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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: July ::
Re: Arthur
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1649  Tuesday, 16 July 2002

[1]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Monday, 15 Jul 2002 11:41:39 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1632 Arthur

[2]     From:   Al Magary <
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        Date:   Monday, 15 Jul 2002 14:31:17 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1632 Arthur

[3]     From:   Sophie Masson <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Jul 2002 20:27:37 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1632 Arthur

[4]     From:   Sophie Masson <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 16 Jul 2002 21:32:57 +1000
        Subj:   Arthur and Brittany

[5]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Monday, 15 Jul 2002 22:27:28 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1632 Arthur


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Monday, 15 Jul 2002 11:41:39 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 13.1632 Arthur
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1632 Arthur

> Somewhat indirectly related to *King John* is the
> question of why Arthur
> has that name. Everybody else has something either
> Biblical or
> Frenchified Germanic. Granted that this was the
> heyday of Matter of
> Britain romances, but the name seems to come out of
> left field.
>
> Anyone out there know?
>
> Thanks,
> Don

This is a great question and I would love to know if anyone has the
answer. I can only guess that it has something to do with King Arthur
and the loss of innocence and a "Camelot" embodied in the mythical reign
of Richard the Lion-Hearted (and embodied onstage in the Bastard).

I also would like to open up the discussion of King John a bit further.
I am beginning rehearsals of the play and would love to hear of any
interesting interpretations and stagings. The only two productions I
have seen were RSC and Northern Broadsides 2001.  Both were outstanding
productions but still very little for me to go on. I have some good
ideas of how to play the Bastard, but I always like to research into the
roles I play, to see directions and motivations that did and did not
work for other actors. Ultimately, I want to create something original,
but I need to know the work of those who have come before. It also helps
me to explore the play in ways that I may not have before. I would
appreciate anyone's input.

Brian Willis

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Al Magary <
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Date:           Monday, 15 Jul 2002 14:31:17 -0700
Subject: 13.1632 Arthur
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1632 Arthur

Don Bloom asked:

> Somewhat indirectly related to *King John* is the question of why Arthur
> has that name. Everybody else has something either Biblical or
> Frenchified Germanic. Granted that this was the heyday of Matter of
> Britain romances, but the name seems to come out of left field.
>
> Anyone out there know?

The ArthurNet list has been asking and answering this question since, I
believe, the Creation of Cyberspace.  List info and the archives
(searchable, also browsable) at http://www.mun.ca/lists/arthurnet/
There was an excellent long thread in Aug.-Sept. 2001.

Al Magary

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sophie Masson <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Jul 2002 20:27:37 +1000
Subject: 13.1632 Arthur
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1632 Arthur

Prince Arthur was called that because as you point out, Don, the Matter
of Britain--in its Anglo-Norman version--was at its height in the
twelfth/thirteenth century. John's mother Eleanor of Aquitaine and her
daughter by the French king, Marie of Champagne, were noted patrons of
the poets who wrote much of the Arthurian romances, such as Chretien de
Troyes.  Henry II, John's father, was also one of the patrons of Marie
de France, who also wrote Arthurian romances and narrative poems (lais)
based on Breton tradition, which was intensely Arthurian. The
Plantagenets were also very concerned with  associating themselves
personally with the whole Arthurian mythos: Richard the Lionheart, for
example, gave a sword supposed to be 'Excalibur' to his brother in law,
Tancred of Sicily; and it was during Richard's reign that the supposed
tomb of Arthur and his 'second wife Guinevere', as the inscription was
said to state, was discovered at Glastonbury Abbey. Not surprising then
that there should be a Prince Arthur in the royal family! But it is not
a well-omened name; as if to mock any pretensions of anyone mortal, or
non-legendary, to the title of 'King Arthur' not one Prince Arthur has
succeeded to the throne. For example, Henry VIII's older brother Arthur,
who was to be the King, and who was the first husband of Katharine of
Aragon, died at a very young age, leaving Henry to inherit. It's not a
good sign even for Prince Charles, perhaps, whose second name is Arthur!

A small publicity aside: my novel, Forest of Dreams (Random House
Australia 2001), set in the twelfth century, and based on the life and
work of Marie de France, does go into some of this background and
atmosphere., especially in its second part. John even appears in it as a
young boy.

Sophie Masson
Author site: http://www.northnet.com.au/~smasson

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sophie Masson <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Jul 2002 21:32:57 +1000
Subject:        Arthur and Brittany

As an expansion of my earlier post re Don Bloom's question about the
name of Arthur of Brittany:

Brittany has always been a troublesome ally/adjunct to the French
crown.  Fiercely independent and sure of their Celtic identity, as well
as being noted fighters, the Bretons have been cajoled or forced into
French alliances in several ways, but chief amongst which is the appeal
to their ancestral traditions. The legendary King Arthur is as famous in
Brittany as he is in Wales, for obvious reasons. His name is still
invoked in Breton literature and music to this day, and he and Merlin
feature very strongly in the Barzazh Breizh, the extraordinary
collection of traditional Breton material gathered in the 19th century
by the Breton aristocrat Theodore Hersart de Villemarque (and before
anyone says this is suspect, the B.B. has been comprehensively
documented and proven to be absolutely authentic in research in Brittany
in the last few years).

In the Middle Ages of course, that connection was even stronger. It was
not a romance novelty for the Bretons, but a strong ancestral
tradition--and when Young Henry married Constance of Brittany and
produced an heir, the choice of Arthur as a name made perfect sense. Not
only would the child be half-Breton, he'd also have a moniker of strong
resonance. John knew that an army under the name of Arthur of Brittany
could easily be raised amongst the Bretons(and was, of course!)quite
apart from the fact that in medieval dynastic terms, Arthur, as the
original Crown Prince's son and heir, had perhaps a stronger claim to
the throne than his uncle did. Of course, Arthur was younger than John
and so more easily manipulated at first.

Sophie Masson
Author site: http://www.northnet.com.au/~smasson

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Monday, 15 Jul 2002 22:27:28 -0400
Subject: 13.1632 Arthur
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1632 Arthur

His name really was Arthur.
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