chapter  5
12 Pages

Wace, Roman de Brut Merlin Episodes and “The Birth and Rise of Arthur”

ByJames J. Wilhelm

Wace’s Roman de Brut is the first full account of the Arthurian story in a vernacular language: Old North French. Other versions may have existed before Wace but none has survived. The little we know about Wace’s life comes from his last work, the Roman de Rou, a verse history of the dukes of Normandy. He wrote this book for King Henry II of England, beginning it in 1160 but being supplanted in the undertaking by one Master Beneeit, apparently at the king’s insistence. Five years before he began his Norman compilation, he undertook the massive task of rendering into French Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, which had been written in Latin. This was dedicated to Henry’s queen, the famous Eleanor of Aquitaine, and it was presented to the queen in 1155. Before this, Wace also translated some saints’ lives from Latin into French.