- Taschenbuch: 384 Seiten
- Verlag: Penguin Classics; Auflage: Reprint (25. Januar 1973)
- Sprache: Englisch
- ISBN-10: 0140441700
- ISBN-13: 978-0140441703
- Größe und/oder Gewicht: 12,9 x 2,2 x 19,8 cm
- Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 3 Kundenrezensionen
- Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 96.720 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
- Komplettes Inhaltsverzeichnis ansehen
The History of the Kings of Britain (Penguin Classics) (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 29. Juli 2004
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Completed in 1136, "The History of the Kings of Britain" traces the story of the realm from its supposed foundation by Brutus to the coming of the Saxons some two thousand years later. Vividly portraying legendary and semi-legendary figures such as Lear, Cymbeline, Merlin the magician and the most famous of all British heroes, King Arthur, it is as much myth as it is history and its veracity was questioned by other medieval writers. But Geoffrey of Monmouth's powerful evocation of illustrious men and deeds captured the imagination of subsequent generations, and his influence can be traced through the works of Malory, Shakespeare, Dryden and Tennyson.
Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende
Very little is known of Geoffrey of Monmouth. He seems to have lived for a time in Oxford and in 1151 he became Bishop Elect of St Asaph, North Wales. He was ordained at Westminster in 1152. According to the Welsh Chronicles he died in 1155.
Lewis Thorpe was Professor of French at Nottingham University from 1958 to 1977. He has published many books and articles on Arthur, both on the French and English traditions. He died in 1977.
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Thorpe bietet mit dieser Ausgabe dem Leser eine vollständige Übersetzung des Werkes in zeitgenössisches Englisch. Eine recht ausführliche Einleitung über das Werk selbst und vor allem seinen Autor und ein ausführlicher Anhang, wobei hier der hervorragende Index separat betont werden muß, runden das Werk ab.
Ein Buch für alle Freunde der britischen Mythologie und vor allem der Artus-Sage, die keine Muße haben, sich die Historia im lateinischen Original zu erarbeiten.
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Geoffrey of Monmouth's "History of the Kings of Britain" (as it is usually called) was, during the Middle Ages, one of the most influential books yet written in Britain. It was perhaps exceeded in European importance only by the Venerable Bede's "Ecclesiastical History of the English People" -- and Geoffrey's "Historia Regum Britanniae" is presented as a companion to Bede, covering topics that Bede, a mere Anglo-Saxon interloper, never knew. It purports to give the "real" history of the islands, from the advent of Brutus the Trojan and his followers to the successors of Arthur.
If one adds its numerous translations into vernacular languages (it was, of course, written in Latin -- only the English understood English) one can agree with the medievalist John Jay Parry that Geoffrey's book was simply one of the most influential of the Middle Ages, wherever written.
From the mid-1960s until 2007, anyone looking for a modern English translation of Geoffrey's Latin text had only one first-rate option: Lewis Thorpe's spirited English version for Penguin Classics, which first appeared in 1966. (And which I read sometime in the late 1960s.) This was based mainly on a single "good" manuscript, as edited by Acton Griscom in 1929, with consultation of the two other modern editions of the Latin text then available, by E. Faral (also 1929; an attempt at a critical text based on several manuscripts), and by Jacob Hammer (a "Variant Version," 1951).
In my opinion, Thorpe's translation, despite its restricted textual foundation, remains the best introduction to Geoffrey, and the "historical" Arthur he created; the introduction and notes assume no specialized knowledge on the part of the reader, and the translation itself is graceful, and divided in eight parts, which increase its intelligibility (instead of the traditional twelve-book format, with chapters of greatly varying lengths; marginal references to such divisions are included for ease of cross-reference.) Thorpe also includes a chronology ("Time Chart") and a good (amazing detail) index of characters and places, with details of events they are involved with.
In the Middle Ages, it was, of course, especially popular in England (where it was several times translated, sometimes by way of a French translation), and notably in Wales: Parry counted at least three Welsh translations, preserved in at least fifty manuscripts. (See Parry's Introduction to "Brut Y Brenhinned," or 'chronicle of rulers,' an edition and translation of one of the several Welsh translations, published in 1937, and now available on-line from the Medieval Academy of America). Indeed, little as the Welsh and the English agreed on other things, they both borrowed "Brut," i.e. "Brutus," originally a nickname for the "Historia," as a generic term for a national chronicle.
The book presents the British -- that is, strictly speaking, the Welsh and their ancestors -- as descendants of displaced Trojans, presenting itself as a sort of sequel to Virgil's "Aeneid," as well as "prequel" to Bede. Geoffrey claims to be translating an "Old British Book" (i.e., a book in Welsh, or, possibly Breton), a claim taken seriously into the early twentieth century, by which time it became reasonably clear that the supposed versions of the "old book" -- one of which had been dated to the seventh century! -- were in fact post-Geoffrey; although some of these Welsh translations did contain genuine old stories interpolated into Geoffrey's versions.
Geoffrey also claimed to be translating a separate "Prophecies of Merlin," usually incorporated into the larger work -- this too is no longer taken seriously. (He also wrote a verse sequel, "The Life of Merlin," which has been translated into English at least three times. Reviews of a Kindle edition of J.J. Parry's translation -- as "Vita Merlini" -- complaining of format issues, are not encouraging.)
King Arthur may already have been launched into European celebrity before the 1130s, when Geoffrey tied him down to a more-or-less recognizable time and place, and equipped him with the most up-to-date manners and customs of the early twelfth century, but it is to Geoffrey we owe the standard picture of Merlin as the adviser of kings, the stories of King Lear and of Cymbeline, and, perhaps, Old King Cole (or Coel) -- although not the nursery-rhyme that enshrines him.
"Historia Regum Britanniae" was a medieval equivalent of a best-seller, with at least 219 known surviving manuscripts of the Latin original, plus translations and paraphrases (as mentioned, into Welsh, French, and Middle English), in whole or in part, into most Western European languages (and rather quickly, by medieval standards). There was also at least one attempt to "dress up" its Latin style with classical and Biblical (Vulgate) tags. It was even turned it into Latin hexameters (which brought the story even closer to Virgil in form, if not quality).
A good part of the vast Arthurian literature derives its "historical" structure from Geoffrey's book, directly, or, probably more often, indirectly. (See the opening line of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," for one convenient example: "After the siege and assault were ceased at Troy...") Malory did not include Geoffrey's main Merlin material, but he did include Arthur's "Roman War" (as Book V of the Caxton edition), which is a highlight of Geoffrey's version. (The "Historia" is largely structured around clashes between the Romans and the Britons, as rival "Trojan" nations.)
Despite recurrent rejections of its historicity, in whole or in part, beginning with skepticism at its first appearance, it remained, right through the seventeenth century, an "authority" on Britain, from the settlement by Trojan exiles, through Roman invasions, to Arthur, and finally the Anglo-Saxon conquest; with intimations that the true Britons, that is, the Welsh, would regain sovereignty. The Welsh Tudors were particularly interested in it as a legitimating document.
The other translation available was that by Sebastian Evans, published in Dent's "Temple Library" in 1904, and included in the original Everyman's Library series a few years later, in which it was reprinted through much of the twentieth century. Evans' slightly bowdlerized translation, into Elizabethan-sounding prose, was at least readable, if not a good reflection of Geoffrey's style. Alas, it was based on the the derivative "San-Marte" edition (ed. A. Schulz, 1854), based mainly on the earlier, uncritical, printed texts, with some variant readings and corrections. It was improved with some later editing, notably by Charles W. Dunn in 1963, but could not escape the faults of its origin.
Since Thorpe's work, there have been two subsequent translations, both appearing in 2007, one of them, by Michael Faletra (Broadview Books), unfortunately, out-of-date almost as soon as printed. The other, part of an edition by Michael D. Reeve of the Latin text, was translated by Neil Wright, who, ironically, had edited the "provisional edition" used for Faletra's translation. I've been reading the Reeve/Wright version, with the object of reviewing it, and I like it very much; but as an edition it is anything by user-friendly, and probably downright intimidating to the novice. The introduction is given over almost entirely to problems in establishing the text, and takes for granted that the reader knows something about Geoffrey's life and times, and the significance of whether one or another of the book's various dedications to assorted 12th-century VIPs is original, interpolated, or added by another hand. Wright's translation compares well with Thorpe's in most passages, and having the Latin text at hand to see what is being translated is often enlightening.
I thought there was not enough commentary at the beginning on just how much of the book had any historical veracity. The very early material about Aeneas and Brutus was obviously totally bogus, although an enormous amount of detail was provided. No doubt the old foundation legends were built upon, century after century, until they ended up in the hands of Geoffrey. I prefer books which give copious footnotes on the veracity or otherwise of ancient attempts at history. For example, the Penguin Pausanias guide books to ancient Greece (Volume 1 and Volume 2) give superb commentary paragraph by paragraph on the authenticity or otherwise of everything in those huge books.
It was interesting to see the early origins of the story of King Lear, Cordelia, Regan and Goneril.
It was interesting to see some early origins for the Merlin and Arthur stories.
Some of the later material about the Angles and Saxons had some credibility. There's a lot of support from Gildas and Nennius and Bede, but they are extremely unreliable also. (Bede is, apparently, very reliable for the couple of hundred years before his time, but not for the earlier history, which he based on other sources.)
The sources for King Lear and Cymbeline are also included in Geoffrey's narrative.
I had this book on my shelf for a long time before I got around to it but once I picked it up I was hooked. One of those ancient texts that blends history and myth wonderfully while enlightening and entertaining the modern reader. Well worth checking out.
Geoffrey of Monmouth and this book are, of course, the first known writing about King Arthur. But, there are other tales such as the naming of Briton after Brutus.
This is what you would expect of such a paperback. It satisfies an old itch.
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