enemies, his liege lord, his fellow knights, the lower orders, and women. It was the age, too, of the knight 3‘romance’, a story in verse or prose placing a great emphasis on a knight’s courtly and unfulfilled love for a lady, often the wife of his feudal superior or another lord. (Batey, Tintagel Castle, p. 30)

Then in 1405-1471 along came Sir Thomas Malory, arguably one of the greatest English writer of Arthurian romance:

knight 4The link between Arthur and his knights and the Holy Grail (the cup used by Christ at the last Supper) was made in the early 13th century in the Vulgate Cycle, an early French source of Arthurian legend. It was later an important literary source  for the writer Sir Thomas Malory (c.1405-1471), and the image of noble knights engaged in this virtuous quest became a lasting part of the Arthurian myth.  (Batey, Tintagel Castle, p. 30)

Sir Thomas Malory in his work, The Tale of King Arthur, combines elements from the various English legends, myths, and tales, about King Arthur, with those sourced from the Vulgate Cycle, “an early French source of Arthurian legend,” knight 6and projected the stories and legends and myths surrounding King Arthur to new heights: he placed  the Arthurian tales on an even more romantic level than any of the previous versions had, and instilled his Arthurian tales with a lasting, human story.  It seems that until Malory took up his pen, Tintagel is barely mentioned at all in Arthurian romance except rather briefly in the works of Geoffrey of Monmouth as being the place where Arthur was conceived with a little help from his father’s, Uther Pendragon’s, wizard Merlin.

According to Batey, “An educated European in about 1200 would sooner have associated the name Tintagel with the legendary figures of Mark” of Cornwall who has been identified with a King Cunomorus, “and Tristan,” who is identified in many tales about Cornwall:

The connection of the name Tristan with Tintagel arose in the 12th century, when the earliest written surviving  accounts of the story of Tristan and Yseult–Continental poems from France and Germany–were first composed. In these Tintagel appears as the location of King Mark’s court. Tristan is not his son, but his nephew, and the lover of Mark’s wife, Yseult. (Batey, Tintagel Castle, p. 31)

Works cited

Batey, Colleen E. English Heritage: Tintagel Castle. English Heritage Guidebooks. London: English Heritage, 1st ed. 2010, 2nd ed. 2012, rev. reprint 2014.

Geoffrey of Monmouth – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wace – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Roman de Brut – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia









Image | This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s