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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: March 2014

III - Edward III's Arthurian Enthusiasms Revisited: Perceforest in the Context of Philippa of Hainault and the Round Table Feast of 1344

Summary

Perceforest is the greatest of the unread Arthurian romances. There is still no complete modern edition, and in order to read the last book, you have to use the huge folio volumes produced in Paris in the early sixteenth century, designed to satisfy the enthusiasm of buyers of the new-fangled romances in book form. Neglected until a summary version by Jeanne Lods appeared in 1951, it was only with the appearance of the first volume of the Textes littéraires français edition by Jane Taylor in 1979 that it began to attract wider attention among Arthurian scholars, reinforced by the publication of all but the sixth part of the romance by 2007. Now that Nigel Bryant has produced an English version, its extraordinary riches are available to a much wider audience. This article explores the possible historical context in which it was originally composed.

I say ‘originally composed’ deliberately, because the version that we have is almost certainly a reworking in the fifteenth century of a fourteenth-century prose romance. The language is not that of the mid fourteenth century, and much of the content is similar in style to that of the Burgundian romances of the mid fifteenth century. These were new versions of twelfth- and thirteenth-century texts, by now archaic in their language.