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Roman de Brut is a verse translation of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regun Brittaniae into French by the poet Wace. Wace used both the standard and variant versions of the Historia.

The NameEdit

Wace called this work Geste des Bretons (‘Deeds of the Britons’), but scribes who copied it renamed it as the Roman de Brut, and that is the name it is generally known as today.

ModificationsEdit

DifferencesEdit

Wace generally follows Geoffrey almost exactly, but his poem is about twice the size of Geoffrey’s work, mostly because Wace amplifies Geoffrey’s scenes with extra dialogue and description to create a more vivid impression. Wace also removes all personal references by Geoffrey and Geoffrey’s references to his sources. In some cases Wace may be influenced by current Arthurian romances known to him to vary his account from that of Geoffrey to better fit those romances. The following discussion mentions only those passages where Wace’s account differs factually from Geoffrey’s, or where large amount of information have been added or removed. Very minor differences of additions are not covered.

Material Removed by WaceEdit

Wace does not mention that Constantine’s wife was brought up by Guithelin, Archbishop of London. He does not mention that the church where Constantine’s son Constant was that of St. Amphibalus in Winchester, only that Constant was nourished in Winchester. The number of Picts whom Vortigern brings to court is not given. Geoffrey had given one hundred.

Wace does not say that the lands which Vortigern gave to Hengist and his folk were in Lindsey. Cherdic, whom Geoffrey relates came to Britian with 300 ships, along with Octa and Ebusa, is not mentioned.

Wace does not mention that Merlin’s mother is a nun at St. Peter’s Church, just that she was a nun in a convent in Carmarthen. He does not say that Merlin was also called Ambrosius. Wace omits the long book of Merlin’s prophecies, this being by far the longest of Wace’s omissions of material from the Historia. Wace omits Merlin’s prophesy that Aurelius Ambrosius will be crowned after Hengist’s death, presumably as in the subsequent story Ambrosius is crowned before Ambrosius’ final defeat of Hengist when Hengist is slain.

Wace omits Ambrosius’ restoration of Winchester and the following account of how Ambrius had founded a monastery on Mt. Ambrius in former years. He omits that Ambrosius’ men locate Merlin in the land of the Gewissei.

Wace omits Dubric’s role in crowning Arthur and omits Count Morvid of Gloucester from the list of Arthur’s nobles at the great feast at Caerleon. No mention is made that the city of Bayeux was founded by Bedwyr’s grandfather, who was also named Bedwyr (elder). Geoffrey’s list of nobles slain at the Battle of Camlann is omitted by Wace.

Material Added by WaceEdit

After Constantine lands at Totnes, Constantine goes to London and it is there that he assembles a host to attack the marauders. Geoffrey’s account appears to imagine that the British army gathers at Totnes. Wace notes when he tells of Constantine's assassination that many thought that Vortigern was behind it. This is Wace’s first mention of Vortigern. Wace adds that Constantine was buried in a tomb.

Wace has Vortigern bring up the idea of making Constant king at a council, rather than only relating how he does so.Constantine (King of Britain).

Phœbus and Saturn are added to the gods whom the Saxons worship.

Where Geoffrey has an unnamed interpreter when Vortigern and Renwein meet, Wace mentions Redic who interprets and who was the first of the Britons to learn the Saxon tongue.

No mention is made that Bishop Eldad buried the bodies of the Britons slain by the Cloister of Ambrius, but this information is not found in all manuscripts of the Historia.

Wace mentions that Merlin’s grandfather, the King of Dyved, is dead by the time that Vortigern’s messengers discover Merlin.

Cador of Cornwall is close kin to his foster-daughter Guenevere on his mother’s side.

To the King of the Orkneys and the King of Gothland who voluntarily submit to Arthur, Wace adds a third king, King Rumarolt or Rummaret of Geneland (perhaps Finnland, or perhaps Wendland, or even Vinland).

Soon after Wace mentions Arthur’s Round Table, this being the earliest extant reference. The table is made by Athur and is round so that no knight who sits at it can boast that he is treated more honorably than another.

Wace inserts a long description of Arthur’s host setting off to France. After relating that Arthur gives power over Anjou to Kay and over Neustria to Bedwyr (as in Geoffrey), Wace tells that Arthur made Holdin lord of Boulogne and Borel lord of Main. But elsewhere in both Geoffrey and Wace it is Leodegar who is lord of Boulogne. Borel is also lord of Main in Geofrey, but it is not indicated that this was by Arthur’s gift rather than by inheritance.

Yvain “the Courteous” son of Urien is mentioned as present at Arthur’s great feast at Caerleon, presumably because of his importance in Arthurian romances. Balluc of Wiltshire is also added, who appears later in the Roman war.

During the preparations for Arthur’s council, after Duke Cador of Cornwall has welcomed war after so long a period of idleness and soft living, Gawain stands up for the young men, declares that peace is good, and that young men become knights because of the bright eyes and worship of their lady-loves. In some manuscripts, the giant of St. Michael’s Mount is named Dinabuc.

Material Changed by WaceEdit

Geoffrey has Constantine crowned at Silchester, but Wace places his coronation at Cirencester. The same switch appears later when Arthur is crowned. Constantine reigns for 12 years instead of 10 years.

Vortigern is not said to be Duke of the Gewissi, but to have come from Wales and to be a count in his own land. Vortigern says he can now afford to maintain “scarce forty sergeants” instead of “fifty soldiers”.

The fortress which Hengist builds, which Geoffrey calls Castrum Corrigie in Latin, Kaercarrei in Welsh, and Thanceatre in the Saxon tongue, Wace says to be called Vancaster which means “Thong Castle” in the Saxon tongue, and is now called Lancaster. Geoffrey’s brief mention of St. Germanus and Bishop Lupus and their voyage to Britain to combat the Pelagians is entirely omitted here, but mentioned later after Votimer’s. defeat of the Saxons. Catigern, Vortigern’s third son is here and later named instead Vortiger, which is also the form Wace uses for his father Vortigern. Geoffrey introduces a younger son of Hengist named Ebusa and much later inrtroduces a certain Eosa as Octa’s kinsman and in these later sections does not mention Ebusa. Wace identifies the two, calling both by the name Ebissa, first introducing him as Hengist’s kinsman, not as his son, and then later as Hengist’s nephew, and later still as Oisc’s kinsman.

Where Geoffrey does not specify what lands Vortigern turns over to the Saxons, and later speaks of them capturing London, York, Lincoln, and Winchester, Wace has Hengist grant to Vorigern Sussex, Essex, Middlesex, and Kent.

Geoffrey has Merlin prophecy that the second beam of light in the comet that stretches over Gaul, splitting into seven smaller shafts, stands for Uther Pengragon’s daughter from whose descendants will be kings of Britain. Perhaps because to Wace it appeared that this prophecy does not come true in the Historia, Wace makes this stand instead for a daughter of Uther, who will later become Queen of Scotland who will bear many heirs to her lord. Presumably this refers to romances known to Wace in which Gawain, son of the Queen of Lothian, has brothers, sons, and nephews.

In following passages, Wace renders Geoffrey's Eosa by Ossa, who from this point on is Octa’s kinsman and presumably identical with the person earlier called Ebissa by Wace.

Wace also modifies some of Geoffrey’s Arthurian details. While Wace knew that he was supposed to be adapting a history not a romance, he seems to have let his knowledge of current Arthurian romances influence him.

Wace omits entirely Geoffrey’s long prophecy of Merlin to Vortigern, claiming he does not understand it. Wace changes Merlin's interpetation of seven beams of light seen in the sky from Geoffrey’s explanation that it denotes seven descendants of Arthur’s sister who will rule over Britain, one after the other. Wace, realizing that this is not what happens later in the tale, instead says it signifies the many heirs that Arthur’s sister will bear to her lord. Wace may have known traditions, like those in later romances, which give brothers to Gawain.

Where Geoffrey had Merlin transport the stones from Ireland using clever devices and machines, Wace's Merlin mutters words which make the stone light enough to be handled.

Wace also omits Geoffrey’s confused account of Gawain’s parentage according to which Gawain is mostly said to be Arthur’s sister’s son, but sometimes said to be the son of Arthur's aunt. Wace only includes the version in which Gawain is Arthur’s sister’s son. Wace also removes any reference to Mordred being Gawain’s brother. Mordred remains Arthur’s nephew, but Wace keeps silent about whether that makes Mordred to be Gawain’s brother, or only a first cousin, perhaps the son of another daughter of Uther. Modred is not mentioned at all in early Arthurian romances which sometimes list other brothers of Gawain. By keeping silence about Mordred’s parents, Wace avoids contradicting either Geofffrey or such Arthurian tales as he knew.

Wace softens Arthur’s character, removing references to Arthur cruelly harassing the Scots and destroying Norwegian cities and softens Geoffrey's account of Howel’s devastation of Gascony. In Geoffrey, during the final battle in the Roman war, Arthur kills a man or a horse with each blow. Wace’s Arthur only kills men.

According to Geoffrey, at the time when Arthur conquered Norway for Loth, Gawain was only twelve years old and living in Rome in the service of Pope Sulpicius to whom his father, King Loth, had sent him. According to Wace, Gawain takes part in the invasions of Norway, freshly come from serving Pope Sulpicius, being already a knight, and wearing armor given him by the Pope.

Geoffrey of Monmouth relates that Her son of Yder was slain in a battle with the Romans. Wace has Yder himself slain and makes no mention of Her.

In Geoffrey, and emperor named Leo rules in Constantinople over the eastern Roman Empire and Lucius Hiberius, who seems to act as western emperor, but who acts under orders from the Senate, bears the title Procurator of the Roman Republic. Wace does not mention the Emperor Leo at all and always calls his “Lucius Tiberius” emperor. Geoffrey’s account that Her son of Yder is slain is changed to Yder being slain.

Modred’s Saxon ally is named Chelric (Cheldric), bearing the same name as the Saxon leader defeated by Arthur at Bath. Geoffrrey names Modred’s ally as Chelric. Wace has Arthur land in Britian at Romney instead of at Richborough. Arthur’s last battle is dated to the year 642 where Geoffrey had 542.

SuccessEdit

Geoffrey Gaimer was the author of a verse history in two parts: L’Estorie des Britons based on Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia and L'Estorie des Engles telling of the English kings from early times until the Norman conquest. But the first half of the work has not been preserved. Instead, in surviving manuscripts, Wace’s Brut appears in its place, presumably because most found it to be preferable.

Many other fragments of verse translations of Geoffrey into French have been found but only in scattered fragments. Wace’s version alone was commonly copied.

ReferencesEdit

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