Medieval French King Arthur Stories - Wace (1155), Vulgate Cycle (1215-1235) and Robert de Boron (1200)

Wace 1155

Wace was an Anglo-Norman author, who wrote the Roman de Brut, in 1155. This was a French adaptation of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia regum Britanniae. Wace's work varied in places from Geoffrey's. Wace was the first to introduce the knightly fellowship of the Round Tabler. Wace's work on Arthur spread the popularity of the legend in French and Anglo-Norman courts, where a new genre of literature was soon developed by Chretien de Troyes from 1170 to 1185

Vulgate Cycle 1215-1235

The five-part romance which was composed by several authors, probably Cistercian monks in France between 1215-1235.

The Vulgate Cycle either elaborated the earlier work of Geoffrey of Monmouth and Wace or added new adventures. Arthur and Gawain become less important so that new heroes such as Lancelot, Galahad and Tristan can be seen.

The Vulgate Cycle has eight large volumes to give the whole Arthurian story as we now know it. Scholars believe that the outline for the cycle was the work of one man but that several authors wrote the works.

The Vulgate Cycle makes Lancelot the main character and the tragic love of Lancelot and Guinevere a crucial element of the downfall of Arthur's kingdom and his Round Table.

The Round Table, for the first time, is a means of righting wrongs and combating evil. The Knights of the Round Table are bound by chivalry to do good, and this mission to do good is the cental driving force of the Round Table for the first time. There is a sharp contrast between the sins of Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere and Mordred on the one hand, and goodness of Galahad and Perceval on the other.

Robert de Boron c1200

Despite being famous for his cycle of Arthurian Romances centred around the Holy Grail, very little is known about Robert de Boron. He was a French poet of the late 12th and early 13th centuries, probably originally from the village of Boron, in Montbéliard, France. He was the author of a two surviving poems, Joseph d'Arimathe and Merlin; Merlin survives only in fragments. The two are thought to have been part of a trilogy (or tetralogy) which also contained a verse Perceval, and possibly a Mort Artu (Death of Arthur).

In 1202, his master is known to have taken part in the Fourth Crusade from which he never returned, dying abroad ten years later. So Robert's Arthurian trilogy must have been written in the late 12th century, probably after the Glastonbury monks' 1191 "discovery" of King Arthur's body. His poems were the inspiration for the later Vulgate Cycle of Arthurian tales.

Robert was the first to identify Sir Percival's Grail as the Last Supper vessel used by St. Joseph of Arimathea to collect the blood of Christ from the Cross.

King Arthur in Literature