The Lancelot-Grail Cycle: Text and Transformations

The Lancelot-Grail Cycle : Text and Transformations (1994, Hardcover)
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It begins with a chapter by Douglas Kelly, in which he examines the notion of a cycle in relation to the aesthetic prescriptions of Horace and in particular how the cycle's articulation of "branches" emphasizes the "pruning" of irrelevant material. Carol J. Chase provides the introduction to the Estoire with attention to the role of the Joseph of Arimathea character throughout the cycle.

She notes with interest that whereas Joseph is considered Lancelot's ancestor in the prose Lancelot , this is not the case in either the Queste or the Estoire. Giving a thorough overview of the manuscript tradition and the sources for the romances in question, Annie Combes treats the Merlin and its Suite.

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Her chapter provides a helpful outline of what the author s of these texts added to the tradition of the Merlin character and a clear presentation of the issues surrounding the representation of narrative voice in these works. Carol Dover presents the prose Lancelot , affirming her belief in the "architect" model of composition first proposed by Frappier and showing support for Annie Combes's response to Kennedy's hypothesis concerning the existence of a "non-cyclic" Lancelot. Matilda T. Bruckner also treats the prose Lancelot and focuses on the implications of its near line-by-line rewriting of Chretien de Troyes's Chevalier de la Charrette in one of its principle branches.

Norris J. Lacy presents the Mort with special attention to the notion of mescheances in the representation of the cause-effect relationships that determine its plot structure. Part II ends with an examination by Alison Stones of manuscripts representing the first years of illumination of the romances in the cycle.

This chapter offers a wealth of interesting information for manuscript scholars, but relatively little conclusive synthesis of the data. It would perhaps have been more appropriately grouped with the essays in Part I. As a whole, Part II could be used without regrets among the required readings of an undergraduate course dedicated to Arthurian romance. It would serve as a good introduction for graduate students who are reading portions of the cycle for the first time. By contrast, Part III contains much material that would be of interest to scholars of Old French literature who have not yet ventured into the avatars of the cycle written in other languages.

It would be of less interest to students who are engaged in a first read of the cycle itself. Helen Cooper summarizes the influence of the cycle on Malory and his predecessors. Attention is given to the octosyllabic Of Arthur and of Merlin , the alliterative Joseph of Arimathie , the stanzaic Morte Arthur , and the Scottish Lancelot of the Laik , in addition to the works of Malory.

Donald Hoffman compiles and discusses all the known allusions to the cycle in the Italian tradition leading up to Boiardo.

1. Editions Used for the Project:

Hans-Hugo Steinhoff describes fragmentary adaptations and translations in German that date from the mid-thirteenth century and provides some interesting speculation on why there was such little apparent interest in the cycle in medieval Germany. Michael Harney examines the cycle's Spanish legacy with particular attention paid to the implications of the Zifar and to translations and adaptations in Spanish that are based on the cycle and on the Post-Vulgate texts.

Frank Brandsma outlines the rich tradition of Dutch and Flemish texts that were inspired by the Vulgate. These include fourteenth-century fragments from the Middle Dutch prose Lancelot , the rhymed adaptation known as Lantsloot vander Haghedochte , the verse Lanceloet-Queeste-Arturs doet written by a Flemish poet, as well as the better-known, 87,line Lancelot compilation, which was composed during the first decades of the fourteenth century. Roger Middleton turns his attention to the fortunes of manuscripts of the cycle in England and Wales.

A final chapter, written by Carol Dover, summarizes the influence of the cycle on modern cinema. Despite some unfortunate lacunae in the bibliography and the index, this volume can be considered a success that provides useful material for students and scholars alike. It is warmly recommended for university and college libraries and should be considered by instructors of Arthurian materials for inclusion in their introductory course readings.

Quick jump to page content. Author Biography. Paul Vincent Rockwell Amherst College. Malory, Sir Thomas. Malory: Works. Eugene Vinaver. Second ed. Historia Brittonum. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, Of Arthour and of Merlin. Macrae-Gibson, O. Oxford: Oxford University Press, , Nigel Bryant. Cambridge: Brewer, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Tolkien and E. Thorpe, see Geoffrey of Monmouth. Vinaver, see Malory. William Morris. Robert W. New York: Collier Books, Le Roman de Rou de Wace.

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Anthony J. Paris: A. Picard, Whiting, Bartlett Jere. Cambridge, Mass. This late medieval Arthurian work was written, scholars believe, near the middle of the fifteenth century, not long before Thomas Malory was composing his Morte D'Arthur. Because it pre-dates Malory's work, the Middle English Prose Merlin is considered the earliest piece of Arthurian literature written in English prose. In contrast to Malory's work, however, which draws upon a wide variety of sources and combines them in a unique fashion, the Middle English Prose Merlin offers a straight-forward and fairly accurate translation into English of a single source, the Merlin section of the Old French Vulgate Cycle, an interconnected set of Arthurian works composed during the first half of the thirteenth century.

One of the real values of the Middle English Prose Merlin is that it gives students of medieval Arthurian literature access, though at one remove, to this important Old French work. But the value of the Prose Merlin goes far beyond that, for the work is a treasure trove of Arthurian characters, incidents, and motifs - many of which are found nowhere else in Arthurian literature.

Perhaps its greatest potential value for students of English medieval literature, however, lies in the dramatic literary counterpoint the Middle English Prose Merlin provides to Thomas Malory's Morte D'Arthur. A careful examination of these two nearly contemporaneous texts, in their relationships to each other, can do much to illuminate each of them. Just as Malory's Morte D'Arthur begins with the events leading up to Arthur's birth and concludes with those occurring shortly after his death, the Prose Merlin does much the same for the figure of Merlin, providing its readers with a complete account of Merlin's life.

The initial episode in the Prose Merlin describes the events surrounding Merlin's birth, and the final episode, occurring after Merlin has said farewell to those dearest to him, provides a clear indication of the fate he must endure henceforth - a kind of living death. In addition to presenting a full account of the life of Merlin, the Prose Merlin also presents a detailed account of the initial phase in the evolution of Arthurian civilization, a phase which may be called the Rise of Arthur.

This is the segment of the Arthurian story that extends from Arthur's birth through his coronation and marriage and the pacification of Britain. It describes at great length the several threats to the land the young king must address - particularly the baronial revolt and the Saxon invasion - before peace and stability can be returned to Britain.

In this last matter Gawain Gawayne and his brothers and cousins - a group known collectively as the Young Squires - figure prominently.

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This important early phase in the larger narrative concludes shortly after Merlin's departure, with the implication that Merlin has fulfilled his function and Arthur must now proceed without his mentor's guiding hand. In its larger structure, scholars believe, the Prose Merlin consists of two principal sections.

The first, which begins with the story of Merlin's birth and continues through Arthur's coronation - the first five sections in this volume - is probably derived from the Old French poem Merlin by the late twelfth-century writer Robert de Boron. The remainder of the Prose Merlin is thought to be based on a lengthy sequel to Robert's poem that was written during the first half of the thirteenth century, when a Merlin section was needed to complete the overall design of the Old French Vulgate Cycle. This sequel section of the Prose Merlin accomplishes several things: it fleshes out the story of Arthur's rise to his apogee; it describes the manner in which many important characters first became a part of the story; it lays the groundwork for many later events in the Vulgate Cycle, most importantly those having to do with the Holy Grail; and it provides a smooth transition into the next major phase in the larger story which will focus on the figure of Lancelot.

These two sections of the Prose Merlin are merged without fanfare, however, and there is little in the Middle English text to indicate that a structural division even exists. And yet as one moves from the Robert de Boron section to the so-called Sequel, it becomes clear that the basic approach to the handling of the narrative has been altered. In the Robert de Boron section the narrative is relatively simple, straightforward, and single-stranded; in the Sequel it becomes far more digressive and diffuse, and more importantly, it becomes multi-stranded.

The Sequel clearly manifests the interlacing pattern - that of pursuing one strand of the narrative for a few pages, then a second strand, and then a third, before returning to the first - that typifies the works belonging to the Vulgate Cycle. Dismayed and aggrieved by Christ's Harrowing of Hell, an event in which the Old Testament patriarchs have been freed from Satan's bondage, the fiends of hell seek a means by which to undo the work of Christ. The plan they hit upon is to create their own demonic agent - a kind of antichrist - who will go into the world and do their bidding in the cosmic struggle between good and evil.

This plan is put into effect, and such a being is soon fathered upon a virtuous woman by one of the fiends. But their scheme goes awry, in part because of the advice the woman receives from her religious advisor, a holy man named Blase Blaise , in part because of the purity of her own heart.

And thus it comes about that the special powers with which the fiends have endowed the child - who is christened Merlin, after the woman's father - will be used for benevolent ends rather than malevolent ones. And yet, although Merlin has been snatched from the service of Satan and entered into the service of God, reminders of his demonic origins persist throughout the work, most obviously in Merlin's impish sense of humor and his childish delight in playing pranks.

The second episode in the Robert de Boron section relates the story of Vortiger Vortigern and his ill-fated tower. This episode provides the boy Merlin, now aged seven, with ample opportunities to display his astonishing prophetic powers. When the tyrant Vortiger - who has usurped the British throne and who now lives in fear of the rightful heirs, Pendragon and Uther - attempts to build himself a great tower, his efforts prove futile for the tower continually collapses. Vortiger's sages claim the foundations will not hold unless they are sprinkled with the blood of a fatherless boy; the fatherless Merlin is soon discovered and brought before the tyrant.

The boy saves himself by revealing what Vortiger's sages can not, the true reason for the tower's collapse, which is the shaking of the foundation caused by a pair of red and white dragons who struggle in a pool buried beneath the tower. That struggle, the youthful prophet tells them, signifies the struggle which will soon be taking place between Vortiger and the brothers Pendragon and Uther. This is in contrast to other works, where the fighting dragons are said to be emblematic of the conflict that is going to occur between the Saxons and the Britons.

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I mention. Merlin, I, and ; Die Abenteuer, p. Thanks are also due to the Georgetown University Graduate School for a grant-in-aid to support in part the publication of this volume. Merlin, II, All further references to this work LM appear in the text with volume and page. The recalcitrant barons force Arthur to perform the feat repeatedly at every high feast from New Year's to Pentecost, but eventually they capitulate - at least for the time being - and the episode culminates in Arthur's coronation. Your email.

The pool is drained and Vortiger's tower is completed, only to become the site of Vortiger's fiery death, which Merlin had also predicted. After Vortiger's death, Merlin assists Pendragon, who is now the British king, and his brother Uther in their struggles against the invading Saxons. Just as Merlin has foreseen, a great battle is fought near Salisbury in which Pendragon meets his death. Uther then ascends the throne and adopts the name "Uterpendragon" to honor his brother, and Merlin erects the great stone ring Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain as a memorial to the fallen Britons.

With Uther now firmly established as Britain's king, Merlin advises him on the creation of the Round Table - one of the most significant events in the Prose Merlin. The table he will construct, Merlin tells Uther, is a replica of the table of the Grail that was first fashioned by Joseph of Arimathea, which was itself a replica of the table used at the Last Supper.

Together, the three tables represent the Holy Trinity.

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"The Lancelot-Grail Cycle is a seminal work in the development of the European medieval literatures right down to the Renaissance. For this. Composed in Old French between about and , the Lancelot-Grail Cycle is a group of five prose romances centered on the love affair between Lancelot and Guenevere.