Robert Wace Essay - Critical Essays

Robert Wace

Introduction

Robert Wace c. 1090-1110-c. 1175

French poet and chronicler.

Wace's verse chronicle, Le Roman de Brut (1155), based on Geoffrey of Monmouth's Latin Historia Regum Britanniae [History of the Kings of Britain] (1138), provides an account of both actual and legendary English history. It is the first fully developed text in a vernacular language of the story of King Arthur, and the first work to mention the Round Table and the legend of Arthur's possible immortality. Wace's narrative skill, talent for expressing the feelings and thoughts of his characters, and vivid descriptions of their dramatic interactions contributed to the flourishing not only of historiography, but also of the romance genre in Europe.

Biographical Information

The exact year of Wace's birth is not known, although scholars surmise it was between 1090 and 1110. He was born into a family of German ancestry on Jersey, the largest of the English Channel islands, then under the control of the Norman French. Scholars conjecture that his father was a shipbuilder who may have helped build the fleet for the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066. Wace was first educated in Caen and later in Paris. King Henry II of England appointed Wace canon at Bayeux and also his chronicler of British and Norman history. After finishing the Roman de Brut in 1155, which he dedicated to Eleanor of Aquitaine (Henry's Queen), Wace began Le Roman de Rou, a chronicle of the Dukes of Normandy commissioned by King Henry. This work is of particular interest to scholars for the few autobiographical details it contains. Wace abandoned writing the Roman de Rou in 1174, and he is believed to have died around 1175.

Major Works

All of Wace's works were written in the Old North French language. His earliest writings focused on religious subjects: La Conception Nostre Dame (1130-40) is an account of the birth of the Virgin Mary, and La Vie de Sainte Margarite (1135) and La Vie de San Nicholas (1150) are traditional lives of the saints, characterized by Wace's lifelong interest in philosophy and symbolic order. Le Roman de Brut provides a history of the kings of England, but in it Wace also reshapes Geoffrey's earlier chronicle, adding greater emphasis on philosophical ideas and further developing the legend of King Arthur and his court. Some major differences between Wace's treatment of Arthur and that of Geoffrey include Wace's refusal to translate Merlin's prophecies about the eventual return of Arthur after his death, his symbolic treatment of the Round Table, and his remaking of Arthur into a more courteous and humane leader. King Henry II explicitly commissioned Wace to write Le Roman de Rou to justify Norman rule in England, but he withdrew his financial support in 1174—presumably because he felt that Wace's text was not sufficiently sympathetic to the Norman cause—and Wace never finished the work.

Critical Reception

Wace's Roman de Brut is by far his best-known work; it enjoyed popularity in its own time, exerted much influence on other writers, and was widely imitated through the fourteenth century. Modern scholars such as Frances Lytle Gillespy, Margaret Houck, and P. B. Grout, among others, have concentrated on comparisons between Wace's work and Geoffrey's history, as well as with other versions of the subject such as Layamon's Brut, the Munich Brut, and the works of Chretien de Troyes. Jeff Rider and other critics have also explored Wace's presentation of history, his treatment of the figures of King Arthur and Merlin, and his figuration of women in the text. In the late twentieth century such scholars as Leger Brosnahan and Gerald F. Carr have paid increasing attention to Wace's style in the Le Roman de Brut, heeding Houck's caveat that Wace is “first of all a story teller.” Sara Sturm-Maddox, among other critics, has analyzed the influence of Wace's works on later writers, particularly on Chretien de Troyes. In addition, Wace and his works are highly valued by social historians and linguists for what they reveal about he interplay between French and English language and culture in the twelfth century.

Principal Works

La Conception Nostre Dame (chronicle) 1130-40

La Vie de Sainte Margarite (biography) c. 1135

La Vie de San Nicholas (biography) 1150

Le Roman de Brut (chronicle) 1155

Le Roman de Rou et des Duc de Normandie (history) 1174

Master Wace: His Chronicle of the Norman Conquest (edited by Edgar Taylor) 1837

Le Roman de Brut (edited by Eugene Mason in Arthurian Chronicles) 1962

Criticism

Frances Lytle Gillespy (essay date 1916)

SOURCE: Gillespy, Frances Lytle. “The Narrative Art of Layamon's Brut and a Comparison with Wace's Brut.University of California Publications in Modern Philology 3, no. 4 (November 24, 1916): 378-96.

[In the following essay, Gillespy compares Wace's Brut with Layamon's and argues that Layamon's descriptions of time and place are richer and more artful.]

I. TIME-SETTING

The supposedly historical character of the work governs, to a large extent, the use of time-settings in both writers. Wace, following Geoffrey in the main, makes frequent statements as to the duration of reigns and events within reigns, and Layamon in his turn takes Wace as his model for the time skeleton of his work. He dates, however, more frequently and in more exact terms than does Wace,1 and he goes far beyond the French writer in the description of attendant circumstance. He occasionally describes wintry weather.2 Now and then he tells of a pleasant day when the sun is “swiðe briht.”3 At times he adds a circumstance indicative of direct observation, as in the statement that Lent came and the days began to lengthen (30627). The coming of the dawn is usually mentioned with some slight picturesque touch—“the third day it dawned fair” (21853 f) and more vividly “shields glistened there, light began to dawn” (21725 f) and again “It dawned and animals began to stir” (26940 f). The approach of night parts combatants as 28328. “The battle ended when the sun went to rest;” but the night itself is rarely described. It is thrice dusky (as 9802) and occasionally the moon is mentioned, as 20607 f. where we read that it shone directly south. In connection with the marvelous sight that Uther saw in Wales the sun shone “well nigh as bright as the sunlight” (17861).4 All of these descriptive suggestions appear meagre enough in comparison with the lavish coloring of modern poetry—but it is important to note, in comparison with Wace, that they all appear to be additions by the English writer.

The longer descriptions of time-setting also received greater elaboration in Layamon. The one exception is the description of a moonlight night, which is fuller in Wace.5 This description is, however, more than offset by such comparatively elaborate accounts as that found in Layamon's picture of the spring:

þa æstre wes aȝonge (24195)
and Aueril eode of tune
and þat gras was riue
and þat water wes liðe
and men gunnen spilien
þat wes Mæi at tune.(6)

In addition to his further elaboration of descriptive features, the English poet frequently adds or deepens emotional coloring.7 Regret for the past, a longing for the good old times is frequently suggested or expressed, not only in the speeches of the characters, but by the writer speaking in his own person, as

… alle þa burhȝes (2065)
þe Brutus iwrohte
& heora noma gode
þa on Brutus dæi stode
beoð swiðe afelled,
þurh warf of þon folke.(8)

The beginning of the poem shows that it is partly in this mood of regard and regret for the days that were gone that the whole work was conceived—a mood which is totally lacking in Wace's introduction.

On the whole, however, the use of time-setting is meagre and unskillful enough if Layamon's work be considered per se or the almost inevitable comparison with modern poetry be instituted. But in comparison with Wace the English poet's treatment appears remarkably full. He follows Wace in giving durations, but he dates more frequently and in more exact terms. He notes the time of day, when it adds to the sense of reality even when the action does not absolutely demand any specification. He mentions picturesque circumstance rather frequently. Wace almost never. In the English Brut there are several comparatively elaborate descriptions, in the French work almost none. The treatment of the passage of time as a whole is much the same in the two books, but an emotional coloring is more frequently present in the Layamon's poem. The treatment of the later poet, then, is more realistic and at the same time more suggestive.

II. PLACE-SETTING

The pseudo-historical character of the Bruts has its effect on the treatment of place as well as of time—an effect, however, that is largely superficial. To it is due the richness of geographical names. Literally hundreds of localities are mentioned by both writers, but distinctive bits of description are few and far between. Wace tells us that Scotland is a wooded country (1323) and gives a suggestion of vineyards in France in the line “Ne cep de vigne à estreper” (10386). Layamon speaks of the “wild land that Welsh men love.” Both poets describe the lakes of Scotland at considerable length. But except for these and a few other attempts at individualization the countries might be all one so far as their landscapes are concerned. And the time might be the same, for in both writers Brutus and his men at the beginning are evidently conceived as living in much the same sort of place as Cadwalader and his people at the end.

Throughout the narratives there are almost no set descriptions. England as a whole is characterized three times in terms that are a sort of combination of direct visualization and knowledge of phenomena. The accounts occur in both narratives but are far fuller in the English. Where Diana in Wace merely says that England is an island beautiful to dwell in, excellent for cultivation (W 681 ff), in Layamon she tells of birds and fish, wild places, and pleasant springs (L 1235-40). Wace gives an account of what Brutus saw when he surveyed his country with a list of natural objects as montaignes, valées, plaignes, and so on, but the English writer adds mention of animals, birds, and fish, characterizes the pleasant woods and fair meadows, tells us that the forest blossomed and speaks of the growing corn (L 2003 ff). A third description of the same sort is given under Belin's reign—a meagre account but one in which Layamon adds the work of human hands—burwes and tunes (L 4819, cf. W 2649)—to the landscape. The only other set descriptions of any length in either work are those of the lakes in Scotland. These accounts, however, belong more properly with the marvelous and will be treated under that head.9

Many landscape features are mentioned in connection with the action in both writers. They are elaborated, however, far more frequently in the English writer, who, for instance, describes with some circumstance the valley in which the Romans awaited part of Arthur's army (L 26932 ff), while Wace merely says “liu convenable trovèrent, à faire lor embuissement” (12529 f). A more striking illustration is the lack of any suggestion in Wace of the comparison of the hiding places of the Britons to those of badgers, while in Layamon we have a really picturesque simile:

Þet iherde Bruttes (12814)
þer heo wuneden i þan puttes,
inne eorðen & inne stockes
heo hudeden heom alse brockes
i wude i wilderne
inne hæðe & inne uærne
þat ne mihte wel neh na man
nenne Brut iuinden.

An odd touch of characterization is used by the English writer in the case of the field of Ambresbury. Every time it is mentioned it has a conventional tag (in much the same way as a character often seems to have a special adjective, i.e., a fixed epithet assigned to him). It is a field “that was pleasant (muri)” (15188), “broad and very pleasant (muri) (17157), and again it is a field

þe is wunder ane brad (17453)
he is brad & swiðe muri.

The characterization is itself slight and highly conventional but it seems to betray a desire not shared by Wace to tell something of the appearance of the famous field where

… Hengest biswæc (17456)
Bruttes mid sæxen

—to make it appear in some way different from an ordinary field.

Occasionally the English writer introduces a bit of setting in such a way as to emphasize the action of an individual, as when Locrin's father-in-law threatened him with a battle-ax and “smote the stone where he was standing so that it was shattered into fragments.”10 Now and then Layamon mentions some landscape feature, not in connection with action but apparently merely to add to a picture, as when the knights find Merlin sitting by the edge of a spring which he loved (17025 ff) and again when the hermit comes upon him standing under a tree (18802).11

Rivers appear in both narratives when necessary for the action, but with almost no characterization. Gaie une ève corant is as full an expression as Wace ever uses, while Layamon rarely goes beyond such colorless adjectives as fair, hende, long, (often preceded by the adverb swiðe). The most interesting account of a river in either work is that of the Avon in the English Brut, where the interest comes from the figurative language and not from any direct description of the stream itself. Arthur says of Baldus: “Yesterday was Baldus boldest of all knights. Now he stands on the hill—”

& Auene bi-haldeð (21322)
hu ligeð i þan stræme
stelene fisces—
mid sweorde bi-georede
heore sund is awemmed
heore scalen wleoteð
swulc gold-faȝe sceldes—
þer fleoteð heore spiten
swule hit spæren weoren.

Other bodies of water are quite unimportant, with the exception of the sea, which is so significant that it will be discussed in a section of its own.

Passing on to the other part of place-settings—that which has to do with the works of man—we find that the work of the French writer is markedly less full than that of Layamon. In both narratives the setting is homogeneous—Aeneas's castle in Italy is evidently conceived in the same terms as one of a much later time and a different country, such as that of Vortiger. Both writers are very sparing of formal descriptions. But the use of details by the two contributes to a totality of impression that is markedly different. If every scrap of information in Wace were collected, the picture of the dwellings would still be a bare one, while in Layamon the many concrete details serve to present us with a picture that is at once vivid and comparatively full. In the building of Vortiger's castle, for example, the earlier Brut says merely

Cil ont commencié à olvrer, (7513)
Pière mortier à aloer,

while the later poet tells us that the king is advised to erect a castle with strong stone walls, on the mount of Reir (15442 ff), and the details of building follow:

dic heo bigunnen sone, (15463)
hornes þer bleouwen,
machunes heowen,
lim heo gunnen bærnen.

Later it is told that

heo lim & stan
leiden to-somne
of machunes þer wes wunder.

Towers are evidently thought of as coming under the same head as castles, or as synonymous with them, for Layamon writes

and of castles ner þer na þing (7081)
bute þat tur þe makede Belin king.

But the tower built by Caesar at Boulogne was apparently quite an unusual piece of architecture, for it is described at some length by both writers and almost solely for its own interesting features without regard to action. Wace tells us that it was “d'estrange compas” (4299), very wide below and grew narrow as it extended upward:

Maint estage i ot et maint estre (4303)
Si ot desus mainte fenestre
Une pière tant solement
Covri le plus halt mandement.

Compared with the bare account in Geoffrey, “turrim quam in loco, quae Odnea vocatur, construxerat” (IV, 7), his description is remarkably full, but it contains nothing so vividly suggestive of its peculiar construction as Layamon's

þer mihten sitten in þon grunde (7779)
cnihtes sixti hundred
& þa turres cop mitte weoren
a cniht mid his capen.

Another sort of habitation that is evidently exceptional is the underground dwelling or cave that Locrine built for Æstrild, but here the English writer furnished all the details, for while Wace simply mentions a “célier desos terre parfondement” (1424 f). Layamon tells of

… an eorð-hus (2360)
eadi & feier
þe walles of stone
þe duren of whales bone.

In the case of the baths near which Bladus' temple was built, the English writer has more information to give. Wace says they were “chauz et saluables” (W 1675), while the later author tells that Bladus made a

… muchele ginne (2846)
mid ane stæn cunne
al swa great swa a beam,
þe he leide in ane walle stream;
þe ilke makeð þat water hot;

and he built near these hot springs a temple to Minerva.

As regards buildings that have nothing unusual about their construction, the details given in the English writer are often meagre enough, but however meagre they may be they are almost invariably fuller than those of Wace. Sometimes there is merely the addition of an almost colorless adjective such as “very fair,” “rich,” “lofty.” But frequently there is direct visualization, as in the case of Diana's temple, which to Wace is simply “un temple d'antiquité” (634) while Layamon sees it “great and lofty, built of marble.”

Parts of buildings are mentioned more frequently in Layamon and serve to give reality both to action and to setting. For example, in the English Brut we hear that Brian's sister hid herself “on the benches between two widows” (L 30822—not in Wace). And again, that Ygerne went to her bower and had the king's bed spread with fine cloth (19042 ff—not in Wace). Constance's murderers found him in his bower sitting by the fire (L 13562—not in Wace). Many concrete details are added in the case of the king's coming to Tyntagel. Uther's men cried to the gate-ward to undo the gate-bolt (18992). The knights ran up on the wall, thought they recognized Gorlois and his men. Then they “weighed up the castle gate” (19002 f). Later, after they had decided to surrender to Uther, “they let down the bridge” (19242).12

Suggestion of an occasional grim decoration of the hall is given in the mocking song of Childric's men where they boast that they will make a “bridge (brugge)” of Arthur's back, take all the bones of the noble king, and join them together with golden ties and lay them in the hall door where each man goes forth (20993 ff). The idea of decoration is not unlike that found in the Beowulf where Grendel's hand is used to decorate the Hall Heorot. Another account which likewise appears to have an Anglo-Saxon ring and which mentions almost every important part of the castle in a few lines is that of the giant's attack on Howel's castle:

þa ȝaten alle he to-brac (25885)
and binnen he gon wende
He nom þare halle wah [wall?]
and helden hine to grunde
þæs bures dure he warp adun
þat heo to-barst a uiuen...

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Margaret Houck (essay date 1938)

SOURCE: Houck, Margaret. “Wace's Individuality and Narrative Technique.” In Sources of the “Roman de Brut” of Wace. University of California Publications in English. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1941, pp. 167-95.

[In the following essay, written in 1938, Houck examines the techniques through which Wace transforms Geoffrey of Monmouth's narrative history into a stylized work approaching fiction.]

Most of the alterations made by Wace in Geoffrey's narrative have their source in his characteristic technique of storytelling and his poetic individuality; that is, in his style as a narrative poet. His style manifests itself chiefly in his development of...

(The entire section is 10543 words.)

Alexander Bell (essay date 1963)

SOURCE: Bell, Alexander. “The Royal Brut Interpolation.” Medium Aevum XXXII, no. 3 (1963): 190-202.

[In the following essay, Bell suggests that a manuscript of Wace's history of England, the Roman de Brut, called the Royal Brut contains an interpolation of some six thousand lines not written by Wace.]

Although the item commencing on f. 40v of B.M. Royal 13 A xxi is introduced by the rubric:

Ci commence le brut ke maistre / Wace translata de latin en / franceis de tuz les reis ke / furent [en] bretaigne deske il / perdi son nun e fust apelé / engletere par la grant destruci / un ke daneis firent...

(The entire section is 5945 words.)

Leger Brosnahan (essay date 1964)

SOURCE: Brosnahan, Leger. “Wace's Use of Proverbs.” Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies XXXIX, no. 3 (July 1964): 444-50.

[In the following essay, Brosnahan outlines Wace's use of proverbs and explores the narrative, literary, and dramatic functions they serve in his work.]

Pvr remembrer des ancesurs
Les feiz e les diz e les murs.

The primary intention of this study is simply to add Wace to the relatively short list of individual mediaeval authors whose uses of proverbial materials have been closely examined.1 For the student of mediaeval proverbs the collection contains a thorough culling and classification of the various types of...

(The entire section is 2923 words.)

William Sayers (essay date 1964)

SOURCE: Sayers. William. “Rummaret de Wenelande: A Geographical Note to Wace's Brut.Romance Philology XVIII, no. 1 (August 1964): 46-53.

[In the following essay, Sayers speculates on the existence and geographical location of Wenelande, a place Wace describes in the Roman de Brut.]

While Wace develops the scenic, picturesque, and psychological possibilities of Geoffrey's Historia Regum Britanniae, students of the Roman de Brut are agreed that he remains in general faithful to his source as regards the events recounted and the names of places and people. The few innovations in the latter domain are of special interest in view of Wace's...

(The entire section is 3778 words.)

Gerald F. Carr (essay date 1968)

SOURCE: Carr, Gerald F. “The Prologue to Wace's Vie de Saint Nicholas: A Structural Analysis.” Philological Quarterly XLVII, no. 1 (January 1968): 1-7.

[In the following essay, Carr demonstrates the numerological basis for the structure of Wace's Vie de Saint Nicholas.]

The latent structural qualities of medieval poetry were first brought forcefully to the attention of scholars by Ernst Robert Curtius.1 Although by no means the first critic to recognize the architectonic features of medieval poetry, Curtius in his essay on “Zahlensymbolik” (Exkurs XV) gave renewed impetus to the investigation of the interrelationships of number, literary form...

(The entire section is 2531 words.)

J. B. H. Box and A. D. Deyermond (essay date 1977)

SOURCE: Box, J. B. H., and A. D. Deyermond. “Mestre Baqua and the Grail Story.” Revue de Litérature Comparée 51, no. 3 (July-September 1977): 366-70.

[In the following essay, Box and Deyermond argue that there are references to Wace's work in the medieval Portuguese Arthurian poem Livro de Josep Abarimatia.]

The Portuguese Livro de Josep Abarimatia, like other Hispanic Arthurian romances, is rich in cross-references to other parts of the Post-Vulgate Arthurian cycle1. This feature is both well known and entirely natural: the interlace structure of most such romances2 makes a good deal of cross-referencing necessary, and the...

(The entire section is 2417 words.)

Ernest C. York (essay date 1981)

SOURCE: York, Ernest C. “Wace's Wenelande: Identification and Speculation.” Romance Notes XXII, no. 1 (fall 1981): 112-18.

[In the following essay, York attempts to identify the country Wace calls Wenelande in Le Roman de Brut.]

When Wace wrote his account of Arthur's Scandinavian conquest, he added Rummaret of Wenelande to Geoffrey's list of kings and kingdoms that submitted to Arthur.1 Ever since Le Roux de Lincy published his edition of Le Roman de Brut (1836-38), scholars have tried to solve the questions raised by these names: where Wace got them, who Rummaret is, and what country he meant by Wenelande. In 1941 Margaret...

(The entire section is 2278 words.)

Sara Sturm-Maddox (essay date 1984)

SOURCE: Sturm-Maddox, Sara. “‘Tenir sa terre en pais’: Social Order in the Brut and the Conte del Graal.Studies in Philology LXXXI, no. 1 (winter 1984): 28-41.

[In the following essay, Sturm-Maddox argues that Chretien de Troyes' reading of Wace's Brut influenced his elevation of social concerns over individual chivalric values in his version of the grail story.]

In the wake of recent demonstrations that the traditional criteria of veracity versus fictionality are not universally pertinent to the classification of medieval narrative,1 the question of generic differentiation acquires new prominence. The conventional distinction,...

(The entire section is 5248 words.)

Jean Blacker-Knight (essay date 1984)

SOURCE: Blacker-Knight, Jean. “Wace's Craft and His Audience: Historical Truth, Bias, and Patronage in the Roman de Rou.Kentucky Romance Quarterly 31, no. 4 (1984): 355-62.

[In the following essay, Blacker-Knight argues that Henry II was displeased with the Roman de Rou because in it Wace's loyalty was to recounting history as he understood it rather than to slanting his narrative in the King's favor.]

Wace's Roman de Rou, although not written in the Anglo-Norman dialect, was directed to an audience closely connected with the far-reaching Anglo-Norman regnum.1 Written by a Norman cleric for Henry Plantagenet, king of...

(The entire section is 3608 words.)

Merritt R. Blakeslee (essay date 1985)

SOURCE: Blakeslee, Merritt R. “The Authorship of Thomas's Tristan.Philological Quarterly 64, no. 4 (fall 1985): 555-72.

[In the following essay, Blakeslee argues that the imitation of Wace's Roman de Brut evident throughout the twelfth-century Tristan attributed to Thomas supports the hypothesis of Thomas's sole authorship of that poem.]

The question of dual authorship, so long a subject of controversy among scholars of Beroul's Tristran, has latterly been raised in regard to Thomas's Tristan. A recent article by Constance B. Bouchard has suggested that the manuscript fragments traditionally ascribed to Thomas of Britain and...

(The entire section is 7138 words.)

P. B. Grout (essay date 1985)

SOURCE: Grout, P. B. “The Author of the Munich Brut, His Latin Sources, and Wace.” Medium Aevum LIV, no. 2 (1985): 274-82.

[In the following essay, Grout compares two versions of Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain, the anonymous Munich Brut, and Wace's Brut, especially with regard to their treatment of the story of King Leir.]

It is generally known that in addition to the more famous Brut by Wace, the Historia Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth gave rise to a number of verse translations, of which some fragments and some longer versions are still extant.1 Of the longer versions, the...

(The entire section is 4126 words.)

Martin B. Shichtman (essay date 1987)

SOURCE: Shichtman, Martin B. “Gawain in Wace and Laȝamon: A Case of Metahistorical Evolution.” In Medieval Texts and Contemporary Readers, pp. 103-19. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1987.

[In the following essay, Shichtman contrasts the way Wace and Layamon portray Sir Gawain and narrate his history, and argues that the difference in their approaches is the result of their disimilarities in class, location, and historical perspective.]

Among historians who see the ultimate goal of historical discourse as the conveyance of “truth,” historical writings of the Middle Ages have been often found suspect, even ignored, because of their tendency toward...

(The entire section is 6665 words.)

Jeff Rider (essay date 1989)

SOURCE: Rider, Jeff. “The Fictional Margin: The Merlin of the Brut.Modern Philology, 87, no. 1 (August 1989): 1-12.

[In the following essay, Rider contrasts the treatment of Merlin in Wace's and Layamon's versions of Le Roman de Brut.]

Wace's Roman de Brut and Layamon's adaptation of it have been closely compared a number of times, and “canonical” characterizations of the two texts and the two poets were established as early as 1906. Wace was quintessentially Norman, a professional writer who enjoyed royal patronage. Layamon was “a thorough mediæval Saxon,” a rustic priest who wrote to please himself, perhaps out of a sense of...

(The entire section is 7378 words.)

Peter Noble (essay date 1993)

SOURCE: Noble, Peter. “Wace and Renaut de Beaujeu.” French Studies, XLVII, no. 1 (January 1993): 1-5.

[In the following essay, Noble argues for Wace's influence on Renaut de Beaujeu's romance Le Bel Inconnu.]

Critics are generally agreed that Renaut de Beaujeu had an excellent knowledge of his predecessors and drew quite heavily on some of them in Le Bel Inconnu. Madeleine Tyssens, for example, twice underlines the enormous debt which Renaut owes to Chrétien. She comments that ‘Renaut a donc pillé toute l'œuvre de Chrétien’1 and argues later in the same article that there is no need to look elsewhere for the sources of Renaut's...

(The entire section is 1957 words.)

Dolores Buttry (essay date 1996)

SOURCE: Buttry, Delores. “Contempt or Empathy? Master Wace's Depiction of a Peasant Revolt.” Romance Notes, XXXVII, no. 1 (fall 1996): 31-38.

[In the following essay, Buttry argues that Wace's account of a peasant revolt shows his sympathy for their plight rather than the aristocratic disdain that has been attributed to him.]

The twelfth-century Norman writer Wace appears to have been quite conservative in his social opinions as well as in his use of language. His aristocratic birth has been assumed since at least 1880, and critics have considered his depiction in the Roman de Rou (1160-74) of the peasant revolt under Duke Richard II to be an example of...

(The entire section is 2922 words.)

Laurie Finke and Martin Shichtman (essay date 1998)

SOURCE: Finke, Laurie, and Martin Shichtman. “The Mont St. Michel Giant: Sexual Violence and Imperialism in the Chronicles of Wace and Laȝamon.” In Violence against Women in Medieval Texts, edited by Anna Roberts, pp. 56-74. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1998.

[In the following essay, Finke and Shlichtman contrast the ways Wace and Layamon present rape in their narrations of the Arthurian legend.]

We could find no better means to illustrate in popular culture the ways in which sexual violence—especially rape—is generically encoded in our cultural narratives than that incredibly bad “B” science fiction film of 1968, Mars Needs Women. In...

(The entire section is 7147 words.)

Carolyn Anderson (essay date 1999)

SOURCE: Anderson, Carolyn. “Narrating Matilda, ‘Lady of the English,’ in the Historia Novella, the Gesta Stephani, and Wace's Roman de Rou: The Desire for Land and Order.” Clio: A Journal of Literature, History and the Philosophy of History, 29, no. 1 (fall 1999): 47-67.

[In the following essay, Anderson considers the significance of Wace's treatment of the figure of Matilda, the mother of England's King Henry II.]

Robert Wace's Roman de Rou1 virtually omits Queen Matilda and most of the twelfth-century English civil war she fought with her cousin, Stephen of Blois. Given the text's predilection for battles and wars,...

(The entire section is 8047 words.)

Penny Eley and Philip E. Bennett (essay date 1999)

SOURCE: Eley, Penny, and Philip E. Bennett. “The Battle of Hastings according to Gaimar, Wace, and Benoît: Rhetoric and Politics.” Nottingham Medieval Studies, XLIII (1999): 47-78

[In the following essay, Eley and Bennett compare three accounts of the Battle of Hastings, including that by Wace.]

According to Jean Blacker, the Norman Conquest was ‘the most visible cause of the upsurge in historical writing in twelfth-century England’ and in the continental territories controlled by successive Anglo-Norman and Norman-Angevin rulers.1 Her recent study of the historical writings of Gaimar, Wace, Benoît de Sainte-Maure and their Latin counterparts pays...

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