A Golden Age of English Poetry
Edited By Gerald Morgan
WILLIAM MARX An Absent King: Perceptions of the Politics of Power in the Reign of Richard II and the Middle English Prose Brut 135
William Marx An Absent King: Perceptions of the Politics of Power in the Reign of Richard II and the Middle English Prose Brut1 Addressing issues of ‘Chaucer in Context’ opens up the opportunity to examine aspects of historical writing of the fourteenth and fifteenth cen- tury and the perspectives that this of fers on the political context and the power struggles of the period in which Chaucer was active. Chaucer is notable because he wrote in English and so gave voice to and ref lected a strong vernacular culture. The type of historical writing examined here is also in English, in some cases composed in English, in others translated into English. It is an important strain in vernacular literature.2 The prin- cipal text for this essay is the Middle English Prose Brut, which only since the 1980s has been the subject of any significant interest to literary schol- ars and historians.3 Before we examine the Middle English Prose Brut as a point of access to historical contexts for Chaucer, it will be helpful to characterise the text. The Middle English prose Brut takes its name from the legend of the foundation of Britain by Brutus, one of the refugees from the fall of Troy. This is the legendary history of Britain that is best known through Geof frey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae and, for many, the opening lines of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.4 The narrative of the Middle English prose Brut begins with events leading up to...
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