Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 173
Brut is an epic poem by thirteenth-century priest and poet Layamon. The poem is also called The Chronicle of Britain. The poem has 16,096 lines and is written in Middle English (c. 1150 to c. 1470). Brut is a primer on British history and is particularly known for its substantially large section dedicated to the exploits of King Arthur, which is still regarded as a mythical figure or a composite of various historical figures.
The poem is not an accurate historiography, but instead features various mythical anecdotes, which makes Brut more similar to an ethnographic presentation of British culture, folklore and literary tradition. Due to the fact that history facts and fantasy interweave in the epic poem.
Layamon's masterpiece provokes inquiry into the nature of history and historical analysis. How can one discern what actually happened from mythology? This is especially true when historical figures or events have been intertwined with legends throughout the centuries. The poem is a fascinating and accomplished undertaking nonetheless, and serves as a primer for those interested in the Anglo-Saxon culture.
Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 148
*England. Provides the overall setting for Brut, which is the story of the kings of England from the supposed first English king, Brut, through one of the most legendary English kings, Arthur. Since this work focuses mainly on the story of Arthur, such Arthurian settings as Cornwall; Tintagel Castle, where Arthur was born; and Camelot, the site of Arthur’s court, supply the locales for the events illustrating Arthur’s rise to power and the development of the code of chivalry and the brotherhood of the Round Table. Layamon also recounts Arthur’s battles and victories in France, Ireland, Scotland, Iceland, Norway, and Denmark. As do most versions of the Arthur story, Brut concludes with Arthur’s fatal battle with his son Modred at Camelford and his being spirited off to the mystical island of Avalon, where he will stay until he is again needed in England.
Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 157
Garbaty, Thomas J., ed. Medieval English Literature. Lexington, Mass.: D. C. Heath, 1984. A full study of Old and Middle English poetry with great emphasis on Arthurian legends. Presents Brut without translation.
Layamon. Brut. Translated by Rosamund Allen. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992. A very clear translation with well-developed notes and a good introduction. Contains a complete bibliography.
Layamon. Layamon’s “Brut”: A History of the Britons. Translated by Donald G. Bzdyl. Binghamton: Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies, State University of New York at Binghamton, 1989. A fine prose translation with good explication and a complete index.
O’Neal, Michael. King Arthur: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego, Calif.: Greenhaven Press, 1992. A good primer for students of the Arthurian legends. Presents conflicting theories with both legend and historical evidence.
Wilhelm, James J., ed. The Romance of Arthur. New York: Garland, 1994. Prose and poetry translations of Arthurian tales, including parts of Brut and all of Layamon’s source material.
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