Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Guillaume De Machaut: The Capture of Alexandria / Guillaume De Machaut: La Prise d'Alexandrie (the Taking of Alexandria)

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Guillaume De Machaut: The Capture of Alexandria / Guillaume De Machaut: La Prise d'Alexandrie (the Taking of Alexandria)

Article excerpt

Guillaume de Machaut: The Capture of Alexandria, trans. Janet Shirley, introd. and notes Peter W. Edbury, Crusade Texts in Translation 8 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001). xiv + 218 pp.; 1 illustration. ISBN 0-7546-0101-3. L37.50.

Guillaume de Machaut: La Prise d'Alexandrie (The Taking of Alexandria), ed. and trans. R. Barton Palmer (New York: Routledge, 2002). 462 pp. ISBN 0-8153-2650-5. L85.00.

You wait more than a century for a modern edition of Machaut's Prise d'Alexandrie (de Mas Latrie's, the only existing one, dates from 1877) - and then, extraordinarily, two come along at once, with another edition of the original text, by Angela Hurworth for Klincksieck, said to be in proof. The present editor-translators are both scholars with impeccable qualifications. The indefatigable R. Barton Palmer, who has done so much to make Machaut available with other translations/editions, provides an edition, with facing-page translation, from manuscript A, the famous Bibliotheque Nationale de la France, MS f. fr. 1584: I have, alas, been unable to check his text against the manuscript, but the welcome absence of coquilles suggests reliability. The text is, on the other hand, disconcerting at first sight, because Palmer has chosen as a matter of principle to present it with no punctuation whatsoever other than the very occasional to present in the manuscript: a matter of principle since modern punctuation, he says, 'could have had no part in any fourteenth-century text' (p. 36). A laudable decision, no doubt - it restores ambiguities levelled by modern disambiguating punctuation - but it does make the text somewhat inaccessible. His edition is preceded by a brief life of Machaut, with a sketch of his artistic achievement and a survey of the historical circumstances behind the Prise, and an examination of sources and influences (late-medieval chivalric biography, late epic cycles). The text is followed by notes largely of a literary, rather than a historical, sort (a disadvantage for the general reader, who will be more exercised by difficulties relating to places and events). Janet Shirley's translation, by contrast, is based on Hurworth's edition; it is preceded by a brief introduction by Peter Edbury, a noted historian of the period; he says very little about Machaut: his focus, here as in the copious notes, is on historical events and personalities, rather than rhetorics of history and poetry. …

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