LE ROI ARTHUR - KING ATHUR

Publié le par Grimbeorn

Le Roi Arthur


61x6wvid7bL._SL500_AA240_.jpgLe roi Arthur est, d'après les romances médiévales, un seigneur breton qui aurait organisé la défense de la Grande-Bretagne face aux envahisseurs saxons vers le début du VIe siècle. La légende d'Arthur est principalement inspirée par le folklore et l'invention littéraire, et son existence historique n'est pas attestée. Les sources historiques d'Arthur sont recueillies sur de rares textes, tels les Annales Cambriae, l'Historia Brittonum et les écrits de Gildas le sage. Le nom d'Arthur apparait également dans d'anciens poèmes tel que le Gododdin. Son histoire se situe à une époque où le terme "Bretagne" désignait la partie sud de l'actuelle Grande-Bretagne.

La figure légendaire d'Arthur s'est développée en grande partie grâce l'Historia regum Britanniae ("Histoire des rois de Bretagne") écrite par Geoffrey de Monmouth au XIIe siècle. Toutefois, antérieurement à cette œuvre, certains contes et poèmes gallois ou bretons font déjà apparaître Arthur comme un grand guerrier défendant la Bretagne des hommes et d'ennemis surnaturels ou comme une figure magique du folklore, parfois associée à Annwvyn, l'autre-Monde celtique. La part du récit de Geoffrey de Monmouth adaptée des sources antérieures et celle issue de sa propre imagination sont inconnues.

Bien que les thèmes, les événements et les personnages de la légende du roi Arthur varient considérablement de texte en texte, et qu'il n'existe pas de version unique, les événements contés dans l'Historia regum Britanniae servirent de base pour la plupart des histoires postérieures.

Geoffrey de Monmouth dépeint Arthur comme un roi ayant établi un empire rassemblant l'île de Bretagne, l'Irlande, l'Islande, la Norvège et la Gaule, avant l'arrivée des Saxons en Bretagne. En fait, beaucoup d'éléments qui font désormais partie intégrante de l'histoire du roi Arthur apparaissent dans l'Historia regum Britanniae : le père d'Arthur Uther Pendragon, le magicien Merlin, l'épée Excalibur, la naissance d'Arthur à Tintagel, sa dernière bataille contre Mordred à Camlann et sa retraite finale à Avalon. Au XIIe siècle, l'écrivain français Chrétien de Troyes y ajoute Lancelot et le Saint Graal et initie le genre de la romance arthurienne (en puisant dans la "Matière de Bretagne") qui devient un volet important de la littérature médiévale. Dans ces histoires, la narration se concentre souvent sur d'autres personnages, tels que les différents chevaliers de la Table Ronde au lieu de se focaliser sur le roi Arthur lui-même. La littérature arthurienne a prospéré pendant le Moyen Âge, avant de perdre de l'importance dans les siècles qui suivirent. Elle est redevenue un sujet à la mode au XIXe siècle. Au XXIe siècle, le roi Arthur est toujours un personnage mis en scène, à la fois dans la littérature mais aussi dans les adaptations scéniques (festivals, spectacles vivants), au théatre, au cinéma, à la télévision, dans les bandes dessinées, les jeux vidéo et d'autres médias.

ORIGINES

On remarque au VIe siècle une certaine augmentation des noms tels Arzur, Arthus, Artus ou Arthur[réf. nécessaire] qui laisse supposer l'existence d'un personnage ayant marqué les esprits. Le nom lui-même viendrait de la racine celtique Arz, ou Arth (gaulois artos) signifiant « ours », symbole de force, de stabilité et de protection, caractères bien présents dans sa légende : c'était un homme réputé fort, posé, et, en tant que roi, garant de la sécurité de ses sujets. Dans la civilisation celtique, l'ours est avant tout l'animal emblématique de la royauté. On rapproche son nom avec celui de la déesse ourse Artio. La transcription latine basée sur cette racine celtique donnerait le nom Artorius, ce qui appuierait l'hypothèse romaine identifiant le roi Arthur au personnage de Lucius Artorius Castus.

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L'hypothèse galloise



Cette hypothèse se base sur le fait qu'Arthur apparaît pour la première fois dans les légendes galloises, bien avant d'être repris dans les romans de chevalerie du XIIe siècle. Arthur serait né vers 470/475 et serait originaire du Pays de Galles, ou de l'ouest de l'Angleterre, mais l'emplacement exact de sa cour, connue sous le nom de Camelot, reste un mystère. Il aurait repoussé l'invasion des Saxons au début du VIe siècle bien qu'il n'ait jamais été couronné roi. En effet, la chronique de Nennius (IXe siècle) le désigne comme un dux bellorum (chef de guerre) combattant « avec les rois bretons » et les textes médiévaux en gallois ne lui donnent jamais le titre de roi, mais l'appellent amerauder (« empereur »). Baptiste Legeron[1] en ferait un grand propriétaire terrien romanisé ayant constitué, comme c'était alors courant à l'époque, sa propre troupe de buccelaires (mercenaires à la solde d'une personne riche et payés en nourriture, d'où leur nom (buccelus = biscuit), et ayant prêté main-forte aux rois bretons contre les Saxons. En outre, dès le IVe siècle, les corps de buccelaires sont constitués majoritairement de cavaliers. La légende d'un corps de cavaliers d'élites servant Arthur n'est pas loin…

L'hypothèse romaine

Kemp Molone[2], pensait avoir retrouvé le vrai Arthur dans le personnage de Lucius Artorius Castus. La parenté de nom est en effet assez troublante. Ce préfet romain, installé à York, a commandé (l'épigraphie l'atteste) la VIe Légion Victrix, chargée de combattre les Calédoniens (peuple de l'actuelle Écosse) au-delà du mur d'Hadrien. Il a remporté contre eux (et non contre les Saxons) une suite de victoires entre 183 et 185 après J.-C. Ensuite, il aurait été envoyé en Armorique mater une rébellion, mais de récentes recherches tendent à prouver qu'il aurait été envoyé en Arménie. À l'occasion de cette expédition, il portait le titre de dux, ce qui n'est pas sans rappeler le titre de dux bellorum rapporté par la chronique de Nennius.

Selon Geoffrey Ashe[3], le légendaire Arthur est inspiré du personnage réel de Riothamus, qui aurait porté le titre de « roi des Bretons » entre 454 et 470. Celui-ci aurait fait campagne en Gaule au cours des années 468 et 469 pour prêter main forte aux Gallo-romains contre les Wisigoths, avant d'être battus par ces derniers à la Bataille de Déols.

Plus récemment, C. Scott Littleton et Linda A. Malcor ont repris ces deux dernières hypothèses et affirment que le Arthur de Camelot est la synthèse du Romain Lucius Artorius Castus et du Britannique Riothamus[4]. Pour ces deux chercheurs, le nom d'Arthur est la « celticisation » d'Artorius.

Selon la légende, l'Empire arthurien aurait englobé à son apogée l'Angleterre, l'Écosse, l'Irlande, l'Islande, le Danemark, la Norvège et la Gaule. Certains auteurs relatent même la victoire remportée par Arthur sur les légions romaines en Burgondie (Bourgogne), au cours d'une expédition qui l'aurait mené jusqu'à Rome…

Il y a aussi l'hypothèse du décalage chronologique. Quand a lieu la bataille de Camlann contre Modred qui avait usurpé le pouvoir en Bretagne, Arthur revenait d'une expédition pour prêter main forte aux troupes gallo-romaines face à l'invasion des Francs. Il faut donc situer cette bataille vers 490. De ce fait, la bataille du Mont Badon a dû se produire vers 475 et l'arrivée des Saxons en 428.
L'hypothèse syncrétique [modifier]
Article connexe : Syncrétisme.
Lancelot et Guenièvre sur la tombe d'Arthur, par Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Le patronyme « Arthur » pouvait être courant à l'époque celtique et aurait pu ainsi désigner plusieurs chefs. L'amalgame du récit de différentes vies aurait pu servir à constituer celle du personnage mythologique. Ce nom connait d'ailleurs une vogue très importante dans l'aristocratie celtique dans les années qui suivent la Bataille de Camlann, où serait mort Arthur, entre 537 et 542.

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L'hypothèse de Withaer

Pour Withaer, auteur d'une histoire des guerres de ce prince, « Arthur fut le dernier roi des Bretons siluriens.

Après avoir défendu longtemps son pays avec succès contre les Angles du nord, les Saxons de l'occident et les Danois qu'il vainquit en douze batailles successives, il aurait été complètement défait à Camlann, vers 542. Blessé mortellement, il se fit transporter en un lieu inconnu où il termina sa glorieuse vie. Ses soldats étonnés de ne pas le voir reparaître allèrent à sa recherche et, comme ils ne trouvèrent nulle part son tombeau, ils se persuadèrent qu'il n'était pas mort. Bientôt, se répandit la croyance populaire qu'Arthur reviendrait un jour régner sur la Bretagne affranchie du joug étranger, et qu'il y ramènerait le siècle d'or. Les chants patriotiques des bardes le représentaient tantôt guerroyant en Palestine contre les Infidèles, et tantôt errant dans les forêts des deux Bretagnes. Cette espérance du retour d'Arthur s'accrut à mesure que le peuple était opprimé.

Elle fut assez générale sous la domination despotique des rois normands.

En 1191, Henri II, à qui elle inspirait de vives inquiétudes, imagina un moyen pour la faire cesser. Il se rendit à Glassenbury (ou Glastonbury), où des moines de l'abbaye annoncèrent avoir découvert la tombe d'Arthur et de Guenièvre. Ces fouilles furent faites en un lieu que des vers chantés par un pâtre indiquaient comme l'endroit de la sépulture d'un grand homme. L'antiquaire John Leland rapporte qu'on en retira, parmi divers débris, un cercueil de pierre décoré d'une petite croix de plomb, sur laquelle était inscrit:

    « Hic jacet sepultus inclutvs rex Arturius in insulis Avalonia, inscription qu'il traduit ainsi: Ci gît le célèbre roi Arthur en son île d'Avalon. »

    * Cette prétendue découverte ne produisit pas néanmoins l'effet qu'il en attendait. L'espérance bretonne continua à régner. Elle était si vive au temps d'Alain de l'isle, que ce savant a écrit dans ses explications des prophéties de Merlin :

«On serait lapidé en Bretagne, si l'on osait dire qu'Arthur est mort.» (Explanat. in proph. Merlini, p. 19, lib. i.)»[5].

    * Ces tombes furent visitées par beaucoup de personnes, et déplacées vers une nouvelle sépulture en 1278. Celle-ci fut détruite pendant la Réforme anglaise du XVIe siècle.

L'hypothèse mythologique

D'autres pensent qu'Arthur serait un demi-dieu celte incarné, tel que le dieu de la mer Lir (supposé incarné par le Roi Lear), ou même un personnage fictif comme Beowulf. Cette théorie serait renforcée par le fait que d'autres Britanniques de cette période, comme Ambrosius Aurelianus, ont combattu les Saxons à la bataille du Mont Badonicus.

 Chronologie approximative

    * 425 (ou 446) : Avènement de Vortigern.
    * 428 (ou 449) : Vortigern fait appel à des mercenaires saxons pour lutter contre les Gaëls et les Pictes.
    * Vers 468 : Mort ou départ en exil de Vortigern (dates variables entre 446 et 488).
    * Vers 494 : Uther Pendragon concoit Arthur avec Ygern, épouse du chef des Bretons de Cornouaille[6]
    * Vers 470 : Naissance d’Arthur (dates variables entre 456 et 492).
    * Vers 480 : Mort d’Ambrosius Aurelianus (dates variables entre 455 et 530).
    * Vers 485 : Mort d’Uther Pendragon (dates variables entre 460 et 495).
    * Vers 500 : Avènement d’Arthur (dates variables entre 460 et 510).
    * 516 (ou 518) : Victoire des Bretons sur les Saxons au Mont Badon (dates variables entre 460 et 540).
    * 537 (ou 542) : Arthur trouve la mort à la bataille de Camlann (dates variables entre 470 et 542).

 Les premières légendes du roi Arthur

Le roi Arthur apparaît pour la première fois dans la littérature galloise. Dans le premier poème gallois retrouvé, le Gododdin, Aneirin (vers 575-600) écrit au sujet d'un de ses personnages qu'« il nourrissait des corbeaux noirs sur les remparts, alors qu'il n'était pas Arthur » (« he fed black ravens on the ramparts, although he was not Arthur », en gallois : « Gochorai brain du fur caer/ Cyn ni bai ef Arthur. »). Mais ce poème peut être interprété de bien des manières.

Une autre ancienne référence au roi Arthur se trouve dans l'Historia Brittonum attribuée au moine gallois Nennius, qui aurait écrit cette Histoire galloise vers 830. Le roi Arthur est décrit comme un « chef de guerre » plutôt que comme un roi.

Le roi Arthur apparaît aussi dans l'histoire galloise Culhwch and Olwen, habituellement associé avec les Mabinogion.

Les dernières parties de Trioedd Ynys Prydein font mention d'Arthur et situent sa cour à Celliwig en Cornouailles. Celliwig serait l'actuelle Callington ou Kelly Rounds, une colline fortifiée près d'Egloshayle.

Le roi Arthur est aussi parfois décrit comme le chef des chasses galeries (un groupe de chasseurs mythiques), non seulement dans les Îles britanniques, mais aussi en Bretagne, en France, en Allemagne et en Grèce.

La romance du roi Arthur


466px-Le_morte_d-arthur-201.gifEn 1133, Geoffroy de Monmouth écrivit son Historia Regum Britanniae. Ce livre fut l'équivalent d'un best seller médiéval, et attira l'attention d'autres écrivains, tels que Wace et Layamon, sur ces histoires. Ces écrivains en profitèrent pour améliorer les histoires du roi Arthur.

Même si de nombreux érudits s'accordent sur le fait que Geoffroy a suscité l'intérêt médiéval pour le roi Arthur, une autre hypothèse existe. Les histoires concernant Arthur pourraient venir des traditions orales bretonnes, disséminées dans les cours royales et de la noblesse d'Europe grâce aux jongleurs professionnels. L'écrivain médiéval français Chrétien de Troyes raconta des histoires provenant de cette mythologie à la moitié du XIIe siècle, de même que Marie de France dans ses lais, des poèmes narratifs. Les histoires provenant de ces écrivains et de beaucoup d'autres seraient indépendantes de Geoffroy de Monmouth.

Ces histoires, réunies sous le vocable de matière de Bretagne, devinrent populaires à partir du XIIe siècle. Dans ces histoires, Arthur rassembla les chevaliers de la Table ronde (en particulier Lancelot, Gauvain et Galaad). Cette assemblée était en général située à Camelot dans les derniers récits. Le magicien Merlin, dit « l'Enchanteur », y participait de temps en temps. Ces chevaliers participèrent à des quêtes mythiques, comme celle du Saint Graal. D'autres histoires du monde celtique s'associèrent à la légende d'Arthur, telle que la légende de Tristan et Iseut. Dans les dernières légendes, la romance entre le champion d'Arthur, Lancelot, et la reine Guenièvre devint la cause principale de la chute du monde arthurien.

Robert de Boron écrivit dans son Merlin qu'Arthur obtint son trône en tirant une épée d'un rocher et d'une enclume. Cet acte ne pouvait être effectué que par le Vrai Roi, ce qui signifie le roi choisi par (les) Dieu(x), ou l'héritier d'Uther Pendragon. Cette épée est dans certaines versions la célèbre Excalibur. Dans d'autres récits, Excalibur sort d'un lac portée par une main, et est remise à Arthur peu de temps après le début de son règne par Viviane, la Dame du Lac, une demoiselle sorcière. L'épée pouvait trancher n'importe quoi, et sa gaine rendait son porteur invincible.

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La fin du roi Arthur


Le dernier combat d'Arthur, la bataille de Camlann, contre les forces de Mordred vit sa perte. Des histoires montrent que Mordred était un chevalier de la Table ronde et le fils incestueux d'Arthur et de sa sœur Morgane ou bien de sa demi-sœur Morgause. Le Roi Arthur fut mortellement blessé lors de cette bataille, et emmené à Avalon. Là, ses mains furent soignées ou son corps enterré dans une chapelle. D'autres textes disent qu'il n'est pas mort, mais qu'il s'est retiré dans Avalon, monde souterrain enchanté créé par Merlin ; le roi Arthur est en dormition et reviendra un jour. De nombreux lieux sont revendiqués comme étant l’Avalon dont parle la légende : Glastonbury (dans le Somerset, en Angleterre), l'île d'Avalon (un îlot sur la commune de Pleumeur-Bodou dans les Côtes-d'Armor)… Mais il faut préciser que les peuples celtiques transportent leurs légendes et les transposent au fur et à mesure de leurs émigrations. Ceci explique donc qu'il y ait plusieurs forêts de Brocéliande, plusieurs Cornouailles…

La légende du roi Arthur s'est répandue dans toute l'Europe. Des images d'Arthur ont été retrouvées à de nombreux endroits. En particulier, dans la cathédrale de Modène en Italie, une gravure datée entre 1099 et 1120 représente Arthur et ses chevaliers attaquant un château. Une mosaïque de 1165 dans la cathédrale d'Otrante, près de Bari, en Italie contient la représentation curieuse d'Arturus Rex portant un sceptre et chevauchant une chèvre. Des marchands du XVe siècle baptisèrent un Hall arthurien à Gdańsk, en Pologne. De nombreux lieux évoquent le roi Arthur en Bretagne, notamment la forêt de Brocéliande ou la Grotte Artus en forêt de Huelgoat.

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Le symbolisme du roi Arthur

Le roi unique et incontesté n'a jamais existé dans la civilisation celtique. Les divisions tribales (chefs de clans vassaux de rois des provinces eux-mêmes vassaux d'un roi suprême) ont permis à Jules César de prendre le contrôle de la Gaule. En contrepartie, l'imaginaire populaire s'est emparé d'un roi, plus ou moins attesté, paré des atouts les plus nobles de sa charge : un homme fort, bon guerrier mais sage, fédérateur et bien conseillé. Même après sa disparition, il porte encore les espoirs d'un peuple : sa dormition n'est que temporaire, et il reviendra unir les « deux Bretagnes » et sauver les Bretons.







Mythe et politique

En 1066, Guillaume le Conquérant s’impose en maître de l’Angleterre… Mais comment faire accepter un Normand comme roi, alors qu'il est issu d'un peuple minoritaire ? En s’appuyant sur la légende arthurienne et sur Arthur, sa figure de proue, unificateur de la Grande-Bretagne et du peuple breton. Car sur le continent se trouvent les descendants de Bretons partis de l'île quelques siècles plus tôt. Pour monter son armée, Guillaume a utilisé les services d'un certain nombre de nobles descendants de ces Bretons émigrants. En favorisant la diffusion du mythe de la survivance d’Arthur, de sa dormition dans l’île d’Avalon et de son retour prochain, Guillaume rendait populaire sa lutte contre les Angles et les Saxons et comptait bien se rallier les Gallois. Ce fut le début de « l’espoir breton ».

De même, Henri II Plantagenêt se servit du mythe arthurien pour asseoir son pouvoir, maintenir son autorité et unifier l’île de Bretagne. Couronné en 1154 après moult difficultés (petit fils d'Henri Ier, désigné comme successeur mais écarté du trône par le neveu du roi défunt), il confisque la légende à son profit. Afin d’estomper les origines non-anglaises de la dynastie des Plantagenêt, Henri II préférera s’appuyer sur la civilisation bretonne en se présentant comme le digne successeur d’Arthur, bel et bien mort lors de l’ultime bataille. Car le monarque doit affirmer son autorité : vassal du roi de France pour le duché de Normandie, il a besoin du soutien breton contre les revendications saxonnes qui ont du mal à accepter la domination normande sur l’Angleterre. Afin de renforcer cette analogie, il tente même sans succès de conquérir l’Irlande et l’Écosse afin de réunir sous sa bannière l’ensemble du royaume supposé d’Arthur.

Arthur a aussi beaucoup servi pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale chez les Britanniques pour raviver les efforts de la population face au risque d'invasion de l'Allemagne nazie.

Dans l'imaginaire en Bretagne continentale, il représente l'unité du peuple breton, puisqu'il était roi des deux Bretagnes. Les auteurs du Moyen Âge l'ont actualisé selon les canons courtois de l'époque en en faisant un modèle de noblesse et de vertu chrétienne.

Famille et descendance

Arthur est le fils d'Uther Pendragon, roi des Bretons et d'Igraine (ou Ygerne), veuve de Gorlois(ou Gorlais), duc des Cornouailles. Il est le frère d’Anna (Morgause), épouse du roi Loth d'Orcanie. Il épouse Guenièvre, reine d’Irlande et fille de Léodagan, roi de Carmélide

 Notes et références

   1. ↑ Baptiste Legeron, université d'Aix-en-Provence
   2. ↑ « The historicity of Arthur », Journal of English and German Philology, 1924
   3. ↑ Geoffrey Ashe, The Discovery of King Arthur, New York, Doubleday, 1985
   4. ↑ C. S. Littleton et L. A. Malcor, From Scythia to Camelot, New-York-Oxon, 2000, 1re édition 1994
   5. ↑ In «Dictionnaire étymologique, historique et anecdotique des proverbes et des locutions proverbiales de la Langue française» par Pierre Marie Quitard, Paris, pp. 357/358. P. Bertrand, Libraire-Éditeur
   6. ↑ Source: Le roi Arthur Livre d'Alex Voglino et de Sergio Guiffrida au édition Belin


KING ARTHUR

Excalibur_in_the_Lake_Le_Morte_D_arthur.

King Arthur is a legendary Britton leader who, according to medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against the Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and his historical existence is debated and disputed by modern historians.[2] The sparse historical background of Arthur is gleaned from various sources, including the Annales Cambriae, the Historia Brittonum, and the writings of Gildas. Arthur's name also occurs in early poetic sources such as Y Gododdin.[3]

The legendary Arthur developed as a figure of international interest largely through the popularity of Geoffrey of Monmouth's fanciful and imaginative 12th-century Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain).[4] However, some Welsh and Breton tales and poems relating the story of Arthur date from earlier than this work; in these works, Arthur appears either as a great warrior defending Britain from human and supernatural enemies or as a magical figure of folklore, sometimes associated with the Welsh Otherworld, Annwn.[5] How much of Geoffrey's Historia (completed in 1138) was adapted from such earlier sources, rather than invented by Geoffrey himself, is unknown.

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Although the themes, events and characters of the Arthurian legend varied widely from text to text, and there is no one canonical version, Geoffrey's version of events often served as the starting point for later stories. Geoffrey depicted Arthur as a king of Britain who defeated the Saxons and established an empire over Britain, Ireland, Iceland, Norway and Gaul. In fact, many elements and incidents that are now an integral part of the Arthurian story appear in Geoffrey's Historia, including Arthur's father Uther Pendragon, the wizard Merlin, the sword Excalibur, Arthur's birth at Tintagel, his final battle against Mordred at Camlann and final rest in Avalon. The 12th-century French writer Chrétien de Troyes, who added Lancelot and the Holy Grail to the story, began the genre of Arthurian romance that became a significant strand of medieval literature. In these French stories, the narrative focus often shifts from King Arthur himself to other characters, such as various Knights of the Round Table. Arthurian literature thrived during the Middle Ages but waned in the centuries that followed until it experienced a major resurgence in the 19th century. In the 21st century, the legend lives on, not only in literature but also in adaptations for theatre, film, television, comics and other media.

Debated historicity

Historical basis for King Arthur

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The historical basis for the King Arthur legend has long been debated by scholars. One school of thought, citing entries in the Historia Brittonum (History of the Britons) and Annales Cambriae (Welsh Annals), sees Arthur as a genuine historical figure, a Romano-British leader who fought against the invading Anglo-Saxons sometime in the late 5th to early 6th century. The Historia Brittonum, a 9th-century Latin historical compilation attributed in some late manuscripts to a Welsh cleric called Nennius, lists twelve battles that Arthur fought. These culminate in the Battle of Mons Badonicus, or Mount Badon, where he is said to have single-handedly killed 960 men. Recent studies, however, question the reliability of the Historia Brittonum as a source for the history of this period.[6]

The other text that seems to support the case for Arthur's historical existence is the 10th-century Annales Cambriae, which also link Arthur with the Battle of Mount Badon. The Annales date this battle to 516–518, and also mention the Battle of Camlann, in which Arthur and Medraut (Mordred) were both killed, dated to 537–539. These details have often been used to bolster confidence in the Historia's account and to confirm that Arthur really did fight at Mount Badon. Problems have been identified, however, with using this source to support the Historia Brittonum's account. The latest research shows that the Annales Cambriae was based on a chronicle begun in the late 8th century in Wales. Additionally, the complex textual history of the Annales Cambriae precludes any certainty that the Arthurian annals were added to it even that early. They were more likely added at some point in the 10th century and may never have existed in any earlier set of annals. The Mount Badon entry probably derived from the Historia Brittonum.[7]

This lack of convincing early evidence is the reason many recent historians exclude Arthur from their accounts of post-Roman Britain. In the view of historian Thomas Charles-Edwards, "at this stage of the enquiry, one can only say that there may well have been an historical Arthur [but …] the historian can as yet say nothing of value about him".[8] These modern admissions of ignorance are a relatively recent trend; earlier generations of historians were less sceptical. Historian John Morris made the putative reign of Arthur the organising principle of his history of sub-Roman Britain and Ireland, The Age of Arthur (1973). Even so, he found little to say about a historical Arthur.[9]
The 10th-century Annales Cambriae, as copied into a manuscript of c. 1100

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Partly in reaction to such theories, another school of thought emerged which argued that Arthur had no historical existence at all. Morris's Age of Arthur prompted archaeologist Nowell Myres to observe that "no figure on the borderline of history and mythology has wasted more of the historian's time".[10] Gildas' 6th-century polemic De Excidio Britanniae (On the Ruin of Britain), written within living memory of Mount Badon, mentions the battle but does not mention Arthur.[11] Arthur is not mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle or named in any surviving manuscript written between 400 and 820.[12] He is absent from Bede's early 8th-century Ecclesiastical History of the English People, another major early source for post-Roman history that mentions Mount Badon.[13] Historian David Dumville has written: "I think we can dispose of him [Arthur] quite briefly. He owes his place in our history books to a 'no smoke without fire' school of thought ... The fact of the matter is that there is no historical evidence about Arthur; we must reject him from our histories and, above all, from the titles of our books."[14]

Some scholars argue that Arthur was originally a fictional hero of folklore – or even a half-forgotten Celtic deity – who became credited with real deeds in the distant past. They cite parallels with figures such as the Kentish totemic horse-gods Hengest and Horsa, who later became historicised. Bede ascribed to these legendary figures a historical role in the 5th-century Anglo-Saxon conquest of eastern Britain.[15] It is not even certain that Arthur was considered a king in the early texts. Neither the Historia nor the Annales calls him "rex": the former calls him instead "dux" or "dux bellorum" (leader of battles).[16]

Historical documents for the post-Roman period are scarce, so a definitive answer to the question of Arthur's historical existence is unlikely. Sites and places have been identified as "Arthurian" since the 12th century,[17] but archaeology can confidently reveal names only through inscriptions found in secure contexts. The so-called "Arthur stone", discovered in 1998 among the ruins at Tintagel Castle in Cornwall in securely dated 6th-century contexts, created a brief stir but proved irrelevant.[18] Other inscriptional evidence for Arthur, including the Glastonbury cross, is tainted with the suggestion of forgery.[19] Although several historical figures have been proposed as the basis for Arthur,[20] no convincing evidence for these identifications has emerged.

KArthur7.jpg

Name


The origin of the Welsh name Arthur remains a matter of debate. Some suggest it is derived from the Latin family name Artorius, of obscure and contested etymology.[21] Others propose a derivation from Welsh arth (earlier art), meaning "bear", suggesting art-ur (earlier *Arto-uiros), "bear-man", is the original form, although there are difficulties with this theory.[22] It may be relevant to this debate that Arthur's name appears as Arthur, or Arturus, in early Latin Arthurian texts, never as Artorius. However, this may not say anything about the origin of the name Arthur, as Artorius would regularly become Art(h)ur when borrowed into Welsh; all it would mean, as John Koch has pointed out, is that the surviving Latin references to a historical Arthur (if he was called Artorius and really existed) must date from after the 6th century.[23] An alternative theory links the name Arthur to Arcturus, the brightest star in the constellation Boötes, near Ursa Major or the Great Bear. The name means "guardian of the bear"[24] or "bear guard".[25] Classical Latin Arcturus would have developed into Late Latin Arturus and would have become Art(h)ur when borrowed into Welsh.[24] Its brightness and position in the sky led people to regard it as the "guardian of the bear" (due to its proximity to Ursa Major) and the "leader" of the other stars in Boötes.[26] The exact significance of such etymologies is unclear. It is often assumed that an Artorius derivation would mean that the legends of Arthur had a genuine historical core, but recent studies suggest that this assumption may not be well founded.[27] By contrast, a derivation of the name Arthur from Arcturus might be taken to indicate a non-historical origin for the legends of Arthur, but Toby Griffen has suggested it was an alternative name for a historical "Arthur-figure" designed to appeal to both Welsh and Latin language-speakers: Art(h)ur "bear-man" and Arturus "guardian (of the) bear" have both similar pronunciations and meanings.[24]
Medieval literary traditions

The creator of the familiar literary persona of Arthur was Geoffrey of Monmouth, with his pseudo-historical Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain), written in the 1130s. The textual sources for Arthur are usually divided into those written before Geoffrey's Historia (known as pre-Galfridian texts, from the Latin form of Geoffrey, Galfridus) and those written afterwards, which could not avoid his influence (Galfridian, or post-Galfridian, texts).

Pre-Galfridian traditions


The earliest literary references to Arthur come from Welsh and Breton sources. There have been few attempts to define the nature and character of Arthur in the pre-Galfridian tradition as a whole, rather than in a single text or text/story-type. One recent academic survey that does attempt this, by Thomas Green, identifies three key strands to the portrayal of Arthur in this earliest material.[28] The first is that he was a peerless warrior who functioned as the monster-hunting protector of Britain from all internal and external threats. Some of these are human threats, such as the Saxons he fights in the Historia Brittonum, but the majority are supernatural, including giant cat-monsters, destructive divine boars, dragons, dogheads, giants and witches.[29] The second is that the pre-Galfridian Arthur was a figure of folklore (particularly topographic or onomastic folklore) and localised magical wonder-tales, the leader of a band of superhuman heroes who live in the wilds of the landscape.[30] The third and final strand is that the early Welsh Arthur had a close connection with the Welsh Otherworld, Annwn. On the one hand, he launches assaults on Otherworldly fortresses in search of treasure and frees their prisoners. On the other, his warband in the earliest sources includes former pagan gods, and his wife and his possessions are clearly Otherworldly in origin.[31]

One of the most famous Welsh poetic references to Arthur comes in the collection of heroic death-songs known as Y Gododdin (The Gododdin), attributed to the 6th-century poet Aneirin. In one stanza, the bravery of a warrior who slew 300 enemies is praised, but it is then noted that despite this "he was no Arthur", that is to say his feats cannot compare to the valour of Arthur.[32] Y Gododdin is known only from a 13th-century manuscript, so it is impossible to determine whether this passage is original or a later interpolation, but John Koch's view that the passage dates from a 7th-century or earlier version is regarded as unproven; 9th- or 10th-century dates are often proposed for it.[33] Several poems attributed to Taliesin, a poet said to have lived in the 6th century, also refer to Arthur, although these all probably date from between the 8th and 12th centuries.[34] They include "Kadeir Teyrnon" ("The Chair of the Prince"),[35] which refers to "Arthur the Blessed", "Preiddeu Annwn" ("The Spoils of the Annwn"),[36] which recounts an expedition of Arthur to the Otherworld, and "Marwnat vthyr pen[dragon]" ("The Elegy of Uther Pen[dragon]"),[37] which refers to Arthur's valour and is suggestive of a father-son relationship for Arthur and Uther that pre-dates Geoffrey of Monmouth.
Culhwch entering Arthur's Court in the Welsh tale Culhwch and Olwen, 1881

Other early Welsh Arthurian texts include a poem found in the Black Book of Carmarthen, "Pa gur yv y porthaur?" ("What man is the gatekeeper?").[38] This takes the form of a dialogue between Arthur and the gatekeeper of a fortress he wishes to enter, in which Arthur recounts the names and deeds of himself and his men, notably Cei (Kay) and Bedwyr (Bedivere). The Welsh prose tale Culhwch and Olwen (c. 1100), included in the modern Mabinogion collection, has a much longer list of more than 200 of Arthur's men, though Cei and Bedwyr again take a central place. The story as a whole tells of Arthur helping his kinsman Culhwch win the hand of Olwen, daughter of Ysbaddaden Chief-Giant, by completing a series of apparently impossible tasks, including the hunt for the great semi-divine boar Twrch Trwyth. The 9th-century Historia Brittonum also refers to this tale, with the boar there named Troy(n)t.[39] Finally, Arthur is mentioned numerous times in the Welsh Triads, a collection of short summaries of Welsh tradition and legend which are classified into groups of three linked characters or episodes in order to assist recall. The later manuscripts of the Triads are partly derivative from Geoffrey of Monmouth and later continental traditions, but the earliest ones show no such influence and are usually agreed to refer to pre-existing Welsh traditions. Even in these, however, Arthur's court has started to embody legendary Britain as a whole, with "Arthur's Court" sometimes substituted for "The Island of Britain" in the formula "Three XXX of the Island of Britain".[40] While it is not clear from the Historia Brittonum and the Annales Cambriae that Arthur was even considered a king, by the time Culhwch and Olwen and the Triads were written he had become Penteyrnedd yr Ynys hon, "Chief of the Lords of this Island", the overlord of Wales, Cornwall and the North.[41]

In addition to these pre-Galfridian Welsh poems and tales, Arthur appears in some other early Latin texts besides the Historia Brittonum and the Annales Cambriae. In particular, Arthur features in a number of well-known vitae ("Lives") of post-Roman saints, none of which are now generally considered to be reliable historical sources (the earliest probably dates from the 11th century).[42] According to the Life of Saint Gildas, written in the early 12th century by Caradoc of Llancarfan, Arthur is said to have killed Gildas' brother Hueil and to have rescued his wife Gwenhwyfar from Glastonbury.[43] In the Life of Saint Cadoc, written around 1100 or a little before by Lifris of Llancarfan, the saint gives protection to a man who killed three of Arthur's soldiers, and Arthur demands a herd of cattle as wergeld for his men. Cadoc delivers them as demanded, but when Arthur takes possession of the animals, they turn into bundles of ferns.[44] Similar incidents are described in the medieval biographies of Carannog, Padarn and Eufflam, probably written around the 12th century. A less obviously legendary account of Arthur appears in the Legenda Sancti Goeznovii, which is often claimed to date from the early 11th century although the earliest manuscript of this text dates from the 15th century.[45] Also important are the references to Arthur in William of Malmesbury's De Gestis Regum Anglorum and Herman's De Miraculis Sanctae Mariae Laudensis, which together provide the first certain evidence for a belief that Arthur was not actually dead and would at some point return, a theme that is often revisited in post-Galfridian folklore.[46

Geoffrey of Monmouth


The first narrative account of Arthur's life is found in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Latin work Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain).[47] This work, completed c. 1138, is an imaginative and fanciful account of British kings from the legendary Trojan exile Brutus to the 7th-century Welsh king Cadwallader. Geoffrey places Arthur in the same post-Roman period as do Historia Brittonum and Annales Cambriae. He incorporates Arthur's father, Uther Pendragon, his magician advisor Merlin, and the story of Arthur's conception, in which Uther, disguised as his enemy Gorlois by Merlin's magic, sleeps with Gorlois's wife Igerna at Tintagel, and she conceives Arthur. On Uther's death, the fifteen-year-old Arthur succeeds him as King of Britain and fights a series of battles, similar to those in the Historia Brittonum, culminating in the Battle of Bath. He then defeats the Picts and Scots before creating an Arthurian empire through his conquests of Ireland, Iceland and the Orkney Islands. After twelve years of peace, Arthur sets out to expand his empire once more, taking control of Norway, Denmark and Gaul. Gaul is still held by the Roman Empire when it is conquered, and Arthur's victory naturally leads to a further confrontation between his empire and Rome's. Arthur and his warriors, including Kaius (Kay), Beduerus (Bedivere) and Gualguanus (Gawain), defeat the Roman emperor Lucius Tiberius in Gaul but, as he prepares to march on Rome, Arthur hears that his nephew Modredus (Mordred) – whom he had left in charge of Britain – has married his wife Guenhuuara (Guinevere) and seized the throne. Arthur returns to Britain and defeats and kills Modredus on the river Camblam in Cornwall, but he is mortally wounded. He hands the crown to his kinsman Constantine and is taken to the isle of Avalon to be healed of his wounds, never to be seen again.[48]


How much of this narrative was Geoffrey's own invention is open to debate. Certainly, Geoffrey seems to have made use of the list of Arthur's twelve battles against the Saxons found in the 9th-century Historia Brittonum, along with the battle of Camlann from the Annales Cambriae and the idea that Arthur was still alive.[50] Arthur's personal status as the king of all Britain would also seem to be borrowed from pre-Galfridian tradition, being found in Culhwch and Olwen, the Triads and the Saints' Lives.[51] Finally, Geoffrey borrowed many of the names for Arthur's possessions, close family and companions from the pre-Galfridian Welsh tradition, including Kaius (Cei), Beduerus (Bedwyr), Guenhuuara (Gwenhwyfar), Uther (Uthyr) and perhaps also Caliburnus (Caledfwlch), the latter becoming Excalibur in subsequent Arthurian tales.[52] However, while names, key events and titles may have been borrowed, Brynley Roberts has argued that "the Arthurian section is Geoffrey’s literary creation and it owes nothing to prior narrative."[53] So, for instance, the Welsh Medraut is made the villainous Modredus by Geoffrey, but there is no trace of such a negative character for this figure in Welsh sources until the 16th century.[54] There have been relatively few modern attempts to challenge this notion that the Historia Regum Britanniae is primarily Geoffrey's own work, with scholarly opinion often echoing William of Newburgh's late-12th-century comment that Geoffrey "made up" his narrative, perhaps through an "inordinate love of lying".[55] Geoffrey Ashe is one dissenter from this view, believing that Geoffrey's narrative is partially derived from a lost source telling of the deeds of a 5th-century British king named Riotamus, this figure being the original Arthur, although historians and Celticists have been reluctant to follow Ashe in his conclusions.[56]

Whatever his sources may have been, the immense popularity of Geoffrey's Historia Regum Britanniae cannot be denied. Well over 200 manuscript copies of Geoffrey’s Latin work are known to have survived, and this does not include translations into other languages.[57] Thus, for example, around 60 manuscripts are extant containing Welsh-language versions of the Historia, the earliest of which were created in the 13th century; the old notion that some of these Welsh versions actually underlie Geoffrey's Historia, advanced by antiquarians such as the 18th-century Lewis Morris, has long since been discounted in academic circles.[58] As a result of this popularity, Geoffrey's Historia Regum Britanniae was enormously influential on the later medieval development of the Arthurian legend. While it was by no means the only creative force behind Arthurian romance, many of its elements were borrowed and developed (e.g., Merlin and the final fate of Arthur), and it provided the historical framework into which the romancers' tales of magical and wonderful adventures were inserted.[59]

Romance traditions

The popularity of Geoffrey's Historia and its other derivative works (such as Wace's Roman de Brut) is generally agreed to be an important factor in explaining the appearance of significant numbers of new Arthurian works in continental Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries, particularly in France.[60] It was not, however, the only Arthurian influence on the developing "Matter of Britain". There is clear evidence for a knowledge of Arthur and Arthurian tales on the Continent before Geoffrey's work became widely known (see for example, the Modena Archivolt),[61] as well as for the use of "Celtic" names and stories not found in Geoffrey's Historia in the Arthurian romances.[62] From the perspective of Arthur, perhaps the most significant effect of this great outpouring of new Arthurian story was on the role of the king himself: much of this 12th-century and later Arthurian literature centres less on Arthur himself than on characters such as Lancelot and Guenevere, Perceval, Galahad, Gawain, and Tristan and Isolde. Whereas Arthur is very much at the centre of the pre-Galfridian material and Geoffrey's Historia itself, in the romances he is rapidly sidelined.[63] His character also alters significantly. In both the earliest materials and Geoffrey he is a great and ferocious warrior, who laughs as he personally slaughters witches and giants and takes a leading role in all military campaigns,[64] whereas in the continental romances he becomes the roi fainéant, the "do-nothing king", whose "inactivity and acquiescence constituted a central flaw in his otherwise ideal society".[65] Arthur's role in these works is frequently that of a wise, dignified, even-tempered, somewhat bland, and occasionally feeble monarch. So, he simply turns pale and silent when he learns of Lancelot's affair with Guinevere in the Mort Artu, whilst in Chrétien de Troyes's Yvain, the Knight of the Lion he is unable to stay awake after a feast and has to retire for a nap.[66] Nonetheless, as Norris J. Lacy has observed, whatever his faults and frailties may be in these Arthurian romances, "his prestige is never – or almost never – compromised by his personal weaknesses ... his authority and glory remain intact."[67]


Arthur and his retinue appear in some of the Lais of Marie de France,[68] but it was the work of another French poet, Chrétien de Troyes, that had the greatest influence with regard to the above development of the character of Arthur and his legend.[69] Chrétien wrote five Arthurian romances between c. 1170 and c. 1190. Erec and Enide and Cligès are tales of courtly love with Arthur's court as their backdrop, demonstrating the shift away from the heroic world of the Welsh and Galfridian Arthur, while Yvain, the Knight of the Lion features Yvain and Gawain in a supernatural adventure, with Arthur very much on the sidelines and weakened. However, the most significant for the development of the Arthurian legend are Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart, which introduces Lancelot and his adulterous relationship with Arthur's queen (Guinevere), extending and popularizing the recurring theme of Arthur as a cuckold, and Perceval, the Story of the Grail, which introduces the Holy Grail and the Fisher King and which again sees Arthur having a much reduced role.[70] Chrétien was thus "instrumental both in the elaboration of the Arthurian legend and in the establishment of the ideal form for the diffusion of that legend",[71] and much of what came after him in terms of the portrayal of Arthur and his world built upon the foundations he had laid. Perceval, although unfinished, was particularly popular: four separate continuations of the poem appeared over the next half century, with the notion of the Grail and its quest being developed by other writers such as Robert de Boron, a fact that helped accelerate the decline of Arthur in continental romance.[72] Similarly, Lancelot and his cuckolding of Arthur with Guinevere became one of the classic motifs of the Arthurian legend, although the Lancelot of the prose Lancelot (c. 1225) and later texts was a combination of Chrétien's character and that of Ulrich von Zatzikhoven's Lanzelet.[73] Chrétien's work even appears to feed back into Welsh Arthurian literature, with the result that the romance Arthur began to replace the heroic, active Arthur in Welsh literary tradition.[74] Particularly significant in this development were the three Welsh Arthurian romances, which are closely similar to those of Chrétien, albeit with some significant differences: Owain, or the Lady of the Fountain is related to Chrétien's Yvain; Geraint and Enid, to Erec and Enide; and Peredur son of Efrawg, to Perceval.[75]


Up to c. 1210, continental Arthurian romance was expressed primarily through poetry; after this date the tales began to be told in prose. The most significant of these 13th-century prose romances was the Vulgate Cycle, (also known as the Lancelot-Grail Cycle), a series of five Middle French prose works written in the first half of that century.[76] These works were the Estoire del Saint Grail, the Estoire de Merlin, the Lancelot propre (or Prose Lancelot, which made up half the entire Vulgate Cycle on its own), the Queste del Saint Graal and the Mort Artu, which combine to form the first coherent version of the entire Arthurian legend. The cycle continued the trend towards reducing the role played by Arthur in his own legend, partly through the introduction of the character of Galahad and an expansion of the role of Merlin. It also made Mordred the result of an incestuous relationship between Arthur and his sister and established the role of Camelot, first mentioned in passing in Chrétien's Lancelot, as Arthur's primary court.[77] This series of texts was quickly followed by the Post-Vulgate Cycle (c. 1230–40), of which the Suite du Merlin is a part, which greatly reduced the importance of Lancelot's affair with Guinevere but continued to sideline Arthur, now in order to focus more on the Grail quest.[76] As such, Arthur became even more of a relatively minor character in these French prose romances; in the Vulgate itself he only figures significantly in the Estoire de Merlin and the Mort Artu.

The development of the medieval Arthurian cycle and the character of the "Arthur of romance" culminated in Le Morte d'Arthur, Thomas Malory's retelling of the entire legend in a single work in English in the late 15th century. Malory based his book – originally titled The Whole Book of King Arthur and of His Noble Knights of the Round Table – on the various previous romance versions, in particular the Vulgate Cycle, and appears to have aimed at creating a comprehensive and authoritative collection of Arthurian stories.[78] Perhaps as a result of this, and the fact that Le Morte D'Arthur was one of the earliest printed books in England, published by William Caxton in 1485, most later Arthurian works are derivative of Malory's.[79]

Decline, revival, and the modern legend
Post-medieval literature

The end of the Middle Ages brought with it a waning of interest in King Arthur. Although Malory's English version of the great French romances was popular, there were increasing attacks upon the truthfulness of the historical framework of the Arthurian romances – established since Geoffrey of Monmouth's time – and thus the legitimacy of the whole Matter of Britain. So, for example, the 16th-century humanist scholar Polydore Vergil famously rejected the claim that Arthur was the ruler of a post-Roman empire, found throughout the post-Galfridian medieval "chronicle tradition", to the horror of Welsh and English antiquarians.[80] Social changes associated with the end of the medieval period and the Renaissance also conspired to rob the character of Arthur and his associated legend of some of their power to enthral audiences, with the result that 1634 saw the last printing of Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur for nearly 200 years.[81] King Arthur and the Arthurian legend were not entirely abandoned, but until the early 19th century the material was taken less seriously and was often used simply as vehicle for allegories of 17th- and 18th-century politics.[82] Thus Richard Blackmore's epics Prince Arthur (1695) and King Arthur (1697) feature Arthur as an allegory for the struggles of William III against James II.[82] Similarly, the most popular Arthurian tale throughout this period seems to have been that of Tom Thumb, which was told first through chapbooks and later through the political plays of Henry Fielding; although the action is clearly set in Arthurian Britain, the treatment is humorous and Arthur appears as a primarily comedic version of his romance character.[83]

Tennyson and the revival

Beardsley-Lancelot-and-Witch.jpg

In the early 19th century, medievalism, Romanticism, and the Gothic Revival reawakened interest in Arthur and the medieval romances. A new code of ethics for 19th-century gentlemen was shaped around the chivalric ideals that the "Arthur of romance" embodied. This renewed interest first made itself felt in 1816, when Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur was reprinted for the first time since 1634.[84] Initially the medieval Arthurian legends were of particular interest to poets, inspiring, for example, William Wordsworth to write "The Egyptian Maid" (1835), an allegory of the Holy Grail.[85] Pre-eminent among these was Alfred Lord Tennyson, whose first Arthurian poem, "The Lady of Shalott", was published in 1832.[86] Although Arthur himself played a minor role in some of these works, following in the medieval romance tradition, Tennyson's Arthurian work reached its peak of popularity with Idylls of the King, which reworked the entire narrative of Arthur's life for the Victorian era. First published in 1859, it sold 10,000 copies within the first week.[87] In the Idylls, Arthur became a symbol of ideal manhood whose attempt to establish a perfect kingdom on earth fails, finally, through human weakness.[88] Tennyson's works prompted a large number of imitators, generated considerable public interest in the legends of Arthur and the character himself, and brought Malory’s tales to a wider audience.[89] Indeed, the first modernization of Malory's great compilation of Arthur's tales was published shortly after Idylls appeared, in 1862, and there were six further editions and five competitors before the century ended.[90]

This interest in the "Arthur of romance" and his associated stories continued through the 19th century and into the 20th, and influenced poets such as William Morris and Pre-Raphaelite artists including Edward Burne-Jones.[91] Even the humorous tale of Tom Thumb, which had been the primary manifestation of Arthur's legend in the 18th century, was rewritten after the publication of Idylls. While Tom maintained his small stature and remained a figure of comic relief, his story now included more elements from the medieval Arthurian romances, and Arthur is treated more seriously and historically in these new versions.[92] The revived Arthurian romance also proved influential in the United States, with such books as Sidney Lanier's The Boy's King Arthur (1880) reaching wide audiences and providing inspiration for Mark Twain's satiric A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889).[93] Although the "Arthur of romance" was sometimes central to these new Arthurian works (as he was in Burne-Jones's The Last Sleep of Arthur in Avalon, 1881–1898), on other occasions he reverted back to his medieval status and is either marginalised or even missing entirely, with Wagner's Arthurian operas providing a notable instance of the latter.[94] Furthermore, the revival of interest in Arthur and the Arthurian tales did not continue unabated. By the end of the 19th century, it was confined mainly to Pre-Raphaelite imitators,[95] and it could not avoid being affected by the First World War, which damaged the reputation of chivalry and thus interest in its medieval manifestations and Arthur as chivalric role model.[96] The romance tradition did, however, remain sufficiently powerful to persuade Thomas Hardy, Laurence Binyon and John Masefield to compose Arthurian plays,[97] and T. S. Eliot alludes to the Arthur myth (but not Arthur) in his poem The Waste Land, which mentions the Fisher King.[98

Modern legend

aubrey_beardsley.png
In the latter half of the 20th century, the influence of the romance tradition of Arthur continued, through novels such as T. H. White's The Once and Future King (1958) and Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon (1982) in addition to comic strips such as Prince Valiant (from 1937 onward).[99] Tennyson had reworked the romance tales of Arthur to suit and comment upon the issues of his day, and the same is often the case with modern treatments too. Bradley's tale, for example, takes a feminist approach to Arthur and his legend, in contrast to the narratives of Arthur found in medieval materials,[100] and American authors often rework the story of Arthur to be more consistent with values such as equality and democracy.[101] The romance Arthur has become popular in film as well. The musical Camelot, with its focus on the love of Lancelot and Guinevere and the cuckolding of Arthur, was made into a film in 1967. The romance tradition of Arthur is particularly evident and, according to critics, successfully handled in Robert Bresson's Lancelot du Lac (1974), Eric Rohmer's Perceval le Gallois (1978) and perhaps John Boorman's fantasy film Excalibur (1981); it is also the main source of the material utilised in the Arthurian spoof Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975).[102]

Re-tellings and re-imaginings of the romance tradition are not the only important aspect of the modern legend of King Arthur. Attempts to portray Arthur as a genuine historical figure of c. 500 AD, stripping away the "romance", have also emerged. As Taylor and Brewer
have noted, this return to the medieval "chronicle tradition"' of Geoffrey of Monmouth and the Historia Brittonum is a recent trend which became dominant in Arthurian literature in the years following the outbreak of the Second World War, when Arthur's legendary resistance to Germanic invaders struck a chord in Britain.[103] Clemence Dane's series of radio plays, The Saviours (1942), used a historical Arthur to embody the spirit of heroic resistance against desperate odds, and Robert Sherriff's play The Long Sunset (1955) saw Arthur rallying Romano-British resistance against the Germanic invaders.[104] This trend towards placing Arthur in a historical setting is also apparent in historical and fantasy novels published during this period.[105] In recent years the portrayal of Arthur as a real hero of the 5th century has also made its way into film versions of the Arthurian legend, most notably King Arthur (2004) and The Last Legion (2007).[106]

Arthur has also been used as a model for modern-day behaviour. In the 1930s, the Order of the Fellowship of the Knights of the Round Table formed in Britain to promote Christian ideals and Arthurian notions of medieval chivalry.[107] In the United States, hundreds of thousands of boys and girls joined Arthurian youth groups, such as the Knights of King Arthur, in which Arthur and his legends were promoted as wholesome exemplars.[108] However, Arthur's diffusion within contemporary culture goes beyond such obviously Arthurian endeavours, with Arthurian names being regularly attached to objects, buildings and places. As Norris J. Lacy has observed, "The popular notion of Arthur appears to be limited, not surprisingly, to a few motifs and names, but there can be no doubt of the extent to which a legend born many centuries ago is profoundly embedded in modern culture at every level."[109]

Notes

   1. ^ Barber 1986, p. 141
   2. ^ Higham 2002, pp. 11–37, has a summary of the debate on this point.
   3. ^ Charles-Edwards 1991, p. 15; Sims-Williams 1991. Y Gododdin cannot be dated precisely: it describes 6th-century events and contains 9th- or 10th- century spelling, but the surviving copy is 13th-century.
   4. ^ Thorpe 1966, but see also Loomis 1956
   5. ^ See Padel 1994; Sims-Williams 1991; Green 2007b; and Roberts 1991a
   6. ^ Dumville 1986; Higham 2002, pp. 116–69; Green 2007b, pp. 15–26, 30–38.
   7. ^ Green 2007b, pp. 26–30; Koch 1996, pp. 251–53.
   8. ^ Charles-Edwards 1991, p. 29
   9. ^ Morris 1973
  10. ^ Myres 1986, p. 16
  11. ^ Gildas, De Excidio Britanniae, chapter 26.
  12. ^ Pryor 2004, pp. 22–27
  13. ^ Bede, Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, Book 1.16.
  14. ^ Dumville 1977, pp. 187–88
  15. ^ Green 1998; Padel 1994; Green 2007b, chapters five and seven.
  16. ^ Historia Brittonum 56; Annales Cambriae 516, 537.
  17. ^ For example, Ashley 2005.
  18. ^ Heroic Age 1999
  19. ^ Modern scholarship views the Glastonbury cross as the result of a probably late 12th-century fraud. See Rahtz 1993 and Carey 1999.
  20. ^ These range from Lucius Artorius Castus, a Roman officer who served in Britain in the 2nd century (Littleton & Malcor 1994), to Roman usurper emperors such as Magnus Maximus or sub-Roman British rulers such as Riotamus (Ashe 1985), Ambrosius Aurelianus (Reno 1996), Owain Ddantgwyn (Phillips & Keatman 1992), and Athrwys ap Meurig (Gilbert, Wilson & Blackett 1998)
  21. ^ Malone 1925
  22. ^ See Higham 2002, p. 74.
  23. ^ Koch 1996, p. 253. See further Malone 1925 and Green 2007b, p. 255 on how Artorius would regular take the form Arthur when borrowed into Welsh.
  24. ^ a b c Griffen 1994
  25. ^ Harrison, Henry (1996) [1912]. Surnames of the United Kingdom: A Concise Etymological Dictionary. Genealogical Publishing Company. ISBN 0-806-30171-6. http://books.google.com/books?id=H1msWqD0SA4C. Retrieved 2008-10-21.
  26. ^ Anderson 2004, pp. 28–29; Green 2007b, pp. 191–94
  27. ^ Green 2007b, pp. 178–87.
  28. ^ Green 2007b, pp. 45–176
  29. ^ Green 2007b, pp. 93–130
  30. ^ Padel 1994 has a thorough discussion of this aspect of Arthur's character.
  31. ^ Green 2007b, pp. 135–76. On his possessions and wife, see also Ford 1983.
  32. ^ Williams 1937, p. 64, line 1242
  33. ^ Charles-Edwards 1991, p. 15; Koch 1996, pp. 242–45; Green 2007b, pp. 13–15, 50–52.
  34. ^ See, for example, Haycock 1983–84 and Koch 1996, pp. 264–65.
  35. ^ Online translations of this poem are out-dated and inaccurate. See Haycock 2007, pp. 293–311, for a full translation, and Green 2007b, p. 197 for a discussion of its Arthurian aspects.
  36. ^ See, for example, Green 2007b, pp. 54–67 and Budgey 1992, who includes a translation.
  37. ^ Koch & Carey 1994, pp. 314–15
  38. ^ Sims-Williams 1991, pp. 38–46 has a full translation and analysis of this poem.
  39. ^ For a discussion of the tale, see Bromwich & Evans 1992; see also Padel 1994, pp. 2–4; Roberts 1991a; and Green 2007b, pp. 67–72 and chapter three.
  40. ^ Barber 1986, pp. 17–18, 49; Bromwich 1978
  41. ^ Roberts 1991a, pp. 78, 81
  42. ^ Roberts 1991a
  43. ^ Translated in Coe & Young 1995, pp. 22–27. On the Glastonbury tale and its Otherworldly antecedents, see Sims-Williams 1991, pp. 58–61.
  44. ^ Coe & Young 1995, pp. 26–37
  45. ^ See Ashe 1985 for an attempt to use this vita as a historical source.
  46. ^ Padel 1994, pp. 8–12; Green 2007b, pp. 72–5, 259, 261–2; Bullock-Davies 1982
  47. ^ Wright 1985; Thorpe 1966
  48. ^ Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia Regum Britanniae Book 8.19–24, Book 9, Book 10, Book 11.1–2
  49. ^ Thorpe 1966
  50. ^ Roberts 1991b, p. 106; Padel 1994, pp. 11–12
  51. ^ Green 2007b, pp. 217–19
  52. ^ Roberts 1991b, pp. 109–10, 112; Bromwich & Evans 1992, pp. 64–5
  53. ^ Roberts 1991b, p. 108
  54. ^ Bromwich 1978, pp. 454–55
  55. ^ See, for example, Brooke 1986, p. 95.
  56. ^ Ashe 1985, p. 6; Padel 1995, p. 110; Higham 2002, p. 76.
  57. ^ Crick 1989
  58. ^ Sweet 2004, p. 140. See further, Roberts 1991b and Roberts 1980.
  59. ^ As noted by, for example, Ashe 1996.
  60. ^ For example, Thorpe 1966, p. 29
  61. ^ Stokstad 1996
  62. ^ Loomis 1956; Bromwich 1983; Bromwich 1991.
  63. ^ Lacy 1996a, p. 16; Morris 1982, p. 2.
  64. ^ For example, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia Regum Britanniae Book 10.3.
  65. ^ Padel 2000, p. 81
  66. ^ Morris 1982, pp. 99–102; Lacy 1996a, p. 17.
  67. ^ Lacy 1996a, p. 17
  68. ^ Burgess & Busby 1999
  69. ^ Lacy 1996b
  70. ^ Kibler & Carroll 1991, p. 1
  71. ^ Lacy 1996b, p. 88
  72. ^ Roach 1949–83
  73. ^ Ulrich, von Zatzikhoven 2005
  74. ^ Padel 2000, pp. 77–82
  75. ^ See Jones & Jones 1949 for accurate translations of all three texts. It is not entirely certain what, exactly, the relationship is between these Welsh romances and Chrétien's works, however: see Koch 1996, pp. 280–88 for a survey of opinions
  76. ^ a b Lacy 1992–96
  77. ^ For a study of this cycle, see Burns 1985.
  78. ^ On Malory and his work, see Field 1993 and Field 1998.
  79. ^ Vinaver 1990
  80. ^ Carley 1984
  81. ^ Parins 1995, p. 5
  82. ^ a b Ashe 1968, pp. 20–21; Merriman 1973
  83. ^ Green 2007a
  84. ^ Parins 1995, pp. 8–10
  85. ^ Wordsworth 1835
  86. ^ See Potwin 1902 for the sources Tennyson used when writing this poem
  87. ^ Taylor & Brewer 1983, p. 127
  88. ^ See Rosenberg 1973 and Taylor & Brewer 1983, pp. 89–128 for analyses of The Idylls of the King.
  89. ^ See, for example, Simpson 1990.
  90. ^ Staines 1996, p. 449
  91. ^ Taylor & Brewer 1983, pp. 127–161; Mancoff 1990.
  92. ^ Green 2007a, p. 127; Gamerschlag 1983
  93. ^ Twain 1889; Smith & Thompson 1996.
  94. ^ Watson 2002
  95. ^ Mancoff 1990
  96. ^ Workman 1994
  97. ^ Hardy 1923; Binyon 1923; and Masefield 1927
  98. ^ Eliot 1949; Barber 2004, pp. 327–28
  99. ^ White 1958; Bradley 1982; Tondro 2002, p. 170
 100. ^ Lagorio 1996
 101. ^ Lupack & Lupack 1991
 102. ^ Harty 1996; Harty 1997
 103. ^ Taylor & Brewer 1983, chapter nine; see also Higham 2002, pp. 21–22, 30.
 104. ^ Thompson 1996, p. 141
 105. ^ For example: Rosemary Sutcliff's The Lantern Bearers (1959) and Sword at Sunset (1963); Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave (1970) and its sequels; Parke Godwin's Firelord (1980) and its sequels; Stephen Lawhead's Pendragon Cycle (1987–99); Nikolai Tolstoy's The Coming of the King (1988); Jack Whyte's Camulod Chronicles (1992–97); and Bernard Cornwell's The Warlord Chronicles (1995–97). See List of books about King Arthur.
 106. ^ King Arthur at the Internet Movie Database; The Last Legion at the Internet Movie Database
 107. ^ Thomas 1993, pp. 128–31
 108. ^ Lupack 2002, p. 2; Forbush & Forbush 1915
 109. ^ Lacy 1996c, p. 364


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