Fourteenth Century Verse & Prose

By Kenneth Sisam | Go to book overview

VII
THE GEST HYSTORIALE OF THE
DESTRUCTION OF TROY

ABOUT 1375.

The Fall of Troy was one of the most popular subjects of mediaeval story. Lydgate wrote a Troy Booh about 1420; fragments of another are attributed to 'Barbour', whose identity with the author of The Bruce has been questioned; a third version, anonymous, is known as the Laud Troy Book; and Caxton chose as the first work to be printed in English the Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye (about 1474). More famous than any of these full histories are two single stories detached from the cycle: Jason's Quest of the Golden Fleece, which is admirably told by Gower in the fifth book of his Confessio Amantis; and the Love of Troilus and Cressida, which gave a theme both to Chaucer and to Shakespeare.

The Gest Hystoriate of the Destruction of Troy, from which our extracts are taken, is a free rendering of the prose Hiastoria Troiana finished in 1287 by Guido de Columns (most probably the modern Terranova in Sicily). The translation, which appears to have been made in the North or North-West Midlands in the second half of the fourteenth century, is preserved only in an imperfect fifteenth-century MS. at the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow. In the Early English Text Society's print, edited by Panton and Donaldson, the text extends to over 14,000 lines.

The table of contents prefixed to the MS. promises 'the nome of the knight þat causet it [sc. the story] to be made, and the nome of hym that tranalatid it out of Latyn into Englysshe'; but the extant MS. does not fulfil the promise The execution suggests a set

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Fourteenth Century Verse & Prose
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction ix
  • The Texts xlv
  • Select Bibliography xlvi
  • I - Robert Mannyng of Brunne's Handlyng Synne Begun 1303 1
  • II - Sir Orfeo 13
  • III - Michael of Northgate's Ayenbyte of Inwyt 32
  • IV - Richard Rolle of Hampole 36
  • V - Sir Gawayne and the Grene Knight About 1350-75. 43
  • VI - The Pearl 57
  • VII - The Gest Hystoriale of the Destruction of Troy 68
  • VIII - Piers Plowman (1362-1400) 76
  • IX - Mandeville's Travels 94
  • Epilogue. 104
  • X - The Bruce Written in 1375 by John Barbour. 107
  • XI - John Wiclif 115
  • XII - John Gower D. 1408. 129
  • XIII - John of Trevisa's Translation of Higden's Polychronicon 1387. 145
  • XIV - Political Pieces 151
  • XV - Miscellaneous Pieces in Verse 162
  • XVI - The York Play 'Harrowing of Hell' 171
  • Xvii the Towneley Play of Noah 185
  • Notes 204
  • Appendix the English Language in the Fourteenth Century 265
  • A Middle English Vocabulary 293
  • Glossary 297
  • Index of Names. 455
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