Date of Award

Spring 1934

Document Type



Languages & Literature


A discussion of the Tristram and Iseult cycle in English literature would he incomplete without a short hut comprehensive history of the evolution of the Arthurian legend as a whole. Little is known of the beginnings of the great international epic. A great number of people are of the opinion that it sprung up as the outgrowth of an illiterate age, and was based on legendary tales and medieval mythological verse. However, we find in Gurteen's "The Arthurian Epic" the statement that "as we advance in our summary of the Arthurian Epic the true character of the work will be brought out in bold relief, and we shall see that instead of its being an inartistic collection of monastic legends it is, on the contrary, a grand religious prose-poem of marvelous power and beauty, the production of some of the most learned and gifted Trouveres of the Plantagenet era." (1)

It is certain, however, that the popular tales were at an early date connected with it. From the time of Nennius' history to the "History of the Kings of Britain" by Geoffrey of Monmouth there is little evidence as to the evolution and growth of the story of Arthur. In Geoffrey we find the fully developed story and it may be supposed that he received a fairly comprehensive tale, which had been adorned with historical and popular traditions. Geoffrey, who was of Welsh and Norman descent, probably added some interesting anecdotes to the story and in this way created an interest in the debatable historical figure of Arthur.