Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 219
The character's in Layamon's Brut, a famous Middle English poem of roughly 17,000 lines, overlap with those of several other well-known works of the Middle Ages, such as Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Brittaniae ("History of the Kings of Britain," c. 1136), as well as Roman de Brut by the Norman poet, Wace (c. 1150).
Layamon's Brut is thought to have been completed in the early 13th century, owing to a reference to the late Eleanor of Aquitane. There are countless characters, as the work is an episodic chronicle of kings; however, several stand out for their historical importance or legacy.
The principle section by volume (approx. 8,000) treats King Arthur and his company of characters, such as the wizard, Merlin; Arthur's father, Uther; his enemy, Modred; and his wife, Guinevere.
The story begins with the title character, Brutus, a descendant of Aeneas (of Trojan war fame). The story then chronicles Brutus' travels around the Mediterranean to the British isles, alongside other Trojans. Britain is, according to Layamon, named for Brutus, as he led the Trojans in battle against the indigenous giants.
The series of kings listed thereafter include famous names like King Lear, Cymbeline, and (the last in the novel) King Cadwallader (685-682 CE), who is notionally (according to Brut and other legends) the last king in the same line as Brutus.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 802
Aeneas (ee-NEE-uhs), the Trojan hero, legendary ancestor of the ancient rulers of Britain.
Ascanius (as-KAY-nee-uhs), his son.
Brutus (BREW-tuhs), his grandson, who colonizes Britain with a group of Trojan descendants. Brave and generous to his followers, he is an ideal leader in the tradition of Beowulf.
Assaracus, the heir of a Greek knight and his Trojan concubine. He is Brutus’ companion and military aide.
Corineus, the ruler of a Trojan colony in Spain and, later, of Cornwall. He is a man of violent temper and great bravery.
Geomagog, the giant who rules Logice, the island where Brutus lands.
Locrin, Brutus’ successor, who brings chaos upon his country by repudiating his wife, Corineus’ daughter, for his mistress, a maiden of his enemies, the Huns.
Albanact, his brothers, rulers of Wales and Scotland.
Humber, the king of the Huns, defeated by Locrin and Camber.
Aestrild, Locrin’s mistress.
Guendoline, Locrin’s rejected queen, who raises an army to defeat her husband and kill her rival.
Leil, a monarch who dies of sorrow at the uprising of his barons.
Ruhhudibras, the founder of Winchester and Canterbury.
Bladud, his heir, whose discovery of hot springs is considered evidence of his consultation with devils.
Leir, the legendary original of William Shakespeare’s Lear. He divides his kingdom between two of his daughters but rejects the third for her refusal to flatter him. After suffering persecution from the elder two, he is happily reunited with his youngest child.
Cordoille, his daughters.
Aganippus, the king of France, Cordoille’s husband.
Gorbodiago, a good king, the model of the title figure in Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville’sGorboduc (1565).
Poreus, his sons, murdered and murderer.
Jadon, their mother, who takes Poreus’ life to avenge his killing of Fereus.
Cloten, the duke of Cornwall, the man with the greatest right to Gorbodiago’s throne. He lacks wealth and power to claim it.
Donwallo Molinus, his son, the fairest king of England, who brings peace, quiet, and good laws to his people.
Brennes, brothers and joint rulers. They conduct successful campaigns against Scandinavian and Roman forces.
Julius Caesar and
Claudius, Roman emperors and rulers of Britain.
Luces, the just monarch in whose reign Christianity reaches England.
Asclepidiot, the ruler who expels the Romans.
Helen, the daughter of Coel, king of Britain, and Constantine’s mother, who discovers the Cross of Christ in Jerusalem.
Constantine, her son, who reigns in Britain and expels the tyrant Maxenz from Rome.
Vortiger, a powerful earl, controller of half of Wales. To acquire power, he instigates a plot to place on the throne his king’s son Constance, who is a monk and is therefore ineligible to rule.
Constance, a weak king.
Uther, his brother, a fine warrior who, before he becomes king, defeats both the Irish and the invading heathens under Hengest.
Hengest, the leader of the Germanic tribes who joins Vortiger’s court at his own request.
Vortimer, Vortiger’s son and heir, a Christian ruler who tries to expel Hengest.
Merlin, a magician, “son of no man,” who serves as counselor to Uther and Arthur.
Ygaerne, the wife of Gorlois, earl of Cornwall. Uther desires her.
Arthur, the son of Uther and Ygaerne, recalled from his home in Brittany to be a wise and generous king of England and sworn enemy to the Saxon invaders. A fierce warrior, he extends his conquests to Rome itself. Mortally wounded in battle against his treacherous nephew, Modred, he departs for Avalon to be healed by the fairy queen, promising to return.
Wenhavere (Guinevere), his queen. She betrays him with Modred and retreats to a nunnery after her lover’s defeat.
Walwain (Gawain), Arthur’s nephew, a noble, virtuous knight, prototype of the hero of Pearl-Poet’s Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (fourteenth century), who is debased in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (1485).
Kay, one of Arthur’s trusted knights.
Beduer (Bedivere), Arthur’s steward and another of his favorite knights.
Modred, Walwain’s treacherous brother.
Luces, the Roman emperor killed by Arthur after he had demanded tribute from the British.
Austin, a priest sent, years later, to introduce Christianity into Britain a second time.
Æthelbert, his royal convert.
Aeluric, his enemy, a Northumbrian king.
Penda, the king of Marcia, who treacherously murders the son of his ally, King Edwine.
Cadwalader, the last of the British kings, beset by plague and famine.
Athelstan, the first English king of all England.
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