Chapter Two
THE GENESIS OF ARTHURIAN ROMANCE

I
The Awakening

Ueber der Art wie es zugegangen liegt der Schleier des Geheimnisses, an das man glauben soll.

J. GRIMM, Ueber den altdeutschen Meistergesang, p. 16.

THE plot of the Arthurian romances has its origin in the Historia Regum Britanniae written by Geoffrey of Monmouth between the years 1136 and 1138.1 Geoffrey's story of Arthur presents a mixture of pseudo-history and romance, typical of medieval 'histories'. The Arthur section proper2 is but a long account of wars with two intervals of peace. Arthur subdues nearly every nation in Europe: the Saxons, the Picts, the Scots, Iceland, Gothland, the Orkneys, Norway, Gaul, and finally Rome. Between the Scottish and the Irish campaigns he marries Guinevere (Guanhumara). During the Roman campaign he leaves Britain in the charge of the queen and Mordred, and finds on his return that Mordred has started a rebellion. He overcomes the traitor at Richborough and at Winchester, but Mordred strikes again at Cambula (= Camel), and there both he and Arthur find their deaths. Arthur is borne thence for the healing of his wounds to the island of Avalon, and this happens, in Geoffrey's reckoning, in the year of Our Lord 542.

This fantastic story was, according to Geoffrey, borrowed from a Brittanici sermonis liber vetustissimus, which he received from his friend and patron Walter, Archdeacon of Oxford. Much labour has been lost in the attempt to discover this liber, but even the extreme Celti-

____________________
1
Cf. E. Faral, Geoffroy de Monmouth, les faits et les dates de sa biographie ( Romania, liii), pp. 18-22. On the question of dating see also E. K. Chambers , Arthur of Britain, pp. 40-52; and A. Griscom in Speculum, i. 129.
2
Books IX-XI. 2.

-14-

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Malory
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • List of Illustrations x
  • Chapter One - Sir Thomas Malory and His Printer 1
  • Chapter Two - the Genesis of Arthurian Romance 14
  • Chapter Three - Narrative Technique 29
  • Chapter Four - Romance and Realism 43
  • Chapter Five - the Genius of Chivalry 55
  • Chapter Six - Camelot and Corbenic 70
  • Chapter Seven - the New Arthuriad 85
  • Chapter Eight Translation and Style 100
  • Conclusion 109
  • Appendix One Materials for Malory's Biography 115
  • Appendix Two the Sources of the Mort Darthur 128
  • Appendix Three 155
  • Bibliography 189
  • Index 199
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