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The Trojan Legend in Medieval Scottish Literature

The Trojan Legend in Medieval Scottish Literature

Emily Wingfield
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The Trojan Legend in Medieval Scottish Literature
    Book Description:

    The Trojan legend became hot property during the Anglo-Scots Wars of Independence. During the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, the English traced their ancestry to Brutus and the Trojans and used this origin myth tobolster their claims to lordship and ownership of Scotland; while in a game of political one-upmanship, and in order to prove Scotland's independence and sovereignty, Scottish historians instead traced their nation's origins to aGreek prince, Gaythelos, and his Egyptian wife, Scota. Despite the wealth of scholarship on the Trojan legend in English and European literature, very little has been done on Scotland's literary response to the same legend,even though a mere glance at the canonical material of late medieval Scotland indicates that it remained equally current north of the Border, a gap which this book fills. Through a detailed analysis of a range of Older Scots textsfrom c. 1375 to c. 1513, notably The Scottish Troy Book, Henryson's Testament of Cresseid, and Douglas' Eneados, it provides the first comprehensive assessment of the Scottish response to the Trojan legend. It considers the way in which Scottish texts interact with English counterparts, such as Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia, Chaucer's Troilus, Lydgate's Troy Book, and Caxton's Eneados, and demonstrates how despite - or perhaps because of - its use in the Anglo-Scots Wars of Independence, the Trojan legend was for the most part neither neglected nor pejoratively treated in Older Scots literature. Rather, the Matter of Troy and related Matter of Greece were used not just as an origin myth, but also a metaphor for Anglo-Scots political relations, guide to good governance, and locus through which poets might explore broader issues of literary tradition, authority, and the nature of poetic truth. Emily Wingfield is a lecturer in English at the University of Birmingham.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-202-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-21)

    Of Hisarlik in north-west Turkey, the reputed site of Troy, Michael Wood writes, ‘The first thing you notice is that the ruins exist at several levels and that there is not, as it were, one single Troy.’² The historical city on which the legend was based was most probably only ever a relatively small city with one thousand or so inhabitants, but the legend itself has far outstripped these humble origins. It has proved to be one of the most enduring and universal stories of Western civilization, and has inspired writers from Homer and Virgil, Chaucer and Shakespeare, to Dryden,...

  6. 1 Troy in the Older Scots Historical Tradition
    (pp. 22-51)

    The Anglo-Scots Wars of Independence and concomitant ‘War of Historiography’, discussed in the Introduction, gave rise in late fourteenth-century and early fifteenth-century Scotland to texts, both historiographical and literary, which simultaneously reflected and developed emerging and increasingly explicit sentiments of Scottish nationality.¹ Chapter 2 will consider the most well known of these texts, Barbour’sBruce, together with a series of other fifteenth-century texts in the Older Scots Romance tradition. But I begin by examining the representation of the Trojan legend and the alternative Scottish origin myth in the following Scottish historical texts: John of Fordun’sChronica Gentis Scotorum, compiled between...

  7. 2 Troy in the Older Scots Romance and Nine Worthies Tradition
    (pp. 52-88)

    Compared to the 86 Middle English romances listed in the revisedManual of the Writings in Middle English, the corpus of Older Scots romance appears limited – only twelve Older Scots romances are known to survive. Moreover, whereas three Middle English translations of Guido’sHistoriaexist (theLaud Troy Book, the unrhymed alliterativeDestruction of Troy, and John Lydgate’sTroy Book), there is only one (now incomplete) Scottish translation of this text,The Scottish Troy Book(discussed in the following chapter).¹

    That said, references to the Trojan legend and its heroes abound in the Older Scots romance corpus. In the...

  8. 3 The Scottish Troy Book
    (pp. 89-120)

    The Scottish Troy Book(hereafterSTB) (NIMEV298.5)¹ has been described as ‘the most shadowy work in [the] corpus of medieval Scottish romances’, ‘doomed forever to be “the bits in the Lydgate manuscripts” that are neither by Lydgate nor […] by Barbour’.² Only two fragments of this c. 1400 Scottish octosyllabic couplet translation of Guido delle Colonne’s Latin proseHistoria destructionis Troiae(1287)³ now survive, in two late fifteenth-/early sixteenth-century Scottish manuscripts: Cambridge, University Library, MS Kk.5.30 (hereafter MS K) and Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 148 (hereafter MS Do). In both manuscripts the defectiveSTBis combined in a...

  9. 4 Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde and Robert Henryson’s Testament of Cresseid
    (pp. 121-149)

    Despite the fact that few medieval Scottish witnesses of Chaucer’s poetry survive, his strong influence on fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Scottish literature is evidenced by verbal echoes and stylistic and thematic parallels in the works of poets such as James I,¹ Blind Hary, Robert Henryson, William Dunbar, Gavin Douglas and David Lyndsay. John Ireland also refers to Chaucer’s ‘buk of troylus’ and ‘persounis taill’ inThe Meroure of Wysdome(1490).²

    This chapter examines readings of and responses to Chaucer’sTroilus and Criseyde(NIMEV3327) in two productions: firstly, Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Arch. Selden. B. 24, the Scottish anthology containingTroilus...

  10. 5 Gavin Douglas’ Eneados
    (pp. 150-177)

    This final chapterexamines The Eneados,¹ the first complete translation of Virgil’sAeneidinto English produced in 1513 by the Scottish poet and bishop of Dunkeld, Gavin Douglas (c. 1476–1522).² It focuses on the way in which Douglas uses the Trojan legend to reflect, like Henryson, on issues of literary authority and poetic truth, and, like the authors ofThe Bruce, The Scottish Troy Bookand the Older Scots romance tradition, on issues of good self and public governance of both general relevance and specific applicability to the contemporary Scottish political climate.³

    I begin by comparing two records of...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 178-188)

    This book began by examining the role played by the Trojan legend in the thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Anglo-Scots Wars of Independence and concomitant ‘War of Historiography’. It discussed how during the Wars of Independence (and in subsequent periods of Anglo-Scots conflict) a myth of Trojan origins was deployed by English monarchs to bolster their claims to lordship and ownership of Scotland. To oppose this, and instead prove Scotland’s independence and sovereignty, Scottish historians traced their nation’s origins to a Greek prince, Gaythelos, and his Egyptian wife, Scota. The appeal to an alternative origin legend enabled the Scots to derive their...

  12. Appendix Trojan Texts in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Scotland
    (pp. 189-196)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 197-225)
  14. Index
    (pp. 226-238)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 239-239)