Romance Narrative and Problems of Succession in Geoffrey of Monmouth's HIstoria Regum Britanniae
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe Historia Regum Brittaniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth is one of the most influential works of Medieval English literature and historiography, and incorporates both genealogical and romance narrative. In this paper, I will first attempt to provide a general overview of the context of the Historia Regum Britanniae, including the debate about its historicity. Then I will adapt Laura Barefield’s discussion of gender within the work to a textual analysis of two romance episodes featuring two very different rulers: the founding patriarch Brutus and the lustful usurper Vortigern. I argue that the unambiguous establishment of the noble character of the former and the wicked character of the latter early on in their respective narratives are extremely important, as both men are leaders in times when the Britons are in the potentially destabilizing position of living side-by-side with - or being at war with - other civilizations. I will first examine the favorable outcomes of Brutus’s marriage with the Greek woman Ignoge and how it represents an ideal case of solving a problem of succession. Then I will discuss Vortigern’s depraved character and his ill-fated marriage to the Saxon woman Renwein, and how it sets up the conditions for a crisis of succession.
Degree ProgramHonors College