Arthurian Literature XIX

Arthurian Literature XIX: Comedy in Arthurian Literature

KEITH BUSBY
ROGER DALRYMPLE
Volume: 19
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt81fpd
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  • Book Info
    Arthurian Literature XIX
    Book Description:

    The texts analyzed underline the wide dissemination of the Arthurian story in medieval and post-medieval Europe, from Scotland to Italy, while the various analyses of the manifestations of comedy refute the notion of romance as a humourless genre. Indeed, the comic treatment of conventional themes and motifs appears to be not only characteristic of later romance but an essential element of the genre from its beginnings and from its earliest development. Authors of Arthurian romance, from Chrétien de Troyes to Malory, writing in French, Italian, Middle Dutch, and Middle English, and the creators of an Irish prose-tale, all question the fundamental assumptions of romance and romance values through the medium of comedy. The theme of comedy in Arthurian romance has been developed from the orignal session at the Arthurian Congress in Toulouse. Contributors: ELIZABETH ARCHIBALD, FRANK BRANDSMA, CHRISTINE FERLAMPIN-ACHER, LINDA GOWANS, DONALD L. HOFFMAN, MARGOLEIN HOGENBIRK, NORRIS J. LACY, MARILYN LAWRENCE, BENEDICTE MILLAND-BOVE, PETER S. NOBLE, KAREN PRATT, ANGELICA RIEGER, ELIZABETH S. SKLAR, FRANCESCO ZAMBON.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-025-8
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. GENERAL EDITOR’S FOREWORD
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Keith Busby

    There can be little doubt that humour is a fundamental characteristic of the genre of Arthurian romance. Indeed, the comic treatment of conventional themes and motifs appears to be not only an attribute of later romance (say, the Chrétien epigones or the prose Tristan) as is sometimes assumed, but an essential element of the genre from the earliest stages of its development. The range of texts examined in the essays included in Vol. XIX of Arthurian Literature once more underlines the wide dissemination of the Arthurian story in medieval and post-medieval Europe, from Ireland to Italy, while the various analyses...

  4. I COMEDY AND TRAGEDY IN SOME ARTHURIAN RECOGNITION SCENES
    (pp. 1-16)
    Elizabeth Archibald

    Recognition scenes were a staple of classical drama, as Aristotle’s famous comments on Oedipus and other plays bear witness.¹ Towards the end of one of Menander’s comedies, The Arbitrants, a character remarks ‘And now they have had a recognition scene, and all is well.’² Recognition scenes are also a common feature of Arthurian and other medieval romances and narratives of love and adventure, and often provide comic closure to an episode or to a complete narrative. Sometimes the recognition involves the abandoning of a disguise or pseudonym adopted by the Fair Unknown, but sometimes he himself has been unaware of...

  5. II MERVEILLEUX ET COMIQUE DANS LES ROMANS ARTHURIENS FRANÇAIS (XIIe–XVe SIECLES)
    (pp. 17-48)
    Christine Ferlampin-Acher

    Au terme d’une synthèse sur ‘merveilleux et roman (XIIe–XVe siècles)’,¹ j’ai pu mettre en évidence une formulation caractéristique du merveilleux, présente, nonobstant des variations, dans l’ensemble de la production romanesque de cette époque: le merveilleux est inscrit dans le texte à travers la présence de merveille, relayé par un ou plusieurs termes de la même famille, par un verbe de vision, par un ou plusieurs termes correspondant à une tentative d’élucidation (magique, féerique, chrétienne . . .). Indépendamment des croyances du lecteur grâce à la présence d’un ‘lecteur inscrit’ qui dicte ses réactions au lecteur réel (par le biais...

  6. III LA BANDE DESSINEE VIRTUELLE DU LION D’YVAIN: SUR LE SENS DE L’HUMOUR DE CHRETIEN DE TROYES
    (pp. 49-64)
    Angelica Rieger

    Les effets comiques des interventions du lion dans le roman d’Yvain, n’ont-ils pas été commentés à satiété? Ne suffit-il pas de relire Peter Haidu et Charles Méla et de citer leurs formules-clés du comique ‘absurde’ du Lionqueue-coupée et de l’‘héroï-comique’¹ pour se convaincre que, en matière du comique léonin, tout est dit depuis longtemps? Pourquoi donc reprendre la discussion en cette fin de millénaire? Il faut, en effet, une bonne raison à cela – et la voilà: elle tend à prendre Chrétien trop au sérieux. Les interprétations récentes du quatrième roman de Chrétien de Troyes ont tendance à oublier ses côtés...

  7. IV CONVENTION, COMEDY, AND THE FORM OF LA VENGEANCE RAGUIDEL
    (pp. 65-76)
    Norris J. Lacy

    La Vengeance Raguidel, by Raoul,¹ is doubtless remembered best – by readers who know it at all – for its inclusion of a fabliau-like scene that, as Beate Schmolke-Hasselmann points out, ‘is generally regarded as the most improper in the whole of French Arthurian literature.’² That the romance is otherwise not widely known may be due in part to dismissive judgments from past generations of scholars. Micha, for example, suggested that it lacks unity,³ and long before that Bruce had found it a ‘rambling’ composition, inferior in interest to Meraugis de Portlesguez – no mild criticism since he considered Meraugis poorly constructed, extravagant,...

  8. V LE COMIQUE DANS LES MERVEILLES DE RIGOMER ET HUNBAUT
    (pp. 77-86)
    Peter S. Noble

    Le roman des Merveilles de Rigomer date, d’après Thomas Vesce, son éditeur et traducteur,¹ de la fin du douzième siècle, probablement après 1187, date de la publication du Topographica Hibernica et Expugnatio Hibernica de Giraldus Cambrensis, d’où selon Vesce il se peut que l’auteur de Rigomer ait tiré les détails irlandais de son roman (p. XV). Hunbaut aurait été composé entre 1250 et 1275 selon Margaret Winters, qui a édité le texte, mais elle estime que la date de 1250 est une réelle possibilité (p. XXVIII).² Les deux romans ont le même personnage principal, c’est à dire Gauvain,³ et tous...

  9. VI HUMOUR IN THE ROMAN DE SILENCE
    (pp. 87-104)
    Karen Pratt

    Heldris de Cornuälle’s Roman de Silence has in recent years received the attention from scholars this fascinating romance deserves, and has in particular provided rich pickings for gender and post-structuralist criticism.¹ At last the modern exordial topos of the silence surrounding Silence can be dispensed with.² However, most studies have concentrated on the text’s treatment of gender politics, sexual orientation and the relationship between sexuality and textuality: weighty topics which allow little space for a consideration of the work’s comic potential. To redress the balance, this essay sets out to demonstrate that humour contributes to the meaning of the Roman...

  10. VII LA PRATIQUE DE LA ‘DISCONVENANCE’ COMIQUE DANS LE LANCELOT EN PROSE: LES MESAVENTURES AMOUREUSES DE GUERREHET
    (pp. 105-116)
    Bénédicte Milland-Bove

    Les mésaventures amoureuses de Guerrehet, qui, après avoir essuyé une longue série de refus de la part de diverses demoiselles, finit par forcer une jeune femme à l’accompagner dans son errance, font, selon P. Ménard ‘penser aux aventures burlesques de certains fabliaux’.¹ Méprises, quiproquos, paroles et actions indignes de héros romanesques, tout ceci évoque indubitablement l’univers des fabliaux. Cependant, au fur et à mesure qu’on progresse dans le récit de l’errance de Guerrehet, soit disant en quête de Lancelot mais pris à plusieurs reprises en flagrant délit de vagabondage sexuel, on sort peu à peu du domaine du plaisant. La...

  11. VIII LANCELOT PART 3
    (pp. 117-134)
    Frank Brandsma

    It is amazing how little is known with any amount of certainty about the actual making of the prose Lancelot and the Vulgate Cycle.² In this article some issues will be raised concerning the cycle’s genesis, especially with regard to the making of the Lancelot from the prose Charrette onwards.

    Jean Frappier dates the composition of the Vulgate Cycle between 1215 and 1235 and describes it as a process of composition and growth, under the supervision of an architect. He compares it to the building of a cathedral. The narrative develops in phases: from just Lancelot’s tale to a trilogy...

  12. IX COMIC FUNCTIONS OF THE PARROT AS MINSTREL IN LE CHEVALIER DU PAPEGAU
    (pp. 135-152)
    Marilyn Lawrence

    Le Chevalier du Papegau (The Knight of the Parrot) is an anonymous French prose romance from the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century (possibly the dérimage of a lost verse version) in which a young King Arthur takes as his emblem an extraordinary performing parrot and becomes the ‘Chevalier du Papegau’. A skilled singer and storyteller who provides others with immense pleasure, the papegau is introduced into the narrative as: ‘le meilleur oysel du monde pour chanter doulx champ amoureux plaisant et pour parler mieulx et adroit ce que vient a plaisir a cuer d’omme et a cuer de femme.’...

  13. X DINADAN EN ITALIE
    (pp. 153-164)
    Francesco Zambon

    Le personnage de Dinadan dans le Tristan en prose (et notamment dans sa ‘deuxième version’) a fait l’objet de plusieurs études (Vinaver, Ménard, Adler, Baumgartner, Payen, Busby, Faucon, Lalande, Berthelot),¹ qui en ont éclairé les diverses facettes psychologiques et idéologiques, et montré toute l’originalité par rapport aux figures classiques du roman arthurien. Dans son article de 1964, Eugène Vinaver remarquait que l’évolution successive du personnage – figurant dans le Roman d’Escanor ainsi que dans certaines versions des Prophecies Merlin – est marquée par une forte banalisation, voire une déformation grossière, Dinadan devenant désormais un chevalier brutalement misogyne et adonné uniquement à son...

  14. XI A COMICAL VILLAIN: ARTHUR’S SENESCHAL IN A SECTION OF THE MIDDLE DUTCH LANCELOT COMPILATION
    (pp. 165-176)
    Marjolein Hogenbirk

    In most Arthurian verse romances, it doesn’t take long before Arthur’s seneschal Keu comes into action. He usually appears as the static character that we have met in the romances of Chrétien de Troyes: a man of ancient nobility, devoted to his official duties. Yet he is irascible and grudging, suffering from what Ménard has called an ‘incontinence verbale’.² It is no surprise at all that his appearance almost invariably triggers a conflictual episode in which he readily uses his sarcastic rhetoric to slander his fellow knights.³ Although his criticism is very sharp, in his mockery often an element of...

  15. XII MALORY AND THE ENGLISH COMIC TRADITION
    (pp. 177-188)
    Donald L. Hoffman

    Malory’s work is not usually considered one of the comic masterpieces of English literature; nevertheless, between the celebrations at the beginning and the elegies at the end, there are more comic moments than are usually recognized.¹ There is, however, a sufficient number of such moments that allow us to read Malory as a key figure in the transmission of English comedy harking from the epic humor of Beowulf, to the wit and intricacy of eighteenth-century sentimental comedies, and even on to twentieth-century experiments in comic absurdity.

    The immediate problem is the difficulty of determining Malory’s sense of humor. Does he...

  16. XIII ‘LAUGHYNG AND SMYLYNG’: COMIC MODALITIES IN MALORY’S TALE OF SIR LAUNCELOT DU LAKE
    (pp. 189-198)
    Elizabeth S. Sklar

    Benson’s reading of the Morte Darthur as Christian comedy notwithstanding, there is no question but that Malory’s narrative, with its grim account of the disintegration of a once-ideal kingdom, is, in the end, a tragedy, a profoundly pessimistic commentary on the frailty of human nature. From the Book of Sir Tristram through the final explicit, light moments are few and far between; all the major figures are to be taken in dead earnest, for good or for ill. The tenor of the Morte as a whole, however, is by no means unremittingly dismal. Throughout the narrative there are flashes of...

  17. XIV THE EACHTRA AN AMADÁIN MHÓIR AS A RESPONSE TO THE PERCEVAL OF CHRÉTIEN DE TROYES
    (pp. 199-230)
    Linda Gowans

    Probably the least studied of the group of texts ultimately indebted to Chrétien de Troyes’ Perceval is an Irish prose tale, Eachtra an Amadáin Mhóir (The Story of the Great Fool). The Arthurian content of its opening section has undoubted links to the work of Chrétien, and in this article I hope to demonstrate that the overall relationship of the two stories is closer than may previously have been appreciated; also that the perceptive and witty response of the Irish work to its celebrated predecessor well repays careful attention.

    Eachtra an Amadáin Mhóir survives in four dated and closely related...

  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 231-233)