Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Writers of Arthurian Legend

The Arthurian Legend. A tapestry woven by the pens of poets, chroniclers, and storytellers across the ages. Here are a list of writers who have captivated the hearts and minds of readers for centuries.

Ariosto, Ludovico | 1474-1533

Ludovico Ariosto, an Italian Renaissance poet, is best known for his epic poem Orlando Furioso, which stands as a masterpiece of Italian chivalric romance. Written in the early sixteenth century, the poem builds upon the foundation laid by Matteo Maria Boiardo’s Orlando Innamorato and contributes significantly to the evolution of vernacular literature in Europe.

Here are some key points about Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso and its connections to Arthurian romance:

Structure and Themes
Orlando Furioso is structured around three main narrative lines – the war between Christian and pagan forces, the love-driven pursuit of the elusive Angelica by the protagonist Orlando, and the celebration of the Este lineage through the marriage of Ruggiero and Bradmante. The poem consists of 46 cantos written in ottava rima (eight-line stanzas).

Blend of Traditions
Ariosto skillfully blends various narrative traditions in Orlando Furioso, drawing from medieval Carolingian epic, matière de Bretagne, and Italian late Middle Ages cantari. He incorporates elements from Arthurian literature, such as the Vita di Merlino, Palamedes, Tristan, the Tavola Ritonda, and the Prose Lancelot, into the fabric of his work.

Focus on Love
Much like Arthurian romances, the poem revolves around the theme of love. Orlando’s pursuit of Angelica is driven by love-induced madness, reminiscent of the lover of Iseult in the Prose Tristan. The motif of love serves as a metaphor for the complexities of human emotions and reflects the tension between chivalric ideals and the political instability of Ariosto’s contemporary Italy.

Personal Journeys
The protagonist, including Orlando, Rinaldo, and Ruggiero, embark on quests that symbolize personal journeys of understanding, maturation, and, in Orlando’s case, disillusionment. These quests mirror the quests often found in Arthurian romances, showcasing a narrative tradition that explores the development of characters through their adventures.

Structural Techniques
Ariosto adopts structural techniques from Arthurian tradition, such as interlace and a complex system of thematic cross-referencing. The narrative weaves together multiple storylines, creating a tapestry of interconnected plots that enrich the overall complexity of the work.

Enchantment and Magic
The Arthurian tradition of enchantment and magic plays a significant role in Orlando Furioso. Ariosto uses magical elements to underscore the relativity and variable nature of the world within the poem. Episodes featuring magical occurrences and characters, including the Arthurian sage Merlin, contribute to the fantastical and imaginative nature of the work.

In summary, Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso represents a brilliant synthesis of various literary traditions, with a notable infusion of Arthurian elements. The poem not only explores the themes of love, chivalry, and personal growth but also showcases Ariosto’s mastery of structural and narrative techniques inherited from the rich tapestry of medieval literature.

Bek of Castleford, Thomas | 14th century

Thomas Bek of Castleford, a Yorkshireman, is known for his contribution to medieval literature in the form of a verse chronicle of British, Scottish, and English history. This chronicle, believed to have been composed around 1327, provides a historical account, and approximately 39,674 lines of this work have survived in a single manuscript. Here are some key points regarding Thomas Bek’s chronicle:

Scope of the Chronicle
Bek’s chronicle covers British, Scottish and English history. It is a comprehensive historical account, and while the later part of the chronicle does not closely follow any known source, the section dealing with the Arthurian narrative is influenced by Geoffrey of Monmouth, with additional details borrowed from other sources like Wace, Robert of Gloucester, Pierre de Langtoft, and others.

Interest in Scotland and York
The chronicle reflects the author’s particular interest in Scotland and York. This regional focus is notable throughout the text, suggesting a connection between the historical events described and the author’s local context and interests.

The edited portion of the chronicle covers the period from the coronation of Arthur to the death of Cadwallader. This indicates that the Arthurian legend, drawing from Geoffrey of Monmouth and other sources, is a significant part of Bek’s historical narrative.

Béroul | 12th century

Béroul (also Beroul, Berox), was the author of a late twelfth-century romance Tristran (sometimes called Tristan) written in Anglo-Norman French. This work is part of what is commonly referred to as the version commune or version primitive of the Tristan legend. The term suggests that Béroul’s text represents an earlier, less courtly stage of the legend compared to later adaptions, such as that of Tomas d’Angleterre, which integrates the story more thoroughly into the courtly love tradition. Béroul’s text, although fragmentary, provides a significant glimpse into this version of the Tristan and Isolde narrative. Key elements and episodes in Béroul’s Tristan romance include:

Encounter under the Tree
Béroul’s narrative includes the iconic scene of Tristan and Isolde’s encounter under a tree, during which her husband, Mark, is hiding.

Dwarf’s Flour Test
The episode involving a dwarf spreading flour on Isolde’s chamber floor to detect Tristan’s footprints is part of the narrative. This is done to uncover Tristan’s nocturnal visits to Isolde.

Tristan’s Escape from Captivity
In another scene, Tristan, having been taken prisoner, seeks permission to enter a chapel and pray, only to escape through a window.

Isolde Delivered to Leper Colony
Mark delivers Isolde to a colony of lepers, both for their pleasure and as a form of punishment for her perceived transgressions.

Lovers’ Life in the Forest
The narrative explores the lovers’ life in the forest, including Mark’s discovery of them and his initial misunderstanding that they are innocent.

Repentance and Love Potion
Tristan and Isolde eventually repent, influenced by the waning effect of the love potion they had consumed earlier. The lovers’ attempt at reform are cyclical, marked by repeated relapses into sinful behavior.

Cyclical Structure and Irony
The structure of Béroul’s work is cyclical, portraying the lovers’ repeated struggles with sin, intermittent periods of abstinence, and their resolution to reform. The narrative is highly ironic and ambiguous, emphasizing the deceptive nature of appearances. Even when the lovers seem innocent, they are often the most guilty. Mark’s suspicions and beliefs are constantly manipulated or misinterpreted.

Motivations for Reform
The lover’s desire to reform is portrayed as less than noble, driven by a willingness to embrace Christian purity and virtue only if it leads to a return to a life of luxury at the court.

Biket, Robert | fl. c. 1175

Robert Biket, a medieval poet, is known for composing the Lai du cor, “The Lai of the Horn,” during the second half of the twelfth century. This lai is a narrative poem that explores the theme of the Arthurian chastity test, a common motif in Arthurian literature. The Lai du cor is distinctive for its use of an unusual and archaic six-syllable line, which is considered unusual and archaic. Key points about the Lai du cor and Robert Biket include:

Setting and Theme
The lai centers around the Arthurian chastity test, a narrative motif involving a magical object (Holy Relics) that reveals the fidelity or infidelity of characters. In this case, the test involves a drinking horn made by a fay. The horn spills its contents on cuckolds, and King Arthur, attempting to drink from it, ends up thoroughly soaked. Guenevere then confesses to having given a ring to a young man, explaining the outcome. Arthur forgives her, particularly when the horn spares Caradoc.

Humorous Irreverence toward Arthur
Robert Biket’s lai is characterized by its humorous and irreverent tone towards King Arthur. The narrative features Arthur’s failed attempt at the chastity test, providing a comedic element to the story. Despite the potentially serious implications of the test, the poem takes a light-hearted approach.

Variants and Influence
The chastity test motif, as presented in the Lai du cor, has variations in other medieval works such as The Boy and the Mantle, Caradoc, Ain Hupsches Vasnachtspill von Künig Arthus, Dis Ist Frauw Tristerat Horn von Saphoien, and The Romance of Sir Corneus. These variants highlight the popularity and adaptability of Arthurian themes in medieval literature.

Boccaccio, Giovanni | 1313-1375

Giovanni Boccaccio, a prominent Italian Renaissance writer, indeed incorporated Arthurian materials in some of his works, particularly during his later years in Florence. His engagement with Arthurian legends can be observed in several of his writings, and scholars have analyzed his approach to these materials in the context of moral interpretation and societal virtues.

Amorosa Visione | 1342
This work lists many Arthurian knights and ladies in its exploration of themes such as Fame, Love, and Fortune. The inclusion of Lancelot and Tristan in the narrative reflects Boccaccio’s awareness of and interest in Arthurian literature. The progression of the narrative suggests a shift from wordly matters to the pursuit of salvation, emphasizing a moral perspective.

Elegia di Madonna Fiammetta | 1343-44
In this work, the protagonist, Fiammetta, compares her love tragedy to those of other tragic heroines, including Isolt (Isolde). The narrative underscores the destructive powers of obsessive passion, akin to Dante’s Francesca in Inferno. Fiammetta’s descent into damnation and despair serves as a cautionary tale about the consequences of unchecked desire.

Corbaccio | 1355
This work is a satirical and misogynistic tirade in which the lusty widow is portrayed as reading Arthurian love stories instead of prayer-books, highlighting the perceived moral decadence associated with such readings. It served as a critique of misguided love and emphasizes the need for spiritual focus.

Decameron | 1349-51
Boccaccio’s magnum opus, the Decameron, incorporates Arthurian materials more subtly. The subtitle Prencipe Galeotto has been interpreted in various ways, including as a defense of the work’s erotic content or as a reference to Dante’s Inferno (Canto 5). The narrative complexity and the moral undertones in tales, such as the one involving Ginevra and Isotta, suggest a nuanced engagement with Arthurian themes. The subtle connections and the cautionary tone reinforce the notion of the author’s responsibility and the moral impact of literature on readers.

De Casibus Virorum Illustrium | 1355-62
Boccaccio recounts the history of King Arthur, drawing mainly from Geoffrey of Monmouth. However, he emphasizes Arthur’s military career and suggests that his pride in conquest abroad led to his downfall at home. The final moral of his narrative is that only humble things endure, reinforcing cautionary perspective on the consequences of excessive pride.

In summary, Boccaccio’s treatment of Arthurian materials appears largely negative, emphasizing moral lessons and cautionary tales. Dante’s influence on Boccaccio’s moral interpretation of the Arthurian legends is evident, sharping his perspective on the potential dangers of excessive passion and pride.

Boece, Hector | 1465-1536

Hector Boece was a Scottish historian and humanist who served as the first principal of the University of Aberdeen. His most notable work is the Scotorum Historia, a history of Scotland written in Latin and published in 1527. Boece’s historical account covers the early history of Scotland and includes some information about King Arthur, but notably, it is presented from an anti-King Arthur standpoint.

In Scotorum Historia, Boece incorporates elements of mythology and legendary figures, including Arthur, into the historical narrative. However, he takes a critical stance toward the Arthurian legend, portraying King Arthur as a tyrant and presenting events in a way that diminishes his heroic status. Boece’s portrayal of Arthur may have been influenced by political and cultural factors of his time.

It’s important to note that Boece’s work is a blend of history and legend, and his approach to King Arthur is just one aspect of his broader historical narrative. While many medieval chronicles and historians embraced the Arthurian legend as part of the cultural heritage, Boece’s critical perspective on Arthur is unique and contributes to the diverse interpretations of the legendary king within medieval historiography.

The Scotorum Historia was widely read and influential in its time, shaping the historical understanding of Scotland. Boece’s approach to King Arthur reflects the complex interplay between historical accounts, cultural attitudes, and political considerations that influenced the portrayal of legendary figures in medieval historical writing.

Boiardo, Matteo Maria | 1440/1441-1494

Matteo Maria Boiardo, an Italian Renaissance poet and courtier, is renowned for his contributions to both love poetry and chivalric romance. Born in 1441, he had close associations with the Este court in Ferrara and held various roles, including serving as Ercole d’Este’s representative in Modena and as governor of Reggio. Boiardo’s literary legacy is particularly notable for two major works: the Amorum libri tres, a collection of love poems, and the Orlando Innamorato, a significant chivalric romance.

Amorum libri tres (Canzoniere)
Boiardo’s love poems, collectively known as the Amorum libri tres or Canzoniere, are recognized for their courtly elegance and Petrarchan lyricism. They reflect the ideals of courtly love and showcase Boiardo’s mastery of poetic expression.

Orlando Innamorato
Boiardo’s most significant work is the Orlando Innamorato, an epic chivalric romance. The poem, left unfinished at Boiardo’s death in 1494, served as the foundation for Ludovico Ariosto’s later work, Orlando Furioso. The Orlando Innamorato is considered a fusion of Carolingian epic tradition and the matière de Bretagne, creating a distinctive Italian genre. Boiardo’s poem reflects the cultural and courtly ideals of the Italian Renaissance during the Este patronage.

The narrative features the struggle between the Christian forces led by Charlemagne and the pagan Agramante, but the focus is prominently on the Arthurian elements. Boiardo incorporates numerous fantastic adventures, magic fountains, enchanted forests, and intricate love stories. The central figure is Orlando, a transformed version of the French hero Roland. Orlando becomes a victim of the powerful forces of love, particularly through his interactions with Angelica, the daughter of the King of Cathay. Angelica is sent to undermine the valor of the Christian armies.

Courtly Elegance and Sensibility
Boiardo’s Orlando Innamorato continues and evelops the cantari tradition of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, catering to the literary and aesthetic tastes of a court audience. The framework of the romance is rooted in the Carolingian tradition, but Boiardo’s emphasis on Arthurian elements infuses the narrative with courtly elegance and sensibility. The poem weaves episodes, locales, and characters from the Arthurian tradition into a tapestry of courtly sophistication, creating a work with a dinstinct international Gothic flavor.

Matteo Maria Boiardo’s legacy lies in his significant influence on the development of Italian romance literature, and the Orlando Innamorato stands as a masterpiece that laid the groundwork for later works in the genre.

Brother Robert | 13th century

Brother Robert, active during the first half of the thirteenth century, holds significance in the field of medieval literature for his translations, particularly his Norwegian translation of Thomas’s Tristan entitled Tristrams Saga. This translation, completed in 1226, is notable as the only complete version of the Thomas-branch of the Tristan legend. Brother Robert’s influence extended to Scandinavia, especially in Iceland, where his work impacted the production of a ballad called Tristram kvæði and a prose adaptation titled Saga of Tristram ok Ísodd.

Association with Other Translations
Brother Robert’s name is also associated with the Norwegian translations of several other Arthurian works during the reign of King Hákon (1217-1263). These include Ívens saga and Percevals saga (based on Chrétien de Troyes’s Yvain and Perceval), Möttuls saga (a version of the fabliau Le Mantel mautaillié, also known as Le Lai du Cort Mantel, and The Ill-Fitting Mantle), and Strengleikar (a collection of twenty-one lais).

Nationality and Background
Brother Robert’s nationality is unknown, but his name suggests Anglo-Norman origins. Given the ties with England during King Hákon’s reign, scholars speculate that Brother Robert may have been a cleric associated with Norwegian monasteries, such as Lyse or Hovedoya, which maintained close ties with England.

Importance and Transmission of Arthurian Material
Brother Robert’s translations highlight the importance of King Hákon’s interest in French romance, contributing to the transmission of Arthurian material in Scandinavia. His work serves as a testament to the cultural exchange and literal connections between different regions during the medieval period.

Brother Robert’s translations, particularly Tristrams Saga, are valuable contributions to the medieval literary landscape, shedding light on the dissemination and adaption of Arthurian legends in Scandinavian literature during the thirteenth century.

Capellanus, Andreas | 12th century

Andreas Capellanus, also known as Andrew the Chaplain and André le Chapelain, was a twelfth-century author, is best known for his work De Amore (Latin prose, c. 1185), which is a significant treatise on courtly love. While the work is often regarded as a satire or parody, it provides insights into the conventions and ideals of courtly love during the medieval period.

De Amore
De Amore translates to “The Love,” a treatise, which is a guide on the practice and etiquette of courtly love, a medieval European conception of love that emphasized noble and chivalrous expressions of admiration and affection.

Story Involving Arthur’s Court
De Amore includes a brief narrative involving a young knight who seeks to win the prize hawk from King Arthur’s court for his lady. The knight faces various challenges, including engaging in double combat with two other knights, obtaining the hawk’s gauntlet, and proving his lady’s greater beauty in jousts at Arthur’s court.

Rules of Love Tied to the Hawk
After the knight successfully accomplishes the challenges and obtains the prize hawk, he discovers a parchment tied to it. This parchment contains the rules of love, providing guidelines and principles governing the conduct of courtly love.

Satirical Element
De Amore is often considered a satirical or tounge-in-cheek exploration of courtly love conventions. Some scholars interpret the work as a critique or parody of the exaggerated and artifical nature of courtly love literature.

Influence and Reception
Despite its potentially satirical nature, De Amore had an influence on the literature and culture of the time. The treatise reflects the complex and sometimes playful attitudes toward love, social hierarchy, and gender roles in medieval European courts.

Andreas Capellanus’s De Amore remains a valuable text for understanding the cultural and literary aspects of courtly love in the medieval period. While the work may incorporate elements of satire, it provides a window into the ideals and conventions that shaped the concept of courtly love during that era.

Capgrave, John | 1393-1464

John Capgrave was an Augustian friar from Norfolk, England, and a profilic author known for his various works, including saints’ lives, biblical commentaries, theological treatises, and historical writings.

Nova Legenda Angliae and De Illustribus Henricis
Nova Legenda Angliae or “The New Legend of England,” is a hagiographical work providing accounts of saints and their lives. The work, titled De Illustribus Henricis or “On Famous Henrys,” is one of Capgrave’s notable contributions, focusing on individuals with the name Henry.

English Abbreuiacion of Cronicles
Capgrave is the author of the English Abbreuiacion of Cronicles, written between 1462 and 1463. The work is a historical compilation drawing primarily from Martinus Polonus’s Chronicon Pontificum et Imperatorum and the St. Albans chronicles of Thomas Walsingham.

Arthurian Content
In the English Abbreuiacion of Cronicles, Capgrave provides a brief account of Arthur’s conquests and his eventual fate. He narrates Arthur’s being wounded and taken to Avalon, which aligns with the Arthurian tradition of Avalon as the place of Arthur’s rest and potential healing. Capgrave also includes information about the twelfth-century discovery of Arthur’s body at Glastonbury. He mentions Edward III’s interest in the Round Table, which reflects the enduring fascination with the Arthurian legend during the medieval times.

John Capgrave’s contribution to medieval literature, history, and hagiography showcase his diverse interests and intellectual pursuits. While his Arthurian content may be brief, it contributes to the broader tapestry of Arthurian lore in medieval English writings.

Caradoc of Llancarfan | 12th century

Caradoc of Llancarfan, a twelfth-century author, is known for his work Vita Gildae or “Life of St. Gildas,” written around 1140. This work is significant for its association of King Arthur with Glastonbury, providing early narratives that contribute to the Arthurian legend.

Vita Gildae
The Vita Gildae is a hagiographical work that focuses on the life of St. Gildas, a Welsh saint. Caradoc drew on elements of romance literature and hagography in crafting this text.

Association of King Arthur with Glastonbury
A notable aspect of the Vita Gildae is its association of King Arthur with Glastonbury, providing and early narrative that connects Arthurian elements with specific geographic locations. According to the Vita, King Melwas of the Summer Region abducts Guinevere, prompting Arthur to mobilize forces from Devon and Cornwall to Glastonbury to retrieve her. The Abbot of Glastonbury, accompanied by St. Gildas, plays a role in obtaining Guinevere’s release in this account.

Etymological Explanation
Caradoc offers an etymological explanation for the name “Glastonbury” within the narrative. According to the Vita, the name “Glastonbury” is derived from “Isle of Glass,” suggesting otherwordly and mystical connotations. Additionally, Caradoc implies that “Somerset” is derived from “Summer Region,” further connecting the region with a sense of otherwordliness.

Implications for Glastonbury’s Association with Avalon
The etymological explanations provided by Caradoc, with their otherwordly implications, laid the groundwork for the later association of Glastonbury with Avalon in Arthurian legend. Glastonbury’s connection to Avalon is a recurring theme in later Arthurian literature and has contributed to the mystical and legendary aura surrounding Glastonbury Tor.

Caxton, William | c. 1422-1491

William Caxton was a prominent figure in the history of English printing, and his role in bringing the Arthurian legend to a wider audience is particularly notable. Here are some key points about William Caxton and his contribution to Arthurian literature.

Background and Career
Caxton spent about thirty years as a mercer before becoming involved in printing. He served as the Governor of the English Nation at Bruges for nine years before venturing into translation and printing. Caxton is credited with introducing printing to England. After learning the trade under Johan Veldener, he opened a shop in Bruges, where he printed several books. Two years later, in 1476, he established the first English printing press in Westminster, England.

Diverse Range of Publications
Caxton’s printing endeavors covered a wide range of genres and subjects. He printed works of antiquity, prose romance, mythical stories, beast fables, religious and philosophical works, historical works, chivalric romances, and more. Notable works include translations of Ovid, Vergil, Cicero, prose romances like Blanchard and Eglantyne, The Four Sons of Aymon, and chivalric romances such as Paris and Vienne.

Interest in Chivalric Literature
Caxton showed a particular interest in chivalric literature, and this interest dated back to his association with the Duchess of Burgundy around 1470. Before publishing Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur in 1485, Caxton translated and printed works related to Godfrey of Bouillon, Charles the Great (Charlemagne), and Arthur. These works were planned as a series to honor the three Christian worthies.

Printing of Le Morte Darthur
Caxton finished printing Le Morte Darthur on July 31, 1485. This work was the most remembered of Caxton’s contributions to Arthurian literature. The printing involved the use of one typeface (type 4*) and featured woodcut initials at the beginning of each book. The folio was not extensively decorated.

Caxton divided Malory’s text into twenty-one books and 506 chapters. He added a table of rubrics, a prologue, and a colophon. Caxton’s role as an editor is debated. His version is considered more readable than the manuscript, and the differences between them, particularly in Arthur’s War with Lucius, have been subjects of scholarly discussion.

Prologue to Le Morte Darthur
Caxton’s prologue to Le Morte Darthur is distinct from his other prologues. Notably, he does not identify a patron, dedicate the work, or provide extensive information about the author (Thomas Malory). Political considerations, including the reign of Richard III, may have influenced these omissions.

Caxton’s decision to publish Le Morte Darthur played a crucial role in preserving this major English source of Arthurian literature. His contributions to printing and publishing had a lasting impact on the dissemination of literary works in England.

Chaucer, Geoffrey | c. 1340-1400

Geoffrey Chaucer, known as the Father of English Literature, incorporated Arthurian material into two of his stories in The Canterbury Tales. Here are summaries of those stories:

The Squire’s Tale
In The Squire’s Tale, a youthful Squire tells a chivalric romance with aspirations of courtly love. Gawain and Lancelot are cited as examples of courtesy and courtly behavior, but they are portrayed as distant and long-gone figures. The Squire’s Tale is characterized by its amorous themes and the portrayal of knights as examples of chivalry.

The Wife of Bath’s Tale
The Wife of Bath’s Tale is a complex reworking of the Loathly Lady theme. the protagonist is an unnamed Arthurian knight who, after raping a maiden, is given a chance to save his life by correctly answering what all women desire. Guided by an old hag, the knight answers correctly but is dismayed when the hag claims him in marriage as her promised reward. The hag, in turn, lectures the knight on the virtues of gentleness and offers him a choice: to have her ugly and faithful or fair and sought-after. The knight defers the choice to her, ultimately granting her sovereignty and receiving permanent fairness and constancy in return.

Chaucer’s approach to Arthurian material in The Canterbury Tales is notable for its obliqueness and wry tone compared to his more straightforward treatment in his translation of the Roman de la Rose. In The Wife of Bath’s Tale, Chaucer uses the Arthurian setting to explore complex themes of identity, marriage, and social norms. The tale challenges the knight’s notions of personal identity and introduced a nuanced perspective on the ideologies of gentility and societal expectations. The Arthurian setting serves as a backdrop for this exploration, highlighting the possibility of reevaluating social norms and personal identity in a fantastical, otherwordly context.

Chestre, Thomas | 14th century

Thomas Chestre, generally attributed as the author of Libeaus Desconus and Sir Launfal, contributed to the Arthurian literary tradition with his works.

Libeaus Desonus
This late fourteenth-century tale is a stanzaic tail-rhyme version of the Fair Unknown story. The protagonist, Lybeaus Desconus, is introduced as Gawain’s son but remains unaware of his true identity, having been raised in isolation. Renamed Lybeaus by King Arthur upon his request for knighthood, he embarks on various adventures, including rescuing the Lady of Synadoun from imprisonment. Along the way, he faces numerous challenges, proving his prowess and worthiness to be Gawain’s kin. The romance concludes with Lybeaus marrying the Lady of Synadoun, celebrating their union with a bridal feast amidst Arthurian rejoicing.

Sir Launfal
This fourteenth-century lay, totaling 1,044 lines, follows the adventures of Sir Launfal (Lanval), a magnanimous young knight who faces disgrace at Arthur’s court but later achieves vindication. Launfal takes a fairy mistress during his absence from Carlisle but loses her after boasting about her to Guenevere. He is later reunited with his lover, who clears him of the false charges made by the Queen.

Chestre’s rendition of the Launfal story draws heavily from an English couplet version of Sir Landeval, incorporating additional material from sources like the Lay of Graelent and other unidentified sourcesl. While some critics have noted the lack of refinement and sophistication in Chestre’s portrayal of character behavior and moral tone, it’s important to consider that these works were likely intended for a popular audience unfamiliar with the intricacies of chivalric literature.

Chrétien de Troyes | 12th century

Chrétien de Troyes, a twelfth-century French poet, played a pivotal role in the development and popularization of Arthurian romance literature. Chrétien was active in the court of Champagne. Very little is known about his personal life, and details are scarce. His name and dialect suggest a connection to the town of Troyes. In his works, Chrétien references translating or adapting several Ovidian works, a work about Isolde and King Mark, and a metamorphosis tale based on Ovid’s Philomela story. Some of his major works are:

Le Chevalier de la Charrette
Also known as The Knight of the Cart, this romance centers around Lancelot’s quest for Queen Guenevere, who has been abducted. Notably, Lancelot hesitates to ride in a cart meant for criminals, prioritizing his reputation over the chance to find the queen quickly. The unfinished work depicts trials undertaken by Lancelot to expiate his offense.

This romance, with a bipartite structure, explores courtly love and contrasts two generations. It narrates the story of Alexander (Cligés father) before focusing on Cligés. The tale involves Cligés love for Fénice, who is married to his uncle Alis, creating parallels with the Tristan legend.

Le Chevalier au Lion (Yvain)
Known as The Knight with the Lion, this romance presents a highly structured narrative. Yvain (Ywaine), after winning Laudine’s love, neglects his marital duties in favor of pursuing adventure, leading to the loss of his wife’s love. The story delves into themes of love, chivalry, and the hero’s expiation for his offenses.

Erec et Enide
This work explores conflicts between love and chivalry. Erec, after winning Enide’s love, neglects his public duties, causing societal discontent. The romance depicts their journey, where Erec’s trials become tests of love and chivalry.

Perceval, or Le Conte del Graal
Perceval, or Le Conte del Graal (“The Story of the Grail”), is perhaps Chrétien’s most intriguing work. This unfinished romance introduces the concept of the Holy Grail. Perceval, a naive character, fails to inquire about the Grail procession, leading to a series of errors and expiationsl. The story weaves a mysterious and symbolic narrative around the Grail, introducing religious themes.

Chrétien de Troyes is often considered the greatest French writer of medieval romance, contributing significantly to the Arthurian legend. His works laid the foundation for the Arthurian romance genre, influencing later writers and adaptations. Chrétien’s exploration of themes such as courtly love, chivalry, and the individual’s development had a lasting impact on medieval literature.

Read more | Chrétien de Troyes

Colin, Philipp and Claud Wisse | 14th century

Philipp Colin and Claus Wisse translated and adapted the works of two French continuators of Chrétien’s Perceval: Wauchier de Denain and Manessier. Their collaborative effort aimed to bring the Arthurian legend to a German-speaking audience.

Both Colin and Wisse belonged to Strasbourg goldsmith families, with documented traces of their families in Strasbourg dating back to 1265 and 1148, respectively. Sampson Pine, a Strasbourg Jew, assisted Colin and Wisse in the translation process.

Insertion into Wolfram’s Parzival
Der nüwe Parzefal was inserted between Books 14 and 15 of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival. Wolfram’s Parzival was also revised in various places and received a specific dialect coloring, incorporating Alsatian elements.

Epilogue and Patronage
In the epilogue, Colin mentions that Ulrich von Rappoltstein, a member of high nobility, was chosen by Lady Love and Lady Generosity to provide for the production of the literary work. Ulrich von Rappoltstein, touched by Lady Generosity, reportedly paid 200 pounds for the task.

Bourgeois Nature of Der nüwe Parzefal
Der nüwe Parzefal is characterized by its bourgeois nature, created by bourgeois authors. The work emphasizes adventure and fantasy, allocaing significant space to the detailed narration of the adventures of both Parzefal and Gawan.

Departure from Wolfram’s Concept
While Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival emphasizes that only the best knight, having conquered his deficiencies, is worthy of the Grail, this concept is lost in Der nüwe Parzefal. The bourgeois coating of the Colin-Wisse version shifts the focus away from the inner integrity and value of the courtly-chivalric world depicted in Wolfram’s Parzival.

Der nüwe Parzefal is found in the Donaueschingen Hs. 97, a manuscript from the fourteenth century, presumed to be the original. A copy, also from the fourteenth century, exists in the Bibliotheca Casanatensis in Rome.

Dante Alighieri | 1265-1321

Dante Alighieri, the renowned Italian poet of the Late Middle Ages, demonstrated a nuanced relationship with Arthurian literature in his works. While Dante only made a handful of direct allusions to Arthurian romance, these references provide insights into his views on the genre.

Vernacular Literature and The Divine Comedy
Dante is celebrated for advocating the use of the vernacular in serious literature, as seen in his magnum opus, The Divine Comedy. He believed that morally and intellectually significant works could be written in the common language of the people.

Minor Allusions in Dante’s Works
Dante’s references to Arthurian literature are relatively minor. For instance, in Inferno, Canto 5, he mentions Tristan in the context of the damned through love, pairing him with Paris. Another reference in Inferno, Canto 32, indirectly alludes to Mordred and Arthur, asserting that two souls in the realm of threachery, known as Caina, were more deserving of damnation than Mordred.

Lyric Poem with Arthurian Elements
In a lyric poem addressed to his friend Guido Cavalcanti, Dante expresses a wish involving enchantment, a marvelous boat, and a “good enchanter,” possibly Merlin. The setting evoked may draw from Arthurian romance.

Vulgari Eloquentia and Brunetto Latini
Dante’s treatise on the vernacular, Vulgari Eloquentia, addresses the adequacy of Romance vernaculars for specific literary genres. Influenced by Brunetto Latini, Dante acknowledges the use of French in didactic works like Latini’s Livre dou Tresor. However, Dante differs with Brunetto on the choice of a purely municipal, Florentine dialect for didactic poetry.

Arthurian Romance in Vulgari Eloquentia
Dante, in the Vulgari Eloquentia, cites Arthurian romance alongside instances of the matière d’antiquité. This suggests Dante’s recognition of Arthurian prose literature’s importance, establishing French as a significant language with narrative capabilites comparable to Italian.

Paolo and Francesca Episode
Dante’s most famous allusion to Arthurian romance is in Inferno, Canto 5, during the Paolo and Francesca episode. Francesca’s reference to the Lancelot romance, stating “Galetto fu il libro,” is often misinterpreted. Contrary to condemning Arthurian literature, Dante is condemning the readers, Paolo and Francesca. The episode is related to Dante’s awareness of the Lancelot cycle and its moral lessons.

Beatrice’s Laugh and Convivo
In Paradiso, Canto 16, Dante compares Beatrice’s laugh to the Lady of Malohaut’s cough during Guenevere’s “first mistake.” This shows Dante’s awareness of the characters within the Arthurian story. In Convivo, Book IV, Dante alludes to Lancelot’s end as a repentant monk, emphasizing that Paolo and Francesca miss the warning because they do not finish reading the book.

Despite the tragic fate of Paolo and Francesca, Dante’s overall judgment of Arthurian literature remains high. He understands the moral lessons embedded in these narratives, which are meant to guide the reader.

Dryden, John | 1631-1700

John Dryden, an influential English poet and playwright, ventured into the realm of Arthurian legend with his opera King Arthur, written in 1691.

The opera, however, diverges significantly from traditional Arthurian tales, presenting a unique and imaginative interpretation of the Arthurian narrative, departing from traditional tales of knights, quests, and the Round Table.

Romantic Element
The central romantic conflict revolves around Arthur’s love for the blind girl named Emmeline. Complicating matters, Emmeline is also the object of affection for Arthur’s enemy, the Saxon named Oswald.

Musical Collaboration with Henry Purcell
The music for King Arthur was composed by the renowned English composer Henry Purcell. Purcell, who died in 1695, was a highly regarded composer of the Baroque period and contributed significantly to the musical landscape of his time.

Eilhart von Oberge | 12th century

Eilhart von Oberge, the author of Tristrant in the twelfth century, remains a somewhat mysterious figure, and despite scholarly efforts, there is uncertainty about his identity and origins. In line 9446 of the Middle High German Tristrant, the author identifies himself as “von Hobergin her Eylhart.” Some scholars have attempted to connect the author to a person named Eilhart documented as hailing from Oberg near Braunschweig. Other efforts have sought to place his origins in the middle Rhine area.

Literary Contribution
Eilhart’s Tristrant is considered one of the early literary adaptions of the Tristan and Isolde legend in German literature. The poem explores the themes of courtly love, chivalry, and the tragic romance between Tristan and Isolde.

Geoffrey of Monmouth | c. 1100 – c. 1155

Geoffrey of Monmouth, also known as Galfridus Artur or Gruffudd ap Arthur, was a medieval Welsh cleric and historian who played a crucial role in shaping the Arthurian legend during the twelfth century. Here are some key points about Geoffrey of Monmouth and his contributions.

Major Works
Geoffrey is best known for two major Latin works:

  • Historia Regum Brittaniae, “History of the Kings of Britain,” is a historical work that includes a substantial Arthurian section. It provides a mythical history of Britain and introduces the figure of King Arthur to a broader audience.

    Geoffrey’s Historia presents Arthur as a heroic figure, an emperor of Britain, and a defender against barbarian invasions. The work claims to be a translation of an ancient British book, the source of which has never been identified or found. Goeffrey’s assertion of translating an ancient text adds an air of authenticity to this narrative.

    In Historia Regum Brittaniae, Geoffrey traces the origins of the British people back to ancient Troy. This was a common practice at the time, aiming to dignify the history of one’s own people by associating it with a great early civilization.

    Geoffrey’s portrayal of Arthur differs from the later Arthurian tradition. In his work, there is no mention of the Round Table, the sword in the stone, Lancelot, or the familiar names associated with Arthurian legend. Queen Guenevere is referred to as Ganhumara, and the sword Excalibur is known as Caliburn.

    Geoffrey’s Historia Regum Brittaniae had a profound impact on the Arthurian legend. It provided a narrative structure and historical context that later writers would build upon. Despite being a mix of history and legend, Geoffrey’s work was widely accepted as historical for a significant period. While some accepted Geoffrey’s accounts, others, like William of Newburgh, criticized his work as fiction. Nevertheless, Geoffrey’s narrative influenced subsequent Arthurian literature.

    Geoffrey’s portrayal of Arthur as an empire builder reflected the political aspirations and context of his time, during the reigns of Kings Henry I, Stephen, and Henry II.
  • Vita Merlini, “Life of Merlin,” is written in verse and focuses on the character of Merlin, detailing his madness and adventures.

    It is structured as a biography or life story of Merlin, which begins with Merlin’s madness, depicting him as a wild man living in the wilderness. The narrative explores Merlin’s interactions with nature, animals, and his mystical experiences. The story includes Merlin’s prophecies and his visions of the future, adding an element of prophecy and mysticism to the character.

    Unlike some later Arthurian tales, Vita Merlini does not focus extensively on the court of King Arthur or the familiar Arthurian characters. The setting is more remote, emphasizing Merlin’s solitude in the woods and his withdrawal from society. Merlin’s withdrawal from society into the wilderness reflects a common motif in medieval literature, where characters seek solace and wisdom in nature.

    Vita Merlini has survived in various manuscripts, and it is often found alongside Geoffrey’s other works. Manuscripts of Vita Merlini may include additional material, variations, or interpolations.

    While Vita Merlini did not achieve the same level of popularity as Geoffrey’s Historia Regum Brittaniae, it remains a significant work in the Arthurian literary tradition. The focus on Merlin’s life and mystical experiences contributes to the evolving characterization of Merlin in medieval literature.

Read more | Geoffrey of Monmouth

Gerald of Wales | c. 1146 – c. 1223

Gerald of Wales, also known as Giraldus Cambrensis or Gerald de Barri, was a medieval Welsh writer, cleric, and scholar who lived in the twelfth century. He wrote extensively on various topics, including history, geography, and folklore, and he made notable contributions to the Arthurian literary tradition through his writings. Some of is works connected to Arthurian legends include:

  • Topographia Hibernica, “Topography of Ireland.” Although not directly focused on Arthurian legends, this work includes references to King Arthur and his knights. In Topographia Hibernica, Gerald recounts stories and folklore from Ireland, and he mentions Arthur in the context of Celtic mythology and legend.
  • Itinerarium Cambriae, “Journey Through Wales.” Gerald describes his travels through Wales and provides accounts of Welsh history, geography, and folklore. While not primarily about Arthurian legends, Itinerarium Cambriae contains references to Arthurian sites and traditions in Wales, contributing to the Arthurian literary landscape.
  • De principis instrictione, or “The Instructions of a Prince,” is written as advice for Prince John (later King John of England), contains moral and political teachings. While it does not directly focus on Arthurian legends, it reflects Gerald’s broader interest in medieval kingship and governance, which are themes often explored in Arthurian literature.
  • Vita Merlini, “Life of Merlin,” is one of the Gerald’s most famous works and is centered on the legendary figure of Merlin. While not exclusively focused on King Arthur, Merlin is a central figure in many Arthurian tales, serving as Arthur’s advicer and prophet. In this work, Gerald presents Merlin’s life and adventures, drawing on Welsh folklore and mythology.

Although Gerald of Wales did not write comprehensive Arthurian romances like later medieval authors such as Chrétien de Troyes or Thomas Malory, his works provide valuable insights into the medieval reception and transmission of Arthurian legends in Wales and beyond. Through his writings, Gerald contributed to the rich tapestry of Arthurian literature and folklore that continues to captivate readers this day.

Read more | Gerald of Wales

Gerbert | 13th century

Author of a continuation to Chrétien de Troyes’s Perceval.

Gottfried von Strassburg | 13th century

Gottfried von Strassburg was a medieval German poet who lived in the thirteenth century. He is best known for his work Tristan, a Middle High German romance that tells the story of Tristan and Isolde. Gottfried’s Tristan is considered one of the masterpieces of medieval German literature.

The romance explores the themes of courtly love, chivalry, and the complexities of human emotions. It follows the tragic love affair between Tristan, a knight of Cornwall, and Isolde, the wife of King Mark. The narrative delves into the psychological and emotional aspects of the characters, providing a nuanced portrayal of love and its consequences.

Gottfried’s Tristan is known for its rich poetic language and intricate use of symbolism. The work is left unfinished, as Gottfried died before completing it. Despite its incomplete state, Tristan remains influential and is highly regarded for its literary achievements in the realm of medieval German literature.

Hartmann von Aue | c. 1170-1215

Hartmann von Aue was a German poet of the Middle High German period. He is associated with the courtly romance genre and is considered one of the most important German poets of the time. Hartmann von Aue participated in the Crusade in 1197, an experience that likely influenced his writings.

Among his notable works are two Arthurian romances: Erec and Iwein (also known as Iwain or Yvain). These romances are significant for their adaption of the Arthurian legends and draw inspiration from the works of the French poet Chrétien de Troyes. Hartmann von Aue’s retelling of these stories in Middle High German contributes to the broader medieval literary tradition.

In Erec, Hartmann explores themes of chivalry, courtly love, and the quest for honor. The narrative follows the adventures of the knight Erec and his wife Enite (Enide). Iwein tells the story of Iwein (Ywaine), a knight who faces trials and challenges as he embarks on a quest. The narrative incorporates elements of romance, adventure, and moral reflection.

Hartmann von Aue’s contributions to medieval German literature, particularly in adapting Arthurian material, showcase the cultural and literary exchanges prevalent during the medieval period.

Henrich von dem Türlin | 13th century

Henrich von dem Türlin was a medieval German poet, and he is known for his work Diu Crône, “The Crown.” In this Grail romance, Gawain serves as the hero.

The poem is a significant contribution to the medieval Arthurian literary tradition, particularly in its exploration of Gawain’s role in the context of the Grail Quest. The narrative weaves together elements of romance, chivalry, and the mystical aspects associated with the Holy Grail. Henrich von dem Türlin’s Diu Crône is part of the broader body of Arthurian literature from the Middle Ages.

John of Glastonbury | fl. c. 1340

John of Glastonbury, also known as John of Glaston or John of Glastonia, was a medieval chronicler who flourished around the year 1340. He is primarily known for his Latin historical work titled Cronica Sive Antiquitates Glastoniensis Ecclesie (“Chronicles or Antiquities of the Glastonbury Church”). This chronicle provides a history of Glastonbury Abbey and incorporates Arthurian material into its narrative.

John of Glastonbury relied on earlier sources for his work, and notably, he used William of Malmesbury’s De Antiquitate Glastonie Ecclesie (“On the Antiquity of the Church of Glastonbury”) as one of his references.

The inclusion of Arthurian material in Glastonbury’s history aligns with the medieval tradition of connecting legendary figures, such as King Arthur, with historical or religious sites. While Arthurian elements in historical works should be approached with caution, they contribute to the rich tapestry of Arthurian legend in medieval literature.

Layamon | fl. c. 1200

Layamon was a Worchestershire poet and priest at Ernley (now Areley Regis) on the Severn near Bewdley, England. He is best known for his significant work, the Brut or Brut d’Angleterre, an alliterative verse chronicle.

The Brut is an important milestone in the history of English versification as it marks the transition from Old English to Middle English. Layamon composed his chronicle in a form of Middle English that retained some characteristics of Old English, but also incorporated new linguistic elements. This makes the Brut a valuable linguistic and literary document, reflecting the evolving nature of the English language during this period.

Layamon’s Brut is a poetic adaptation of Wace’s Roman de Brut, which itself was a verse adaptation of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Latin Historia Regum Britanniae. The Brut narrates the legendary history of Britain, including the deeds of King Arthur and other legendary figures. Layamon’s work contributes to the Arthurian tradition, presenting it in a form accessible to the English-speaking audience of his time.

Malory, Thomas | c. 1415/1418-1471

Sir Thomas Malory remains a mysterious figure, and little is known about his life with certainty. It is suggested that he might be the Sir Thomas Malory associated with Newbold Revel in Warwickshire. His possible involvement in local disputes and Lancastrian politics may have led to his imprisonment. However, he is most renowned as the author of Le Morte d’Arthur, one of the most significant works in Arthurian literature.

Le Morte d’Arthur
Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur is a compalition of Arthurian legends written in prose. Caxton’s preface to the 1485 edition mentions that Malory was a knight and completed the work in 1470, “reducing” it from a French source. The title translates to “The Death of Arthur,” and the work is an amalgamation of various French Arthurian romances, creating a cohesive narrative.

Caxton’s Printing
Le Morte d’Arthur was printed by William Caxton in 1485, making it one of the earliest books printed in England. Caxton’s preface provides valuable information about Malory’s background and the creation of the work.

Le Morte d’Arthur is considered a masterful compilation and adaptation of the Arthurian legends, providing a unified narrative. Malory’s work has had a profound influence on subsequent Arthurian literature and has become a classic in its own right.

Apart from Caxton’s printed edition, an independent manuscript of Le Morte d’Arthur was discovered at Winchester in 1934. This manuscript contributes to scholarly understanding and textual analysis of Malory’s work.

Marie de France | fl. c. 1160-1190

Marie de France was born in Normandy, France, and was a notable French poetess known for her contributions to medieval literature. Marie spent a significant portion of her life in England. Her presence in the English court influenced her literary works.

Marie de France is particularly known for two Arthurian romances:

  • Chevrefueil. This romance is one of the lais (short narrative poems) written by Marie. It is also known as “The Honeysuckle” and explores themes of love and desire.
  • Lanval. Another of Marie’s lais. Lanval tells the story of a knight named Lanval and his encounter with a fairy lover. The tale involves themes of romance and the supernatural.

Lais, Fables and Translation Work
Marie’s most significant work is a collection of lais, known simply as the Lais of Marie de France. The lais are narrative poems written in octosyllabic verse and are based on Celtic material. They consist of fourteen romantic narratives. Marie de France also wrote fables, and her collection is known as Fables. These fables were composed sometime after 1170 and contain classical allusions.

Marie translated the Tractatus de Purgatorio Sancti Patricii into French in 1190. It is a medieval Latin text that translates to “Treatise on the Purgatory of St. Patrick.” It is attributed to Henry of Saltrey, a Benedictine monk who lived in the twelfth century. This work describes a vision or a dream that a knight named Owain had, in which he purportedly journeyed through Purgatory guided by Saint Patrick.

Cultural Influence
Marie de France’s works reflect a blend of Celtic and courtly themes. Her contributions to Arthurian literature and her use of classical allusions showcase her literary skill and cultural awareness. Marie’s lais, in particular, have had a lating impact on medieval literature. Her narratives explore themes of love, chivalry, and the supernatural, contributing to the rich tapestry of Arthurian legends.

Nennius | 9th century

Nennius, also known as Nemnius or Nemnivus, is traditionally attributed to the authorship of the Historia Brittonum, a Latin work believed to date from the ninth century. Nennius is traditionally described as a Welsh monk who lived in Wales. However, due to the lack of definitive historical records, much of Nennius’s life remains speculative.

Historia Brittonum
Nennius is most well-known for the Historia Brittonum (“History of the Britons”), a historical and geographical compilation written in Latin. The Historia Brittonum is a complex work that includes a wide range of information, covering topics such as early British history, genealogies, and various legendary and historical events.

Authorship Attribution
The actual identity of Nennius and the precise dating of the Historia Brittonum are subjects of scholarly debate. The traditional attribution of the work to Nennius, a Welsh monk, is not universally accepted. Some scholars suggest that the compilation may be the result of multiple contributors over time.

The Historia Brittonum is noted for its somewhat disjointed and uneven structure. It lacks a consistent narrative thread and appears to be a compilation of diverse sources.

Content of Historia Brittonum
The work covers a range of topics, including the legendary history of Britain, genealogies of historical and legendary figures, and accounts of events such as the Arthurian legend. Notably, it contains one of the earliest references to King Arthur, describing him as a military leader who won twelve battles against the invading Saxons.

Robert de Boron | fl. 1200

Robert de Boron, also known as Robers de Borrom or Robers de Borron, was a Burgundian author who flourished around the year 1200. Unfortunately, very little is known about Robert de Boron’s life, and details about his background, identity, and personal history remain elusive. Despite this, he is recognized for his significant contributions to Arthurian literature. Here are details about his two major Arthurian romances:

Joseph d’Arimathie
One of Robert de Boron’s notable works is Joseph d’Arimathie, which delves into the Grail legends. The narrative revolves around Joseph of Arimathea, a figure associated with the biblical events surrounding the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In Robert de Boron’s treatment, Joseph is linked to the Grail, a sacred object associated with mystical and spiritual significance.

Another significant work attributed to Robert de Boron is Merlin, focusing on the legendary figure of Merlin, the wizard and advisor often associated with the Arthurian legend. Robert de Boron’s portrayal of Merlin in this romance contributed to shaping the character’s image in subsequent Arthurian literature.

Didot Perceval
There is scholarly suggestion that Robert de Boron may have been the author of the Didot Perceval, although this attribution is not universally accepted. The Didot Perceval is a prose romance that is part of the wider Arthurian tradition, particularly focusing on the Grail Quest and the adventures of Sir Perceval.

Rusticiano de Pisa | fl. 1290

Rusticiano de Pisa, also known as Rustichello da Pisa, was an Italian writer who flourished around the year 1290. His most notable works include transcribing Marco Polo’s autobiography. Here are some details about his contributions:

The Travels of Marco Polo
Rusticiano is best known for transcribing the travels and adventures of the Venetian explorer Marco Polo. Marco Polo dictated his experiences and observations to Rusticiano while they were both imprisoned in Genoa around 1298.

The Travels of Marco Polo (original title is Livres des Merveilles du Monde) became a significant medieval travelogue, providing Europeans with detailed accounts of Asia, its cultures, and the wealth of the East. It became an influential work, opening up European perspectives on Asia and inspiring later explorers.

Compilation of Arthurian Romances
Rusticiano de Pisa also produced a compilation of Arthurian romances titled Roman de Roi Artus (“Romance of King Arthur”). This compilation is a collection of stories and legends related to the Arthurian cycle, contributing to the broader tradition of Arthurian literature.

William of Malmesbury | c. 1090 – c. 1143

William of Malmesbury was an English chronicler and historian. Born around 1090, he became a monk at Malmesbury Abbey and later held the positions of librarian and precentor in the monastery. William participated in the council at Winchester in 1141, where he sided against King Stephen. His major works include:

  • Gesta Regum Anglorum (“Deeds of the Kings of the English”) provides a lively account of the Kings of England from the Saxon invasion up to 1126. It covers a broad span of English history and is considered an important source for understanding the early medieval period.
  • Historia Novella (“Contemporary History”). This work extends the narrative from Gesta Regum Anglorum up to 1142, offering a continuation of the historical account.
  • Gesta Pontificum Anglorum (“Deeds of the Bishops of the English”). An ecclesiastical history that focuses on the bishops and major monasteries of England up to 1123.
  • Chronicle of the Kings of England is a work attributed to William of Malmesbury that covers English history in a chronological manner.
  • Other works: William also wrote an account of the church at Glastonbury, providing insights into the history of Glastonbury Abbey. Additionally, he authored hagiographies (biographies of saints) including lives of Saint Dunstan and Saint Wulfstan.

William of Malmesbury’s works are valuable historical sources that provide important insights into the political, ecclesiastical, and cultural aspects of medieval England. His dedication to chronicling both secular and religious history contributes significantly to our understanding of the period.

Scharfenberg, Albrecht von | fl. 1270

Albrech von Scharfenberg, who flourished in the 1270s, is the author of Der jüngere Titurel, a work composed around 1270. This Arthurian novel draws inspiration from Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Titurel fragments, particularly focusing on the love story of Sigune and Schionatulander, characters originally appearing in Wolfram’s Parzival.

Content of Der jüngere Titurel
The work consists of around 6,000 stanzas and is characterized by its leisurely narration of the entire life history of Sigune and Schionatulander. Albrecht’s novel transforms the courtly romance genre into a didactic vehicle that imparts moral lessons through examples. The narrative style is imitative of Wolfram’s Titurel stanzas, and throughout much of the work, Albrecht assumes the identity of Wolfram von Eschenbach.

Author’s Identity
The author maintains the persona of Wolfram von Eschenbach for most of Der jüngere Titurel, even identifying himself as “ich, Wolfram” and being addressed as “her Wolfram” from “Eschenbach.” The revelation of the true author’s identity occurs in stanza 5883, where Albrecht von Scharfenberg discloses that he is “Albrecht.”

Didacticism and Popular Reception
Der jüngere Titurel is characterized by a didactic tone, instructing his audience through narrative and moral examples. Despite its verbosity and pious tone, the work was highly popular in the Middle Ages, and its popularity enduredl.

Influence on Hans Sachs
One of the Arthurian episodes in Albrecht’s work, involving knights crossing a magic bridge that reveals their virtue or lack thereof, inspired the Meisterlied composed by Hans Sachs.

William Shakespeare | 1564-1616

William Shakespeare, born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564 and passing away in 1616, is undoubtedly one of the most celebrated playwrights and poets in history. His works have had a profound and enduring impact on literature and drama. While Shakespeare is best known for his plays, sonnets, and other poetic works, it’s interesting to note his subtle incorporation of Arthurian elements in one of his plays.

In A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, believed to have been written in the late sixteenth century, Shakespeare weaves a comedic and fantastical narrative involving the interactions of fairies and mortals. The character Oberon, the fairy king, plays a significant role in the plot. Oberon’s role in A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream mirrors certain aspects found in Arthurian literature.

In Arthurian legend, Oberon is often associated with the fairy realm and is sometimes portrayed as a king of the fairies. The character’s presence in Shakespeare’s play aligns with the traditional roles of Oberon in medieval romances, where he is linked to enchantments, magical interventions, and the world of the supernatural.

Shakespeare’s use of Arthurian elements in A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream showcases his ability to draw inspiration from a variety of sources, including medieval legends and folklore, to enrich the tapestry of his works. It also reflects the enduring influence of Arthurian themes on literature and storytelling, even in the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods when Shakespeare was active.

Spenser, Edmund | 1552 or 1553-1599

Edmund Spenser, an influential English poet of the Renaissance, is best known for his epic poem The Faerie Queene. This allegorical work, composed in the late sixteenth century, is considered one of the greatest achievements in English literature.

The Faerie Queene is an expansive and complex poem that uses the allegory to explore various aspects of virtue, chivalry, and morality. King Arthur, although not the central figure, is a prominent character in the Book I of The Faeire Queene. Spenser casts Arthur as the ideal ruler and a symbol of the chivalric code. The poem explores themes of heroism, virtue, and the quest for an idealized and harmonious society.

Spenser’s work draws heavily on the Arthurian legends, weaving them into the broader tapestry of his allegory. While Spenser is not as frequent read in modern times as some other Renaissance poets, his influence on later writers and his contribution to the literary canon, particularly through The Faerie Queene, are significant.

Thomas of Britain | 12th century

The Tristan story has been retold by various authors throughout history. One notable version of the Tristan and Iseult (Isolde) legend from the twelfth century is Thomas of Britain’s Tristan.

Thomas of Britain was a medieval poet who wrote in Anglo-Norman French. His work, known as Tristan, is an Old French courtly romance that tells the tragic love story of Tristan and Iseult. The narrative follows the traditional tale of a love potion, secret meetings, and the ultimate tragedy of their love.

Thomas of Britain’s version is one of the early adaptations of the Tristan and Iseult legend, and it played a role in popularizing the story during the medieval period.

Ulrich von Zatzikhoven | f. 1200

Ulrich von Zatzikhoven was a German poet who flourished around the year 1200. He is best known for his work Lanzelet, which is a significant adaptation of the Lancelot story. Unlike Chrétien de Troyes, the French poet who also contributed to the Arthurian legend, Ulrich’s version of the Lancelot narrative differs considerably.

In Lanzelet, Ulrich introduces unique elements to the tale, providing a distinctive perspective on the character of Lancelot and his adventures. The German tradition of Arthurian literature, including works like Lanzelet, showcases the widespread popularity and adaptation of Arthurian legends across medieval Europe, with each region contributing its own variations and interpretations to the rich tapestry of Arthurian romance.

Robert Wace | c. 1110 – after 1174

Robert Wace was the author of the Roman de Brut, a French verse chronicle. Born in Jersey, a Channel Island, Wace was a versatile writer, producing several works in different genres. His Roman de Brut is particularly notable for its substantial Arthurian section, contributing to the Arthurian literary tradition.

In the Roman de Brut, Wace introduces significant elements to the Arthurian legend. Notably, he mentions the Round Table for the first time, a motif that would become a central feature of later Arthurian romances. The works of poets like Wace played a crucial role in shaping and expanding the Arthurian narrative during the medieval period, contributing to the enduring popularity of King Arthur and his knights in literature and legend.

Wirnt von Grafenberg | 13th century

Wirnt von Grafenberg, a thirteenth-century German poet, is credited with writing Wigalois, a romance centered around Gawain’s son. The poem explores the exploits of Wigalois, weaving together elements of chivalry, romance, and heroic quests commonly associated with Arthurian literature.

The story is part of the Arthurian literary tradition, expanding the narrative beyond the exploits of King Arthur himself to include characters like Gawain and his descendants.

Wolfram von Eschenbach | c. 1160/1180 – c. 1220

Wolfram von Eschenbach, a German poet of the medieval period, is renowned for his epic work Parzival or Parsifal. Written around the turn of the thirteenth century, Parzival is a significant Arthurian romance that delves into the Grail Quest, exploring themes of chivalry, knighthood, and spiritual redemption.

Wolfram claims in the prologue of Parzival that he derived the story from a mysterious source named Kyot, and the existence of this source has been a subject of scholarly debate. Despite uncertainties about Kyot, Wolfram’s work stands a notable contribution to Arthurian literature.

In addition to Parzival, Wolfram is associated with other works, including Willehalm, an epic-poem based on the life of William of Orange, and Titurel, a fragmentary work connected to the Grail legend. Wolfram also appears as a character in the German compilation Wartburgkrieg, engaging in a poetic competition with Clinschor (Klingsor), a figure later incorporated into Arthurian legends, particularly in the context of the Knights of the Round Table.