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Brit Lit II: Cuchulainn and Arthur

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Stephanie Womick

on 5 February 2013

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Transcript of Brit Lit II: Cuchulainn and Arthur

The Real (?) King Arthur: Celtic Origins Early 12th Century: Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain The French author takes over the Arthur legend and changes it. Arthur takes a backseat, being portrayed as a fairly weak and ineffectual king. Lancelot enters the scene, very much French, and heroic and debonair in contrast to Arthur--the affair between Lancelot and Guinevere begins. The action is transferred to Arthur's Knights, Gawain, Percival, Lancelot, Bedivere, each going off on their own adventures. A former soldier from a noble family, Malory is imprisoned for a variety of crimes (theft, rape, and murder). While in prison, he writes the most lasting account of Arthur. There are Romano-British historical accounts of a warrior who (with limited success) fought against the invading Anglo-Saxons after the removal of the Roman Legions.

There are also Welsh legends of an Arthur who is variously a superhuman scoundrel or a Christian national hero.

Ultimately, the evidence for a "real" Arthur is scant and highly debated. Geoffrey, a cleric and later bishop, wrote a Latin pseudo-history that flattered the Norman conquerors by drawing connections between them and the British Arthur.
Geoffrey introduces Merlin, Igraine (Arthur's mother), Guinevere, Mordred, Arthur's mortal wound and removal to Avalon. 1155: Wace, Roman de Brut Wace, a Norman cleric, wrote a free translation of Geoffrey's work in French and presented it to the Anglo-Norman queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, a devotee of courtly love romances. Wace adapts the work to reflect new interest in chivalry and idealized love. In Wace's version, "Arthur is becoming slightly less of a national religious leader and warrior and slightly more of a Europeanized chivalric hero" (Pearsall 15). Early 13th Century: Layamon, Brut Layamon, an "obscure country priest" translates Wace into English, and write more in the vein of national epic than frilly romance. He introduces the Round Table, a way of diminishing petty differences that were developing in Arthur's court. Late 12th Century: Chretien de Troyes Late 15th Century: Sir Thomas Malory, Morte Darthur The Myth of Arthur's Return What do Geoffrey's, Wace's, and Layamon's accounts all have in common? Where do they agree? Geoffrey's account of Arthur's death is the shortest. What does he suggest about Arthur's return? What does this suggest about Geoffrey's purpose in writing? Wace and Layamon give somewhat more detailed accounts of Arthur's "death." What does the account suggest about Arthur's possible return? What does this say about the author's purpose in writing? If you are on this side of the room, look at Wace If you are on this side of the room, look at Layamon. 1135: War of Succession between Stephen of Blois and his cousin Matilda 1215-1217: First Baron's War The nobility fought against King John when he ignored the rights granted them in the Magna Carta 1455-1485: War of the Roses War of succession between the houses of York and Lancaster Arthur and Cuchulainn both start as Celtic heroes. Could Cuchulainn have become an Arthur?
Based on what we have discussed and on our reading, what are the similarities and differences between the two characters? Tintagel, supposed birthplace of Arthur Salisbury Plain, site of final battle Glastonbury, supposed resting place of Arthur Who is King Arthur?
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