His exile, capture of Valencia, battles and combats quickly became the stuff of legend, and the poem is periodically republished.Each of the above editions is a fine translation, but for those curious about the medieval Spanish text, Hamilton and Perry’s parallel-text version would be ideal. Among its themes are extreme violence, Christian-Muslim relations, loyalty, and, above all, honor.
(TEAMS) produces scholarly, inexpensive critical editions of many medieval texts. Above are the two major English translations of the massive poem, originally in Middle High German. The result is an Arthurian tale which can appeal to a much younger audience than usually reaches for . , which is the story of a young boy coming of age and achieving knighthood in the aftermath of Henry IV’s usurpation in 1399, contains an excellent portrayal of a later medieval boy’s training for knighthood—page, squire, etc. has proven the most durable of his medieval offerings, providing a fine blend of romance, adventure, intrigue, tragedy, and comedy.
His account of the battle of Poitiers is especially vivid and illustrative of the violence and rough “civility” of knightly warfare. Joinville’s memoir is one of the most vivid accounts of chivalry, kingship, and warfare to survive from the Middle Ages, and Shaw’s prose enhances this vitality. The cycle was expanded over the years, mostly by way of back story (particularly Merlin’s story and the history of the Grail), and the entire work is massive, both in physical size and range of themes. Vinaver’s edition has long been the standard one, and keeps the contemporary spelling as well as the language.
is a (probably fourteenth-century) poem about an incident at King Arthur’s court, which puts Gawain’s courage to the test in an extreme fashion. Students can gain a great deal of insight into how thirteenth-century knights made war, what a medieval battle was like, and what sort of ideology crusading knights possessed, if they peruse Joinville’s recollections of Louis IX’s reign and crusade. The volumes above are the three major parts of the series, with the Grail Quest and the finale (Arthur’s death) being presented entire, while the first volume, that of Lancelot’s youthful adventures, is a selection from the extremely long first part. Brian Price presents a readable and affordable edition of two very popular medieval treatises: the thirteenth-century knight and mystic Ramon Lull’s , which tells the story of a knight captured by the great sultan Saladin, who asks the knight to explain western chivalry to him. The new Norton critical edition does likewise, and has a critical footnote system as well.
Yet Geoffrey lends a different voice to chivalry, for he celebrates at great length the deeds of King Arthur, particularly his battles and his reputation as a warrior king. On the other hand, Matthews’ is the largest and most physically awkward of the three, and even though it possesses some evocative illustrations, it includes hardly any critical apparatus besides a glossary. Ipswich/Totowa: Brewer/Rowman and Littlefield, 1978. I have included this book, less for its availability or classroom usefulness than to alert instructors that there was more than one medieval “take” on the Grail legend, and some proved popular into the early twentieth century.
Scholars have long debated whether or not there is any historical evidence for Geoffrey’s story, with a heavy majority going against the idea. This particular version is the brooding, violent, and simply mysterious , translated here in fine fashion by Nigel Bryant.