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French literature



 


Wace


Jersey poet Wace presenting his Roman de Rou to Henry II of England
Illustration from Notice sur la vie et les écrits de Robert Wace by Frédéric Pluquet, 1824.
Engraving by C. E. Lambert.



born c. 1100, Jersey, Channel Islands
died after 1174

Anglo-Norman author of two verse chronicles, the Roman de Brut (1155) and the Roman de Rou (1160–74), named respectively after the reputed founders of the Britons and Normans.

The Rou was commissioned by Henry II of England, who sometime before 1169 secured for Wace a canonry at Bayeux in northwestern France. The Brut may have been dedicated to Henry’s queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Written in octosyllabic verse, it is a romanticized paraphrase of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae, tracing the history of Britain from its founding by the legendary Brutus the Trojan. Its many fanciful additions (including the story of King Arthur’s Round Table) helped increase the popularity of the Arthurian legends. The Rou, written in octosyllabic couplets and monorhyme stanzas of alexandrines, is a history of the Norman dukes from the time of Rollo the Viking (after 911) to that of Robert II Curthose (1106). In 1174, however, Henry II transferred his patronage to one Beneeit, who was writing a rival version, and Wace’s work remained unfinished.

Wace’s artistry in the Brut exerted a stylistic influence on later verse romances (notably on a version of the Tristan story by Thomas, the Anglo-Norman writer), whereas the English poem Brut (c. 1200) by Lawamon was the most notable of many direct imitations. Three devotional works by Wace also survive.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 

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