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Arthurian Romances (Everyman's Library) [Paperback]

Chretien de Troyes , D.D.R. Owen
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Mar 1991 Everyman's Library
Taking the legends surrounding King Arthur and weaving in new psychological elements of personal desire and courtly manner, Chretien de Troyes fashioned a new form of medieval Romance. The Knight of the Cart is the first telling of the adulterous relationship between Lancelot and Arthur's Queen Guinevere, and in The Knight with the Lion Yvain neglects his bride in his quest for greater glory. Erec and Enide explores a knight's conflict between love and honour, Cliges exalts the possibility of pure love outside marriage, while the haunting The Story of the Grail chronicles the legendary quest. Rich in symbolism, these evocative tales combine closely observed detail with fantastic adventure to create a compelling world that profoundly influenced Malory, and are the basis of the Arthurian legends we know today.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd ); New edition edition (Mar 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0460870653
  • ISBN-13: 978-0460870658
  • Product Dimensions: 2.9 x 13 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,538,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Chrétien de Troyes was a French poet and trouvère who flourished in the late 12th century. Little is known of his life, but he seems to have been from Troyes, or at least intimately connected with it, and between 1160 and 1172 he served at the court of his patroness Marie of France, Countess of Champagne, daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine, perhaps as herald-at-arms (as Gaston Paris speculated). His work on Arthurian subjects represents some of the best regarded of medieval literature. His use of structure, particular in Yvain, the Knight of the Lion, has been seen as a step towards the modern novel. Chrétien's writing was very popular, as evidenced by the high number of surviving copies of his romances and their many adaptations into other languages. Three of Middle High German literature's finest examples, Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival and Hartmann von Aue's Erec and Iwein, were based on Perceval, Erec, and Yvain; the Three Welsh Romances associated with the Mabinogion, Peredur, son of Efrawg, Geraint and Enid, and Owain, or the Lady of the Fountain are derived from the same trio. Especially in the case of Peredur, however, the connection between the Welsh romances and their source is probably not direct, and has never been satisfactorily delineated. Chrétien also has the distinction of being the first writer to mention the Holy Grail (Perceval) and the love affair between Queen Guinevere and Lancelot (Lancelot), subjects of household recognition even today. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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The peasant in his proverb says that one might find oneself holding in contempt something that is worth much more than one believes; therefore a man does well to make good use of his learning according to whatever understanding he has, for he who neglects his learning may easily keep silent something that would later give much pleasure. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Foundational to the French Arthurian tradition 13 Feb 2004
This is a foundational text in understanding the French Arthurian tradition. If you are studying medieval literature and can't read Chretien de Troyes in his original, then this should be high on your reading list.
On the other hand, if you are a casual reader interested in getting to the sources of the King Arthur stories, you may find Chretien rather disappointing.
For modern tastes, there is far too much narrative here and not enough characterisation or description. Chretien also has the habit of interrupting his denouements with apparently irrelevant observations on the nature of courtly love.
Clearly, Chretien's audience had very different expectations from most modern readers. If you want to enjoy the Arthurian Romances, it's worth trying to get into the mind of the original readers.
You need to remember that although today we see Arthur as escapist legend, in Chretien's time the 'matter of Britain' was a legitimate subject for an intellectual engaging other intellectuals.
Equally, looking back through the eyes of Tennyson (if not Hollywood), we tend to see Arthur as a romantic ideal. This assessment is further clouded by the title of this translation. The word 'Romance' here really means 'Novel', rather than something concerned with romantic love. The idea of love in Chretien is the idea set out in Andreas Capellanus 'the Art of Courtly Love', not that of 'Idylls of the King'.
Finally, the complex of social castes in Chretien was not something exotic or ancient to the original readers. There are layers of meaning which would have be obvious to his audience but which are concealed from us.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST-BUY BOOK! 23 Aug 2003
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I really can't say enough in praise of this wonderful book. Each poem is translated into prose in a lively and vivid style. The dialogue is crisp and natural and the action non-stop. But Chretien's intentions go even deeper than merely telling cracking yarns. Each are sensitive and intelligent explorations of human nature.
Marital love is ever an important theme in Chretien. In Erec and Enide, the hero neglects his knightly reputation in order to devote himself to his new bride, and in Yvain the hero does the opposite and neglects his bride for valour. Both must set off on a series of adventures that culminate in them seeing the error of their ways and setting matters right.
Lancelot is an excellent story, though rather odd in that the theme this time is an adulterous relationship, that of Lancelot and Guinevere. Nowhere does Chretien condemn this relationship, despite negative references elsewhere to the shameful adulterous love between Tristan and Iseult. In Kibler's introduction he suggests that the theme may have been suggested by Chretien's patroness. Perhaps, then, Chretien was anxious not to offend the French Court. At any rate, he didn't bother to finish the romance and gave it to someone else to do (the ending is included in this book).
In Perceval Chretien masterfully captures the naivete of the young hero, and he delivers the most mysterious, powerful and influential Arthur story of all. Here we see the holy grail, the bleeding lance and the castle of maidens, all of which have become essential ingredients in Arthurian lore. It's unfinished state presented an irresistible challenge to later poets, some of whom tried to finish it off, others who went back to the beginning and offered their own interpretations.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Early Arthur 29 Dec 2005
Chrétien de Troyes is an early French romantic writing, who wrote the first known story about the Holy Grail. De Troyes lived in the Champagne region of France during the latter twelfth century. Peripherally attached to courts including that of the famous Eleanor of Acquitaine, de Troyes stories of the Arthurian legends provides a foundation for almost all future Arthurian stories.
Chrétien's major works include four poems included in this collection: Erec and Enide, Cligés, The Knight of the Cart (Lancelot), and The Knight of the Lion (Yvain). For Grail seekers, the story of most interest will be the unfinished Perceval: The Story of the Grail. Although the tale exists in finished form (in fact, several variations of finished forms), de Troyes in fact only wrote the first 9000 lines of the approximately 32,000 line text. (De Troyes also was embellished or supplemented by later additions to the tale of Lancelot, perhaps because de Troyes did not want to include an adulterous affair).
The story of Erec and Enide is a love story between one of Arthur's knights, Erec, who while out with Guinevere encounters a mean-spirited knight Yder; Erec's pursuit of Yder leads to his meeting Enide, and the two have a stormy relationship (by medieval romantic standards) but ultimately are able to reconcile their love and relationship with public duty.
The story of Cligés is one of tricky and forbidden relationships. Cligés, a native of Greece, falls in love with Fenice, his uncle's wife (Cligés' uncle happens to be the emperor). Their love is discovered, but with the aid of King Arthur, their relationship continues in Cligés' home country of Greece.
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