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NATIONAL LITERARY "MATTERS"
THE THREE CLASSIC MATTERS
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The MATTER OF BRITAIN is the body of Medieval literature and legendary material associated with Great Britain , and sometimes Brittany , and the legendary kings and heroes associated with it, particularly King Arthur . It was one of the three great literary cycles recalled repeatedly in medieval literature, together with the Matter of France , which concerned the legends of Charlemagne , and the Matter of Rome , which included material derived from or inspired by classical mythology .
* 1 History
* 2 Themes and subjects
* 2.1 Legendary history of Britain * 2.2 Arthurian cycle
* 3 Characters and subjects
* 3.1 Legendary kings and founders * 3.2 Arthur and his entourage * 3.3 Knights of the Round Table * 3.4 Other important figures
* 4 Noteworthy authors
* 4.1 Medieval * 4.2 Anonymous * 4.3 Modern
* 5 See also * 6 References * 7 External links
_Ne sont que III matières à nul homme atandant,_ _De France et de Bretaigne, et de Rome la grant._
There are but 3 matters that no man should be without, That of France, of Britain, and of great Rome.
The name distinguishes and relates the Matter of Britain from the mythological themes taken from classical antiquity , the "Matter of Rome ", and the tales of the paladins of Charlemagne and their wars with the Moors and Saracens , which constituted the "Matter of France ". Arthur is the chief subject of the Matter of Britain, though other lesser-known legendary history of Great Britain and Brittany is also covered, including the stories of Brutus of Troy , Coel Hen , Leir of Britain (King Lear), and Gogmagog . (See Legendary kings of the British .)
THEMES AND SUBJECTS
LEGENDARY HISTORY OF BRITAIN
It could be said that the legendary history of Britain was created in part to form a body of patriotic myth for the country. Several agendas thus can be seen in this body of literature.
The _ Historia Brittonum _, the earliest known source of the story of Brutus of Troy, may have been devised to create a distinguished genealogy for a number of Welsh princes in the 9th century. Traditionally attributed to Nennius , its actual compiler is unknown; it exists in several recensions. This tale went on to achieve greater currency because its inventor linked Brutus to the diaspora of heroes that followed the Trojan War , and thus provided raw material which later mythographers such as Geoffrey of Monmouth , Michael Drayton , and John Milton could draw upon, linking the settlement of Britain to the heroic age of Greek literature , for their several and diverse literary purposes. As such, this material could be used for patriotic mythmaking just as Virgil linked the founding of Rome to the Trojan War in _The Æneid _. Geoffrey of Monmouth also introduced the fanciful claim that the Trinovantes , reported by Tacitus as dwelling in the area of London , had a name he interpreted as _Troi-novant_, "New Troy ".
More speculative claims link Welsh mythology with several of the rulers and incidents compiled by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his _Historia Regum Britanniæ _. It has been suggested, for instance, that Leir of Britain, who later became Shakespeare 's _ King Lear _, was originally the Welsh sea-god Llŷr (see also the Irish sea-god Ler ). Various Celtic deities have been identified with characters from Arthurian literature as well: Morgan le Fay was often thought to have originally been the Welsh goddess Modron (cf. the Morrígan ). Many of these identifications come from the speculative comparative religion of the late 19th century, and have been questioned in more recent years.
William Shakespeare was interested in the legendary history of Britain, and was familiar with some of its more obscure byways. Shakespeare's plays contain several tales relating to these legendary kings, such as _King Lear_ and _ Cymbeline _. It has been suggested that Shakespeare's Welsh schoolmaster Thomas Jenkins introduced him to this material, and perhaps directed him to read Geoffrey of Monmouth. These tales also figure in Raphael Holinshed 's _The Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland_, which also appears in Shakespeare's sources for _ Macbeth _.
Other early authors also drew from the early Arthurian and pseudo-historical sources of the Matter of Britain. The Scots , for instance, formulated a mythical history in the Picts and the Dál Riata royal lines. While they do eventually become factual lines, unlike those of Geoffrey, their origins are vague and often incorporate both aspects of mythical British history and mythical Irish history. The story of Gabrán mac Domangairt especially incorporates elements of both those histories.
The Arthurian literary cycle is the best known part of the Matter of Britain. It has succeeded largely because it tells two interlocking stories that have intrigued many later authors. One concerns Camelot , usually envisioned as a doomed utopia of chivalric virtue, undone by the fatal flaws of Arthur and Sir Lancelot. The other concerns the quests of the various knights to achieve the Holy Grail ; some succeed ( Galahad , Percival ), and others fail ( Lancelot ).
The medieval tale of Arthur and his knights is full of Christian themes; those themes involve the destruction of human plans for virtue by the moral failures of their characters, and the quest for an important Christian relic . Finally, the relationships between the characters invited treatment in the tradition of courtly love , such as Lancelot and Guinevere , or Tristan and Iseult . In more recent years, the trend has been to attempt to link the tales of King Arthur and his knights with Celtic mythology, usually in highly romanticized, early 20th century reconstructed versions.
The work of Jessie Weston , in particular From Ritual to Romance , traced Arthurian imagery through Christianity to roots in early nature worship and vegetation rites, though this interpretation is no longer fashionable..
Additionally, it is possible to read the Arthurian literature in general, and that concerned with the Grail tradition in particular, as an allegory of human development and spiritual growth (a theme explored by mythologist Joseph Campbell amongst others).
CHARACTERS AND SUBJECTS
LEGENDARY KINGS AND FOUNDERS
ARTHUR AND HIS ENTOURAGE
KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE
Main article: Round Table
OTHER IMPORTANT FIGURES
AUTHOR CENTURY ŒUVRES
Layamon 13th _Brut _
Thomas Malory 15th _Le Morte d\'Arthur _
Robert de Boron 12th _Estoire dou Graal _
Raoul de Houdenc 12th _Méraugis de Portlesguez _
Païen de Maisières 13th _La Demoiselle à la Mule _ (also called _La Mule sans Frein_)
Rustichello da Pisa 13th _Roman de Roi Artus _, _Gyron le courtois _, _Meliadus de Leonnoys _ (_Meliadus _)
_L\'Âtre Périlleux _ (on Gawain ) 13th century
_Blandin de Cornouaille _ 14th century
_Le Chevalier à l\'Épée _
_Le Chevalier au Papegau _
_La Demoiselle à la Mule _ 12th century
_Gliglois _ (hero who enters the service of Gawain)
_Life of Caradoc _
The _ Lancelot-Grail Cycle _ 13th century
The _ Mabinogion _ (medieval Welsh)
The _ Post-Vulgate Cycle _ 13th century
_Les Merveilles de Rigomer _ (Lancelot, Gawain and 58 knights) 13th century
_ Perlesvaus ou le Haut Livre du Graal _ 13th century
_Le Roman de Jaufré _
_Prose Tristan _
_ Stanzaic Morte Arthur _ 14th century
_ Alliterative Morte Arthur _ 14th–15th century
* Mary Stewart * Rosemary Sutcliff * Alfred, Lord Tennyson * John Ronald Reuel Tolkien * Mark Twain * Richard Wagner * Charles White * T. H. White * Jack Whyte * Charles Williams * Eric Idle * Elizabeth Wein
* Chivalry * Corineus * English historians in the Middle Ages * Glastonbury * Historical basis for King Arthur * Holy Grail * Knights of the Round Table * List of Arthurian characters * Mons Badonicus * _Monty Python and the Holy Grail_ (film) * Pendragon (fiction series) * Sites and places associated with Arthurian legend * _The Faerie Queene_ (poem) * _The Mists of Avalon_ (book)
* Derek Pearsall, _Arthurian Romance: a short introduction_, Blackwell, Oxford, 2005 * D. H. Green, _The Beginnings of Medieval Romance: Fact and fiction, 1150-1220_, CUP Cambridge 2005 * Carol Dover (ed), _A Companion to the Lancelot-Grail Cycle_, Boydell ;background:none transparent;border:none;-moz-box-shadow:none;-webkit-box-shadow:none;box-shadow:none;">v
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* King Arthur * Constantine * Sir Ector * Gawain * Gorlois * Queen Guinevere * Igraine * Iseult * Lady of the Lake * Lancelot * King Lot * King Mark * Merlin * Mordred * Morgan le Fay * Morgause * Percival * Tristan * Uther Pendragon
Knights of the Round Table
* Aglovale * Agravain * Bagdemagus * Bedivere * Bors * Breunor (La Cote Mal Taillée) * Calogrenant * Caradoc * Dagonet * Dinadan * Elyan the White * Erec * Gaheris * Galahad * Gareth * Geraint * Griflet * Hector de Maris * Hoel * Kay * Lamorak * Leodegrance * Lionel * Lucan * Maleagant * Morholt * Palamedes * Pelleas * Pellinore * Safir * Sagramore * Segwarides * Tor * Urien * Ywain * Ywain the Bastard
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