Comedy in Arthurian Literature

Comedy in Arthurian Literature

Comedy in Arthurian Literature

Comedy in Arthurian Literature

Synopsis

The texts analyzed underline the wide dissemination of the Arthurian story in medieval and post-medieval Europe, from Scotland to Italy, while the various analyses of the manifestations of comedy refute the notion of romance as a humourless genre. Indeed, the comic treatment of conventional themes and motifs appears to be not only characteristic of later romance but an essential element of the genre from its beginnings and from its earliest development. Authors of Arthurian romance, from Chr¿tien de Troyes to Malory, writing in French, Italian, Middle Dutch, and Middle English, and the creators of an Irish prose-tale, all question the fundamental assumptions of romance and romance values through the medium of comedy. The theme of comedy in Arthurian romance has been developed from the orignal session at the Arthurian Congress in Toulouse.Contributors: ELIZABETH ARCHIBALD, FRANK BRANDSMA, CHRISTINE FERLAMPIN-ACHER, LINDA GOWANS, DONALD L. HOFFMAN, MARGOLEIN HOGENBIRK, NORRIS J. LACY, MARILYN LAWRENCE, BENEDICTE MILLAND-BOVE, PETER S. NOBLE, KAREN PRATT, ANGELICA RIEGER, ELIZABETH S. SKLAR, FRANCESCO ZAMBON.

Excerpt

There can be little doubt that humour is a fundamental characteristic of the genre of Arthurian romance. Indeed, the comic treatment of conventional themes and motifs appears to be not only an attribute of later romance (say, the Chrétien epigones or the prose Tristan) as is sometimes assumed, but an essential element of the genre from the earliest stages of its development. the range of texts examined in the essays included in Vol. xix of Arthurian Literature once more underlines the wide dissemination of the Arthurian story in medieval and post-medieval Europe, from Ireland to Italy, while the various analyses of the manifestations of comedy put to rest once and for all any notions of romance as a humourless genre. Authors of Arthurian romance, from Chrétien de Troyes to Malory, writing in French, Italian, Middle Dutch, and Middle English, and the creator of a late Irish prose tale, all question the fundamental assumptions of romance and romance values through the medium of comedy. These essays clearly demonstrate that Cervantes and Rabelais were not the first to see the ridicule inherent in the romance world.

In the opening essay, Elizabeth Archibald shows the potential, comic and tragic, in the tradition of recognition scenes in some French and Middle English romances. Christine Ferlampin-Acher argues in her study of a selection of French texts that comedy is closely related to the merveilleux and often proceeds from it. Angelica Rieger draws interesting parallels between Chrétien's Yvain and the modern comic-strip, showing not only how the episodes featuring the lion would be susceptible of such treatment but also that medieval illuminators already sensed something of the sort. the next three contributions all deal with the relationship of later verse romances to Chrétien de Troyes and earlier convention: that convention is both mined and undermined humourously by the author of La Vengeance Raguidel, as Norris Lacy demostrates; Peter Noble points to the differences between the irreverent comedy of Les Merveilles de Rigomer and the more severe treatment of Arthurian tradition by the author of Hunbaut; and Karen Pratt reveals the comic side of Heldris de Cornuälle, whose humour in Le Roman de Silence derives from his response, not only to Chrétien's œuvre, but also to other contemporary genres, such as didactic poetry and the fabliaux. Bénédicte Milland-Bove examines the amorous misadventures of Gauvain's brother, Guerrehés, in the Prose Lancelot to illustrate the author's technique of `comic counterpoint', which employs secondary characters to contrast and question the actions of the major figures. While not directly concerned with comedy in the Lancelot-Graal cycle, Frank Brandsma's reconsideration of its genesis, based on a careful reading of the manuscript evidence, will be of consequence for any further studies of humour in the trilogy Lancelot-Queste-Mort Artu.

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