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The Figure of Kay in the Old French Romances of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries

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THE JIGURE QF KAY:IN -THE’OLD 'FREN GH
ROMANCES OF the TWELM'E'MD
THIRTEENTH',iMTfelES
Sister Mary Laurence Fangman
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, in the Department
of Romance Languages, in the Graduate College
of the State University of Iowa
August, 1940
ProQuest Number: 10805524
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PREFACE
Sir Kay, seneschal to King Arthur, has been accord­
ed
only a fraction of the attention which investigators
have lavished on the more popular knights of the Round
Table, such as Gauvain,
Perceval, and Lancelot.'*'
Although
some noteworthy contributions have been made to the study of
his role, there remains an extensive and inviting field for
further research.
Professor George W. Benedict, formerly of Brown
University, in an unpublished thesis,
2
traces this figure
through the entire field of Arthurian lore, and finds in him
a parallel to a type of character which is constant to all
the great epics: the discourteous knight of the evil tongue,
or otherwise, the burlesque knight.
He indicates similarities
between Kay and such personages as Thersites, Ganelon, Hagen,
Unferth, Conan, Bricriu, and others, whose roles in their
respective spheres have won for them a common designation as
elements of discord.
x)
k>
This is an interesting and valuable
study but it is general in nature.
A work of more recent date than Professor Benedict1s
M,
3C
* has been presented as a doctoral dissertation at the univer-
|
s
........................................................
®
1. These are for the most part studies in sources,
in texts, in relationships, comparisons, and the like, into
which, however, the appraisal of the character frequently
enters. A study of the role of Lancelot as such was made
by August J. App as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor
of Philosophy at the Catholic University of America:
The
title is Lancelot in English Literature: His Role and
Character” (1929)
2. Benedict, George W.: Sir Kay the seneschal of
Arthur1s court. Ph.D. thesis, Harvard, 1899.
v
i
®
5
^
ill
sity of Jena, under the title: Per Marschall Keu in den alt"
franz 61sisch en Artusepen by Karl Anselmann.'*'
is inaccessible due to war conditions.
This manuscript
It has never been
printed and no details of the life and career of Mr. Anselmann
are available.
A third contribution, made by Miss Dorothy Winters,
is a Master* s dissertation entitled Sir Kay in the French
o
Romances of the Twelfth Century,
of Chicago.
presented at the University
The investigation is directed chiefly to the
romances of Chretien de Troyes, and his methods
of develop*
ing the character of Kay,
Both Professor Benedict and Miss Winters consider
Kay to be a stock figure, cast in a definite mold by Chretien,
who received his plastic material from various sources.
Scholars do not agree what these sources are: they may be
oral or written.
have been lost.
In the latter case the written sources
With this theory of Professor Benedict and
Miss Winters I agree.
As the figure passes into the hands
of the romancers of the thirteenth century, however, it under­
goes variations,
Kay assumes some astonishing and even
conflicting roles, ranging from serious to comic, from the
court buffoon to the clever scoundrel, from the inept, illmannered braggart to the accomplished knight and loverl
With these later developments of the character of
1. Anselmann, Karl: Per Marschall Keu in den altfranzflsischen Artusepen. Jena dlss. (Handschrift'Y’l'&ZS.
2. Winters, Dorothy: Sir Kay in the Romances of
the Twelfth Century. Chicago, 1928.
iv
Kay, Miss Winters* work is not concerned.
Professor
Benedict accounts for the discrepancies irithe seneschal*s
\
character by tracing two divergent types which he designates
as Chretienesque and Galfridian, the former derived from
Chretien and the Breton legends, the latter from Geoffrey of
Monmouth and the Norman and Welch sources.
His dissertation
remains a generalized treatment and covers Kay* s career in
all languages and extends beyond the XIII century.
This study will be limited to an analysis of the
role of Kay in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries; it will
discuss Kay in Chretien
and then trace the influence of
Chretien on the prose and metrical romances of the XII and
XIII centuries, in their presentation of the figure.
The investigation is facilitated today by the
publication of certain manuscripts which were accessible to
Professor Benedict only in summaries or analyses in trans­
lation.
The romances here treated are those which fall
strictly within the two centuries designated and which can
be examined first hand from critical editions.
I wish to express my gratitude to Professor Clarence
E. Cousins of the State University of Iowa for the suggestion
of the subject of this dissertation and for his generous help
and encouragement.
To Professor George W. Benedict, Providence,
Rhode Island, I am indebted for the kindness of lending me
his dissertation and for the interest he has shown in my
work.
V
TABLE OP CONTENTS
Page
P r e f a c e ............ . ....................... ii
Introduction
.
............................. 1
Chapter I, Chretien de Troyes
Chapter II, Chretien’s Kay
.............
13
. . ............. 47
Chapter III, Biography of K a y ................70
Chapter IV, The Character of Kay in the
Post-Chretien Romances . . . .
.101
Table A
............................... 130
Table B
..........................131, 132
Tahle C
13 3
C o n c l u s i o n ..............
Bibliography
............................
134
143
1
INTRODUCTION
That Arthurian legends enjoyed a wide-spread popu­
larity during the middle ages is demonstrated by the fact that
they were current not only in Prance and England, but in other
European countries as well*
And it is noteworthy also that
wherever Arthur was known, Kay was known, for few of the early
chronicles or romances that deal with Round Table tradition
fail to mention him.
A piece of sculpture, to be found above
the north-east portal of the Modena Cathedral offers proof of
the prevalence of these legends In Northern Italy.
This
sculpture, dated approximately in the first decades of the
twelfth century,^ is in the form of a bas-relief, representing
either a siege of a castle by Arthur and his followers, or
p
the abduction of Guenivere.
The figures are labeled with
latinized forms of the names of characters well known in the
1* There is some difference of opinion among the
authorities regarding the dating of the sculpture. Following
are some of the various figures: Loomis, 1099-1106; Olschki,
1150-1184; Faral, 1200; Bruce, the first decades of the 12th
century. Without detailed research into this problem, it seems
reasonable and sufficient to our purpose to accept the esti­
mate of Mr. Bruce.
2.
Wendelin Forester in an article entitled: !fEin
neues Artus dokument11, (Zeitsohrift filr Romanische Fhilologie,
1897-98. Halle Max Niemeyer. XII, pp. '526-529'), gives the
following description of the tympanum: "The castle is at the
top of the archivolt in the center. Winlogere (Guinever) and
Mardoc are inside its walls. On the left hand Burmaltus comes
forth to attack Arthur and Isdermus; on the right, Carrado
rides out against Galvaginus, Galvarum, and Che." Loomis,
Roger Sherman: Celtic Myth and Arthurian Romance. (New York,
1927). Roger Loomis enters into a detailed discussion of the
identification of the scene represented by this sculpture,
and accounts for it as the interweaving of variants of the
same famous theme: the abduction of Guinevere in the Lancelot
and the Carado versions.
2
Arthurian stories:
Artus (Arthur), Xsdernus (Ider), Gal-
vaginus (Gawain), and so on*
A knight bearing the name Che
establishes the identity of Kay as one of the earliest associ­
ates of the fabled king.^*
The numerous variants in the spelling of his name
mark Kay as a familiar figure in many localities where differ­
ent languages or dialects were spoken.
Besides the form Che,
o
which would seem to be Italian rather than Latin, we find
several other versions that indicate a Latin origin, e.g.,
Gaius and the derivations: Guehus, Brayus, Quehus, Kayus, Karo,
Kario.
In German and Welch legends, the forms Kai, Kei, Cai
appear, while the Breton and Celtic romances, almost all of
which are written in French, employ an incredible variety of
spellings, some of which are dialectical: Ke, Ke', Kex, Kez,
Keu, Keux, Keuz, Kieus, Queu, Queux, Quex, Qeo, Key, Kay, Kei,
Keis, Koi, Quoi, Quei, Quois, Cheudo, Cheuno, Kaei.
%
Despite his wide-spread renown, however, we never
find Kay dissociated from the Arthurian setting.
He is
definitely a knight of Arthur’s court; hence it is in the
legends centered about that court that we must seek evidence
1. Cross & Nitze: Lancelot and Guinevere, WA Study
Origins of Courtly Love,’’ by Tom Peete Cross & William
Nitze, Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago (1930), p. 22.
James D.: The Evolution of Arthurian Romance, Hesperia
(1928), p. 14-lFI Note p. 3U~,
2. Benedict gives this as the Italianized form of
the French Ke (p. 110, op. cit.) See also Bruce who pro­
nounces it a derivation from "the French, not from the Latin
Gaius. (p. 17, o£. cit.)
3. Benedict has a detailed explanation of these
and other nationalized versions of the name, including Old
English, Norse, Dutch, etc. (Diss. p. 106 ff.) The form Keus
or Queus, being also the Old French term for ’'cook,” may have
special significance.
on the
Albert
Bruce,
Series
3
relating to him*
The origin of these popular tales, which made
their way from nation to nation, has always been a matter
of dispute.
Nor has the approximate date of their first
appearance ever been precisely determined.
The supposition
is that they were circulated by wandering minstrels long
before any of the extant versions of them were put in writing,
and that their origin was Celtic--either insular (Cornish,*
Welsh, Irish) or continental (Breton) or both.
There is some argument for the existence of Arthur
as an historical figure.
We find an account of him as early
as the ninth century in a history of Britain compiled by the
Welsh writer Nennius.
This account, although considered to
be merely legendary, leads us to speculate that the original
personage, from whom the fabulous king derived, may actually
have been some powerful military leader or chieftain, bearing
the name Arthur, whose exploits were sung by the bards of his
time.
The first document to provide a full account of
Arthur1s life is Geoffrey of Monmouth1s Historia Regum Brittaniae,^ a work which played an important role in the rise
and spread of Arthurian tradition.
It was the source and
inspiration of a flood of literary productions, both chronicle
and romance, that centered about the theme.
It must be
remarked, however, that Geoffrey of Monmouth1s material was
1.
Historia Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth.
Edited by Edmond Farai, La Legende Arthurlenne, Vol. III.
'Paris, 1929.
4
not all obtained from trustworthy sources.
He was accused in
his own day of "romancing history," and it is likely that he
drew upon popular legends fully as much as upon historical
evidence available from previous chroniclers.***
However, he
furnished in logical form what may be considered the outline
and support upon which his followers constructed a vast and
intricate fabric of romantic fancy.
Geoffrey’s Historia, dated approximately 1137,
became the immediate source of a French chronicle romance,
produced in 1155 under the title Roman de Brut, by lace, a
native of the Isle of Jersey.
Of this work, Mr. James Douglas
Bruce writes; "A detailed study of Wace1s relation to Geoffrey
proves that he followed his original closely, as far as facts
are c o n c e r n e d . w i t h i n another fifty years an English
version of the Brut was offered by Layamon,4' an Englishman,
who can lay little claim to originality in this work, as it
is practically a translation or paraphrase of the French Brut.
A rough summary of the main events of Kay’s life
taken from these chronicles yields the following incidents:
No account is given of his origin.
His first appearance is
on a certain feast of Easter, when Arthur held high court and
rewarded his servants and followers for services performed.
1. Jaffray, Robert; King Arthur and the Holy Grail.
New York, 1928.
2. L© Roman de Brut par Wace. Edited by Le Roux
de Lincy, 2 vol. Rouen, 1836-38.
3. Bruce, James D.: The Evolution of Arthurian
Romance. Hesperia Series, 1928. p.' 26.
4. Layamon* s Brut or Chronicle of Britain.
Edited by Sir Frederic Madden. S v o l . London, 1847.
5
To Kay, the master seneschal of his house, a loyal and
chivalrous knight, the King granted all Anjou and Angers.
1
Kay and Bedivere are mentioned as "Arthur1s faithful friends,
2
knowing the inmost counsel of his mind.”
At the solemn crowning of the King at Caerleon on
the Feast of Pentecost, all his barons were present, a proud
company of kings, bishops, and princes.
After the Mass there
followed a splendid banquet served by the King* s seneschal,
Sir Kay.
"He was clad in a fair dalmatic of vermeil silk.
With Sir Kay were a thousand damoiseaux, clothed in ermine,
who bore dishes from the buttery.
These pages moved briskly
about, carrying meats in platters to the guests.
Together
with these were yet another thousand damoiseaux, gentle and
goodly to see, clothed likewise in coats of ermine, who poured
the wine"
in describing this incident, Layamon pronounces
* 1. Everyman*s Library, No. 578. Wace & Layamon:
Arthurian Chronicles. Edited by Ernest Rhys. New York,
London. 1912, -2i“ -28, -37.
2. Benedict offers the following theory concerning
thesources of Geoffrey’s Kay and Bedivere: Up to about 1130
the seneschal*s office reached its height, and after 1132 the
powers of the office were so great that the position was con­
ferred only on high barons connected by family with royalty.
The seneschalship of France was hereditary in the
House of Anjou. (In Geoffrey, Kay was given the Duchy of
Anjou as reward for services in battle.)
Kay was the most important figure in the Welch
Arthurian legend after Arthur.
Kay and Bedivere--Caen and Bayeax, two well-known
neighboring cities in Normandy, one the seat of the King’s
steward (Earl of Gloucestor), the
other of his butler.-"The resemblance of Geoffrey* s steward and butler
to the officials of the Norman court on the one hand and to
the Welsh traditional conception of Kay and Beduer on the
other," says Benedict, "is too close to be accidental. Geoffrey
simply took the Welsh idea and clothed it in terms borrowed
from, but at the same time, complimentary to the high offices
of the Norman royal household." (Diss. p. 90 ff.)
3. Everyman’s Library, o£. cit., p. 68.
6
Kay "the highest knight in all the land."'*'
The next event in which Kay figures is the great
battle with the giant of Mont Saint Michel.
Tidings reached
Arthur that this formidable monster had carried off Helen,the
niece of his kinsman, Hoel.
The King called Kay and Bedivere
into counsel and announced his intention of leaving camp
secretly that night, to seek out this monster and avenge the
wrong.
None should accompany him, save his two faithful ser­
vants.
They were not to aid him in the struggle until he was
in dire need, for he desired to test his powers alone against
his antagonist.
The outcome of a prolonged and frightful
battle proved him the stouter champion, and the three returned
to camp in triumph.^
In Arthur’s wars with the Romans, Kay and Bedivere
were leaders of their companies,
Kay’s followers included the
Angevins and the men of Ghinon, "the bravest of the brave."^
In the battle, Bedivere lost his life, and Kay, who loved him
more than any man, determined that the pagans should not
triumph over his body.
His attempts to guard his fallen friend
exposed him to the furious attack of one of the enemy, who
wounded him mortally.
He succeeded, however, in bearing
Bedivere’s body and Arthur's banner from the field.
He himself
was carried to Chinon, the castle he had built, where he died
and was interred in a holy hermitage standing in a little
.
1. Everyman’s Library, ojd
2. Ibid., p. 81
3 . TE>T<L, p. 102.
cit., p. 226.
7
grove near the city#'1'
In the Welsh tradition, Kay appears in a totally
different character from that depicted in the Breton litera­
ture.
The "Four Ancient Books of Wales," which are some of
the earliest manuscripts, covering a period from the latter
twelfth century to the early fourteenth, contain a collection
of poems by various bards, SDme of which deal with Arthurian
material.
The most important of the Welsh tales have been
assembled into a complete work known as the Mabinogion, (from
"Mabinog^ signifying one preparing himself for the profession
of a bard.)
Two standard translations have been made, the
one in English by Lady Charlotte Guest, the other in French
by Mr. Joseph Loth.
In Mr. Loth's version, we read the fol-
losing commentary on the character of Kay:
Kei est un des personnages les plus connus des
l^genctes galloises. Dans les mabinogion qui ont subi
l rinfluence franpaise et dans les romans fran^ais il
est brave, mais bavard, "gabeur," et il n'est pas toujours heureux dans ses luttes. Dans ce mabinogi il a
ses veritables traits; il commence d^jd cependaht A
gaber. Le livre noir le pr^sente comme un compagnon
d*Arthur, et un terrible guerrier "quand il buvait, il
buvait contre quatre, quand il allait au combat, il se
battait contre cent."3
Further citations, made by Mr. Loth from the Gallic
poems of the middle ages, point to various other character­
istics testifying to the knightly virtues of the seneschal,
1. Everymanfs Library, op. cit., p. 109.
2. Loth, Joseph: Les Mabinogion. 2 vol. Paris,
1913*^ Vol. 1, p. 13. Rhys holds however that, strictly
speaking, the Arthurian legends are not mabinogion, except by
an extended use of the term. They are of a more recent date
than the ancient Welch sagas thus designated. Studies in the
Arthurian Legend by John Rhys, Oxford, 1891.
3. Ibid., p. 256.
8
e*g* 9
nH
est un ami fort comme Kei beni": "la vaillance de
Kei" 5 "noble comme Kei"; "la raison, le sens de Kei"; nce
n* est pas un brave comme Cai le long.
nl
The Welch bards endow him moreover with marvelous
qualities akin to the supernatural powers generally attributed
to Merlin.
"Kei avait cette vigeur caracteristique qu1il
pouvait respirer neuf nuits et neuf jours sous l’eau;
il restait neuf nuits et neuf jours sans dormir; un
coup de 1*ep^e de Kei, aucun medecin ne pouvait le
guerir; o’£tait un homme pr^cieux que Keijf quand il
plaisait k Kei, il devenait aussi grand que l*arbre
le plus 6lev6 de la foret. Autre privileges quand
la pluie tombait le plus dur, tout ce qufil tenait k
la main £tait sec audessus et au-dessous, A la distance
d*une palme, si grande 6tait sa chaleur naturelle.
Elle servait m£me de combustible k ses compagnons pour
faire du feu, quand ils etaient le plus 6prouves par
le froid."2
The account of Kulwch and Olwen gives a picture of
Kay that endows him with the highest qualities of knighthood.
He is a zealous custodian of the high standards of Arthur* s
court, for when the unknown Kulhwch demands entrance during
a meal, when by tradition admittance was restricted to
princes of known courts or to bards, Kay objected to the King*s
desire to relax the rule in favor of the noble bearing of the
youth.
"Par la main de mon ami," s!eeria Kei, "si on suivait
mon conseil, on ne violerait pas les lois de la court pour
lui."3
Arthur overruled Kay, however, and the young hero was
admitted.
Kulhwch then demanded Olwen, daughter of Yspaddan
1.
2.
3.
Loth, Joseph: Les Mabinogion. Vol. 1, p. 256.
Loth: Kulhwch et Olwen. Vol. 1. p. 286.
Ibid., p7 2S7.
9
Penkawr, as his bride before Arthur and the assembled
courtiers.
Keinvarvawc
The nobles present included Kei;
P
Kynyr
(Kei passait pour son fils); Guryddawe
de Menastyr qui tua Kei); and Garanwyn
3
(fils
(fils de Kei)*
There
is also mention of ‘’Relemon, fille de Kei,”^ in a list of
women of the country to whom Kulhwch brought necklaces of
gold.
Arthur agreed to institute a search for the maiden,
and Kulhwch gave him a year*s time.
Failure to produce her,
however, within the term specified angered Kulhwch to the
point of threatening to leave court and take away the King*s
honor.
Kay stopped him peremptorily.
11Prince,n s»ecria Kei,
”c*est trop de propos blessants pour Arthurl
Viens avec nous
et, avant que tu ne reconnaisses toi-m§me que la jeune fille
ne se trouve nulle part au monde, ou que nous ne l*ayons
C
trouvSe, nous ne nous sSparerons pas de toi.”
The Seneschal*s shrewdness is demonstrated in several
instances.
The wife of the shepherd Kustennin attempted to
embrace him.
He slipped a piece of wood in her hand, and she
pressed it so hard that it became as a piece of twisted rope.
MAhl femme,H s*ecria Kei, ”si tu m*avais serr4 ainsi, personne
n*eut et6 tent6 de placer sur moi son amour; dangereux amour
que le tienl"^
1.
Loth: op. cit., p. 251.
2. Ibid.,
p. 272.
3. Ibid.,
4. TT5Ic£.,
5. T5T5.,
6 . Ibid.,
7. Ibid.,
p. 275.
p. 275
p. 283.
pp. 285-286.
p. 292.
lu
When Olwen was finally found, her father at first
refused her to Kulhwch, but after several futile attempts
to kill him, finally promised him his daughter after the
accomplishment on his part of a long series of impossible
feats.
With the help of Arthur and his men, the conditions
were fulfilled, and Kulhwch won his bride,
Kay1s magic powers
and resourcefulness were called into action repeatedly during
the long quest, and were instrumental in bringing about the
final triumph of the young hero.
Five of the legends contained in the so-called
Mabinogion are Arthurian in setting and make reference to Kay.
These are Kulhwch et Olwen, Le Songe de Rhonabwy, Owein et
Lunet, Peredur ab Evrawc, and
Geraint et Enid.
As Mr. Loth
remarks in his edition of the work, the last three bear a
close relation to the French romances:
Le Chevalier au Lion,
Erec et Enide, and Le Conte du Graal.^
The Dream of Rhonabwy
has a description of Kay that rivals the glowing picture given
of him in the Kulhwch et Olwen.
He is described as "the
fairest horseman in all Arthur’s court.”
He was 11clad, both
1.
Regarding this relationship, opposing theories
have been advanced. Gaston Paris is of the opinion that these
three mabinogion are translations of Anglo-Norman poems and
not renderings from Chretien. Mr. Loth agrees with him in the
theory that the Anglo-Norman poems are sources of the conti­
nental Arthurian romance, and that the Owein, the Geraint, and
the Peredur are independent of Chretien de Troyes.
On the other hand, Wendelin Foerster and his dis­
ciples have definitely established the dependence of these
three on the Yvain, Erec, and Perceval, respectively, of
Chretien. Voretzsch: Introduction to the Study of Old French
Literature, New York, 1931.
11
he and his horse, in mail, of which the rings were whiter
than the whitest lily, and the rivets redder than the ruddiest
blood*11 He
was the cynosure of all
eyes: "and the men who are
at the front of the army hasten to the rear to
see Kai ride,
and the men who are in the center flee to the side, from the
shock of his horse.
And this is the cause of the confusion
of the host."^
There is little reference to the matter of Kay* s
origin and death in the Welch legends and what there is, is
conflicting.
Mr. Loth mentions a poem in which Kay is known
as the son of Sevyn, whereas the general opinion is that he
is the son of Kynyr,
The Kulhwch and Olwen gives the follow­
ing paragraph relating to his parentage:
Kynyr Keinvarvawc— (Kei passalt pour son fils;)
il avait dit k sa femme: "si ton fils, jeune femme,
tient de moi,toujours son coeur sera froid; jamais
il n*y aura de chaleur dans ses mains; il aura une
autre particularity; si c1est mon fils, il sera t$tu;
autre trait particulier: lorsqu1il portera un fardeau:^
grand ou petit, on ne I’apercevra jamais ni par devant
lui ni par derrifcre; autre trait caracteristique: personne ne supporters l*eau et le feu aussi longtemps que
lui; autre chose encore: il n*y aura pas un serviteur
ni un officier comme lui."2
The same romance contains an allusion to his death.
The name of his slayer appears in the list (quoted above) of
those before whom Kulhwch claimed
his right to possess Olwen,
"Gwyddawc, fils de Menestyr, qui tua Kei et qu1Arthur
3
tua ainsi que ses freres pour venger Kei"..•
The circum­
1. The Mabinogion, from the Welch of the Red Book
of Hergest. Trans, with notes, by Lady Charlotte Guest.
London 1877. pp. 305-306.
2. Ibid., p. 274.
3. X5X3., p. 275.
12
stances of his death are not given, however.
It is not the purpose of this investigation to enter
into the study of Kay1s career in the early literature of all
the nations.
These few facts have heen cited merely as back­
ground to the study of Kay in the romances of the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries.
We pass now to the work of the great
twelfth century poet, Chretien de Troyes.
13
Chapter I
CHRETIEN DE TROYES
Little is known biographically of Chretien de Troyes,
the earliest of the Arthurian romancers.
He was probably a
native of Troyes, and he wrote, during the third quarter of
the twelfth century, first under the patronage of Marie de
Champagne, and then under that of Philip of Flanders.1
UA11
scholars are agreed that he had the scholastic education which
the clerics of his time enjoyed,” writes Voretszch.^
differ, however, widely as to his station in life."
"They
He
probably was, as Mr. Voretzseh suggests, a lay poet who earned
his livelihood at the courts.
His works comprise, beside the Arthurian romances
for which he is most famous, some imitations and translations
of Ovid and a Tristan romance (lost).
This may have been an
episode in which only Mark and Isolda appear, or it may have
been a full Tristan romance.
critics agree.
On his quality as a poet, all
Mr. Voretzseh has this testimonial;
"Every­
thing considered, Chretien may be called, without exaggeration,
the master par excellence of the Old French style of romances."^
And elsewhere he says; "Chretien is representative of the
roman courtois in general, and of the Arthurian romance in
1. Chretien de Troyes; Arthurian Romances, trans.
by W. Wistar Comfort, Everyman*s Library, p. vii.
2. Karl Voretzseh; Introduction to the Study of
Old French Literature, p. 276.
3: Ibid.',-p. 276.
4. TETd., p. 282.
14
particular, and on© of the oldest proven^alist poets of
Northern France,11^
Mr. Charles Grimm, in an article on
2
Chretien de Troyes* attitude towards women, pronounces him
the best exponent of love as it was understood in the twelfth
century and in the earliest part of the thirteenth.
The editions of his works that are used in this
thesis are by Professor Wendelin Foerster of Bonn, who arranges
the romances in the following chronological order:
Snide, Cliges, Lancelot, Yvaln, Perceval.
of these except Cliges.
Erec et
Kay appears in all
It has less connection with the court
of Arthur, and will therefore not be included in this study.
The study of the character Kay in these romances
requires a brief complete outline of each narrative, for the
discussion of Chretien* s Kay is to be understood only when
linked to the complete narrative.
The romances, except per­
haps the Perceval (by reason of the fact that only a portion
of it was written by Chretien) apparently follow a common plan:
introduction, adventure or quest (subdivided into introduction,
adventure, resolution), conclusion.
In these outlines names
of characters are given, for clarity; Chretien, however, often
1. Voretzseh, 0£. cit., p. 261.
2. Grimm, Charles: "Chretien de Troyes* Attitude
Towards Women,B RomanicReview XVI, (July-Sept. 1925).
3. Regarding ■the chronology of Chretien* s romances
there is some difference of opinion. The following table shows
the theories of some of the leading scholars:
Erec
Lancelot Yvaln
Perceval
Bedier
Paris
Foerster
Guyer
1160
1168
1160-70
1148-50
1164
1172
p 1164
1164-5
1173-4
1173
a 1173
1166-7
a 1190
1174
1174
p 1174
15
conceals names, in order to increase interest and mystery,
and reveals them as late as possible.
For each romance a more
detailed summary of Kay* s activities will follow the outline.
A subsequent chapter is devoted to a general consideration of
his role in Chretien.
EREC ET ENIDE1
I.
Introduction:
Enide loved and won by Erec.
The hunt for the White Stag. The victor of the hunt
has the right to kiss the one he believes fairest
at court. This would cause other knights to question
his selection. Kay was a member of the council con­
voked to make the choice.
The insult given in the presence of Erec, unarmed, to
the queen by the dwarf of the Knight Yder, son of Nut.
Pursuit of the knight, Yder, by Erec.
The vavassor, Liconal, and Enide, his daughter, with
whom Erec lodges.
The fight for the White Falcon to be won three times
before permanently possessed. Erec overthrows Yder.
Arrival of Erec and Enide at court of Arthur.
Kay the first to observe the approach of Yder.
Reports
his arrival to the queen.
Enide is given the kiss of the White Stag.
II•
Adventure
1.
Introduction: Enide*s fear (v2446) that Erec has
lost his knightly reputation. Reproach of Enide
(v2562).
2.
Adventure: Testing of Enide by Erec. His search
for knightly adventure in her company:
The battle with the three robbers (chance meeting)
The battle with the five knights (chance meeting)
The adventure with Count Galoain (he tries to
seduce Enide)
The battle with Guivrez le petit
The
encounter with Arthur*s court (fight with Kay)
The
rescue of Cadoc de Tabriol, prisoner of two
giants
The treachery of Count Oringles de Limors (Erec
appears to be dead)
The
adventure of the Joie de la cort.
1.
Chretien de Troyes S&mtliche Werke, Wendelin
Foerster, Halle, Max Niemeyer, 1864.
16
3.
III.
Resolution! The explanation of Erec1s attitude
towards Enide and the exact meaning of the Joie de
la cort episode is not clear; critics differ in
their explanation.
Conclusion:
The crowning of Erec.
Kay*s Part in the Narrative.
After the hunt of the White Stag, when it came to
the choice of the fairest damsel, there was much disagreement
among the knights, so that the king determined to call a
council to aid him in the selection.
To this council came
a large number of the best knights of the court, among them
Kay.
311
Au consoil granz partie cort
Des mellors barons de la cort.
317
Keus et Girflez i sont venu
The day that Yder, conquered by Erec, came to court,
Kay was with Gawain and a group of knights assembled in the
bower outside the great hall.
1089
Es loges de la sale fors
Estoit mes sire Gauvains lors
Et Keus li seneschaus ansanble
Kay was the first to espy the knight1s approach, and turned to
my lord Gawain to ask if it were the same who had insulted the
queen.
He recognized the dwarf and the damsel.
Gawain agreed
that they were the very three who had annoyed the queen on
the day of the hunt.
He bade Kay call Arthur's queen.
Kay
went at once to the queen1s appartments and told her what
they had seen.
He urged her to hasten to the bower to see
for herself.
The following day the nobles posted themselves at
17
th© castle windows to watch for the arrival of Erec and his
bride#
As soon as the guests rode into the courtyard, all
ran down to greet them, the king and queen, with Kay and
Perceval, Gawain, Lucan, and others.
1524
La reine Ganieyre i cort
Et s*i vint meismes li rois,
Keus et Percevaus li Galois
When they came into the hall, a large assembly of
knights, too numerous to mention, was there to do them honor#
The author gives a long list of the names of the foremost
among them.
In this list we find the name of Gronosis, son
of Kay the seneschal, who was precocious in evil#
1739
Le li fiz Keu le seneschal,
Gronosis qui mout sot de mal.
Kay1s next entrance into the story is in connection
with an episode that occurs during the adventurous wanderings
of Erec and Enide.
The two approached a forest where King
Arthur and his court were encamped on a hunting expedition.
That same day, my lord Gawain, returning weary from a long
ride, had left his horse fastened to the branch of a tree
while he went into the king1s pavilion#
Kay came along,
appropriated Gawain* s steed, lance, and shield, and rode
galloping along the way -until, by chance, he met Erec.
Erec*s
shield was so disfigured by thrusts of the lance that Kay did
not recognize his arms.
Erec,
however, did not fail to
recognize Kay.
3969
Erec conut le seneschal
Et les armes et le cheval
Mes Keus pas lui ne reconut;
Car a ses armes ne parut
Nule veraie conoissance,
18
Kay approached rapidly and straightway seized Erec* s rein,
without so much as saluting him, and asked who he was and
whence he came*
Erec curtly refused to tell him.
Kay assured
him that he only asked for his own good, offered him lodging
for the night with all honor, and invited him to the king* s
pavilion near by.
Erec declined the invitation, whereupon
Kay told him he was mad to refuse, and threatened to take him
to the king against his will.
4015
Keus respontj ”Grant folie dites,
Quant del venir vos escondites;
Espoir vos an repantiroiz.
Et bien vos poist, si i irioiz
Andui, et vos et vostre fame,
Si con li prestres vet au sane,
Ou volantiers ou a anviz.
Anquenuit seroiz mal serviz,
(Se mes consauz an est creuz)
Se bien n 1i estes conetiz,
Venez an tost, que je vos praing."
Erec* s ire was aroused; he ordered Kay to take his hands off
his bridle, seized his sword, and prepared to strike.
Kay loosed his hold, drew off a short distance across
the field, then turned and challenged Erec.
Kay was unarmed,
so Erec merely dealt him a blow on the shield with the butt
end of
his lance which threw him to the ground.
He then
seized Kay1s horse and was about to lead it away, but the
latter besought him with much flattery to leave it to him
because it belonged to another.
4055
Mener l!an vost, et cil li prie,
Qui mout sot de losangerie,
Que par franchise li randist.
Mout bel le losange et blandist
rtVassaus,” fet il, ”se Deus me gart,
An cel cheval je n*i ai part;
Einz est au chevalier el monde,
An cui graindre proesce abonde
19
Mon seignor Gauvain 1© hard!
Tant d© la soe part vos di,
Que son destrier 11 anvoiiez
Por ce que enor 1 aliez.
Mout feroiz que frans et que sages,
Et je serai vostre messages."
Erec agreed to restore the horse since it would not
be meet to appropriate the property of another.
Kay took the
steed, remounted, and riding to the royal tent, told the king
the whole truth, keeping nothing back.
Arthur sent Gawain to find Eree and urgently beg him
to come to the camp in the forest.
His courteous request was
again refused by Erec, but instead of using force to persuade
him, Gawain, who was a man of sense, (implying that Kay was
not) used strategy to bring him to the king.
where Kay had failed.
He succeeded
At this point, the seneschal disappears
from the narrative.
LANCELOT1
The Lancelot is a romance which Chretien claims to
have written at the behest of "ma dame de Champaign©11
to
exploit the perfection of chivalrous love as exhibited by the
ideal lover, Lancelot.
There was no service too humiliating
for him to perform for his queen and mistress, Guinevere.
Lancelot is also known as the Chevalier de la Charrete for
the reason that in the service of his lady he willingly placed
himself in one of the most degrading positions possible to a
knight of his time, that of riding in a cart.
1. Chretien de Troyes samtliche erhaltene werke, Vol.
IV, edit. Wendelin Foerster, Halle, Max Niemeyer, 1S99.
2. Marie de Champagne, daughter of Eleanor of
Aquitaine. Both of these ladies were instrumental in establish­
ing the cult of chivalry in European society. Ibid., p.VIII.
20
I*
II*
Introduction
Challenge of Meleagant: If any knight can defend the
Queen against him, the prisoners in his father's land
of Gorre will go free. These are captives from the
land of Logres (Arthur's land). Kay forces the King
to let him accept the challenge.
The main themej the quest for the Queen by Lancelot and
Gawain.
1. Introduction; Gawain, Lancelot, et alii, start
anxiously after Kay.
a. Gawain sees Kay's riderless horse. It is
apparent that Kay has lost the Queen.
b. Gawain meets Lancelot on a weary horse; he lends
him a fresh horse. Lancelot rides off at full
speed.
c. Gawain finds this horse dead and notes signs of
a mighty combat.
d. Gawain follows Lancelot who has mounted, with
some hesitation, a cart (a sort of blaek-maria)
driven by a dwarf.
e. They both lodge in the castle of the magic bed
and the lance that descends from the rafters.
f. Both see Meleagant and the Queen riding bdhind
a bier on which presumably was Kay, wounded.
g. Choice of entering Gorre by a water or a sword
bridge. Gawain chooses the water bridge,
Lancelot the sword bridge.
2.
The adventure of Lancelot in the Kingdom of Gorre.
a. Introduction--search for Meleagant.
The knight of the Ford and his damsel; conquest
of the knight of the Ford.
A second damsel forces Lancelot to lodge with her.
Guinevere's comb by the spring, seen by Lancelot
next day as he journeys on with the second
damsel.
The young knight who wishes to fight Lancelot
for the damsel and whose father prevents him.
The father and son pursue Lancelot to the ceme­
tery into which Lancelot enters. He lifts the
cover of the sarcophagus which can be removed
only by him who is to free the prisoners of
Gorre. The father and son cease their pur­
suit of Lancelot.
The vavassour with whom Lancelot passes the
night. His advice to Lancelot.
The battle of the stony passage.
The battle between the prisoners from Logres and
the inhabitants of Gorre. Those of Logres
expect and receive the help of Lancelot.
The battle with the arrogant knight, beheaded
by Lancelot at the request of a damsel.
The sword bridge and beyond, the castle of
Bademagu, father of Meleagant.
21
'XL*
b.
3.
III.
Combat with Meleagant; the Queen and those of
Logres go free, but a new combat is to be fought
a year hence.
Resolution: the meeting of Lancelot and the Queen.
Lancelot scorned by the Queen because he failed to
mount the cart at once.
Kay visits Lancelot. He cannot explain the Queen1s
coolness.
False report of the death of Lancelot, then of the
Queen.
Lancelot's reconciliation with the Queen. He visits
her at night.
Meleagant falsely accuses Kay of lying with the
Queen.
Lancelot defends Kay against Meleagant in a judicial
combat. Lancelot is victor.
Conclusion.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
Lancelot searches for Gawain. He is met by the
dwarf with the scourge; he is betrayed by him to
Meleagant and imprisoned in a castle.
Gawain found by Lancelot's followers in the water
under the water bridge.
A forged letter which seems to come from Lancelot is
sent by Meleagant to the Queen stating that Lancelot
has returned to Arthur's court. The Queen and Gawain
et alii, return to Arthur's court.
Tournament of Noauz; Lancelot present on parole;
Guinevere bids him do his worst; next day she bids
him do his best.
Lancelot imprisoned in the tower is freed by a
daughter of Bademagu.
Final combat with Meleagant. Victory of Lancelot.
The outline seems to indicate that Chretien had some
Celtic source which told of a quest into a magic Otherworld
Kingdom.
From this Kingdom of Gorre Chretien excluded the
Otherworld element and to this Kingdom of Gorre he gave a some­
what realistic milieu.
This leaves the modern reader puzzled
by the unusual combination of unreality and reality.
Critics
differ in their discussion of sources and particularly in
their discussion of the number of sources: Chretien may have
had one source or he may have merely inserved'in his romance
22
certain Celtic episodes that appealed to him.
Kay1s Part in the Narrative
King Arthur was holding court, at Camelot, upon a
certain feast of the Ascension.
At the close of the meal,
which had been served by Kay, the company sat at table con­
versing.
Kay was seated with the other servants.
43
Et Kes, qui ot servi as tables,
Manjoit avuec les conestables.
The knight Meleagant entered the hall, fully armed,
and without greeting the king, presented his challenge.
He
announced that he held as prisoners many knights and ladies
of Arthur1s kingdom, and he did not propose to release them.
However, if there was any knight at court now, to whom Arthur
would entrust the queen and who would be able to defend her
against him successfully, he would surrender with her all the
prisoners held in his country.
He would await the queen with
her champion in the woods near the Castle.
rageouschallenge, he turned
the court in an uproar.
With this out­
abruptly and departed, leaving
Kay was the first to act.
He
approached the king and announced his intention to give up his
office and leave the court.
n
84
La novele an a Kes oie,
Qui avuec les serjanz manjoit:
Le mangier leisse, at vient tot droit
Au roi, si li comance a dire
Tot autressi come par ire:
ttRois, servi t fai mout longuemant
A buene foi et leaumant;
Or praing congie, si m*an irai,
Que ja mes ne te servirai.
Je n !ai volante ne talant
De toi servir d1ore an avant."
23
The king, much dismayed, asked if he -were in earnest,
and wanted to know the reason for his going.
He offered him
any inducement to remain, but Kay refused to accept any.
Arthur, in despair, appealed to the queen to speak
to Kay and to go on her knees to him if necessary, to prevail
upon him to stay with them.
The queen obediently went to Kay and asked him why
he wished to leave the king.
134
She begged him to remain.
Si li dit:
"Kes, a grant enui
Me vient, ce sachiez a estros,
Ge qufai Bi dire de vos.
L ’an m ’a conte, ce poise moi,
Que partir vox volez del roi.
Don vos taing or mie por sage
Ne por cortois, si con je suel;
Del remenoir proiier vos vuel;
Remanezt que je vos an pri.u
Without any explanation of his reasons Kay thanked
her, but refused even her pleading.
144
"Dame,” fet il, "vostre mercil
Mes je ne remandroie mie."
Then all the knights joined the queen in urging him
not to leave, but Kay was adamant.
146
La
Et
Et
De
rBine ancore l*an
tuit li chevalier
Kes li dit qu»ele
chose qui rien ne
prie,
a masse.
se lasse
li vaut.
Finally the queen prostrated herself before him, and
refused to rise until he promised to grant her request.
Kay
relented to the extent of agreeing to remain on the condition
that the king promise in advance to grant the favor he was
about to ask of him.
And the queen promised in the king1s
name that it should be done as he wished.
Then Kay went with
24
the queen to the king, who also promised to grant his request,
and asked him to state it.
It was nothing lt*ss than the demand
thathe be allowed to escort the queen
to the place appointed,
and to be herchampion there against the knight who
had
challenged them.
The king grieved, the queen was very much displeased,
and all felt this to be an unreasonable request.
But the king
must keep his word, so he told the queen that she must go with
Kay without making any objections.
Kay, however, confidently
assured the company that there was nothing to fear.
He would
bring the queen safely back.
194
The
Et cil dit5 u0r la me bailliez,
Et si n*an dotez ja de rien,
Que je la ramanrai mout bien
Tote heitiee et tote sainne.”
king gave the queen into his keeping, and Kay,
fully armed, led
her down to the courtyard where his horse was
brought, together with the queen1s palfrey.
At their departure
there was great mourning, as if the queen already lay dead on
her bier, for they never expected her back.
Gawain begged leave to follow to see what would
happen to the queen and to observe how Kay would comport him­
self.
The king went also, and they arrived at the forest just
in time to see Kay1s horse come running out, reins and bridle
broken, stirrup straps stained with blood, saddle-bow broken
and damaged.
This sight was the cause of great concern to the
company.
268
N'i a nul qui n 1an soit iriez,
Et li uns 1*autre an guingne et bote.
25
Gawain rode quickly forward to see what had become
of the queen, and was soon joined by Lancelot, in disguise,
bent on the same quest.
They remained together for some time
and spent the night in a tower to which they were conducted by
a dwarf, driver of the cart in which Lancelot had been riding.
The following morning, from the window of the tower, they saw
an interesting sight in the meadow below.
A knight was being
carried along on a bier, beside which walked three weeping
damsels.
Following them came a tall knight leading a horse on
which sat a beautiful lady.
The knights at the window knew that
the lady was the queen, hence the knight on the bier was pre­
sumably Kay.l
The two knights left the tower and set out in the
direction that had been taken by the procession, but they were
not able to overtake it.
At a crossroad they met a courteous
damsel who informed them that the queen1s abductor was Meleagant
son of Bademagu, King of Gorre.
There were two different ways
of getting to his country and the two knights decided to
1.
Different writers disagree on the identity of the
knight on the bier:
W. W. Comfort, note to v. 557: "The
wounded knight is the defeated seneschal." p. 371. Cross &
Nitze in "A Study on the Origins of Courtly Love" refer to the
knight on the bier as a dead knight. p. 5. Miss Winters (op.
cit. p. 9) believes the knight could not have been Kay because
of-the unlikelihood of his being accompanied by weeping damsels
in the enemy’s country. But Miss Weston speaks of the "knight
on a bier accompanied by weeping damsels" as a conventional
figure. Henee the damsels may be added here simply to complete
the figure, and have no other significance. In the Vulgate
version, Lancelot saw the Queen led away after the encounter
in the forest. Kay was with her, so badly wounded that he had
to be carried on a litter. The following morning he saw them
again from the castle window. Cf. Vulgate Cycle IV, p. 204.
26
separate, each to follow a different direction.
Lancelot
was the first to reach his destination, after overcoming
practically insurmountable obstacles.
He freed the queen from
her captivity by a combat with Meleagant, whom he defeated
with ease, and could have killed if the queen had not inter­
fered.
After the battle, King Bademagu offered to take the
victor to the queen, and also to show him Kay if he wished.
The interview with the queen was a most unhappy one
for Lancelot, for she received him with a coldness that he
could not account for after all his devoted services.
He
left her in great dejection, and went with the king to see
the seneschal.
Kay's first greeting was a reproach.
He felt
that Lancelot had humiliated him by succeeding in the venture
in which he had failed.
4021
Au seneschal an vont andui,
Quant Lanceloz vint devant lui,
Si a dit au premerain mot
Li seneschaus a Lanceloz:
"Con m'as honil"--"Et je de quoi?”
Pet Lancloz, "dites le moi,
Quel honte vos ai je done feite?"
"Mout grant, que tu as a chief treite
La chose que je n*i poi treire,
S'as fet ce que je ne poi feire.11
Lancelot asked Kay if he suffered much and received
in reply an account of all the villainous treatment he had
had to endure from Meleagant, who had gone so far as to order
the physician to treat his wounds with poisonous ointment.
Had it not been for King Bademagu, he would not have been
alive to tell of it.
The queen, too, had been protected from
Meleagant's evil designs by his father, the King.
27
The queen was so carefully guarded that Meleagant
was never permitted to speak to her except in the presence
of others,
she was treated with great consideration and
allowed all the liberties and privileges she desired.
Kay
had heard of the queen1s severe treatment of Lancelot, and
expressed great astonishment.
He could think of no reason
for her majesty1s strange behavior.
Lancelot determined to leave the court, with as
many of the released captives as desired to accompany him,
while the queen remained with her followers to await the
arrival of Gauvain.
Lancelot had not gone far when he was
treacherously taken prisoner by Meleagant1s men, and brought
back to his father1s court.
A false rumor circulated that
he had been put to death, which reduced the queen to a state
of frantic remorse when it reached her ears.
By the time the
report was corrected and Lancelot stood before her in person,
she was in a mood to grant him anything, even a trysting place
at her window that night.
But she could not invite him in
for Kay had his bed close by and was still suffering from his
wounds.
However, when Lancelot came to her window that
night, the queen invited him to enter, if he could dislodge
the bars which guarded the window.
nothing to keep him from the queen.
Lancelot would allow
In his struggle with the
bars, he Injured his hands so that they were torn and bleed­
ing.
He paid no attention to his bruises, but went in past
the bed of Kay, who was sleeping, to that of the queen.
28
Without either of them being aware of it, her sheets became
stained with the blood from his hands.
When the fact was
discovered by Meleagant the following morning, his suspicion
was directed to Kay, whose wounds still bled, and he accused
the queen of having spent the night with the seneschal.
The
queen denied the accusation, asserting that Kay was too
courteous and loyal to commit such a deed.
4856
Ele respont: "Se Deus m 1fi.it,
Onques ne fu n&is de songe
Contee si male manponge.
Je cuit que Kes li seneschaus
Est si courtois et si leaus
Que il n*an fet mie a mescroire;
Ne je ne regiet mie an foire
Mon cors, ne n Tan faz livreison.
Certes, Kes n*est mie teus hon
Qu'il me requSist tel outrage,
Ne je nen oi onques corage
Del feire ne ja nen avrai.11
Meleagant, in the king* s presence, charged the
seneschal with perfidy to King Arthur, but Bademagu did not
believe it.
Kay vigorously asserted his innocence.
He would
rather be dead than guilty of such treachery.
4878
nSire, or sofrez que je responds,"
Fet Kes, "et si m*escondirai.
ja Deus, quant de cest siegle irai,
Ne me face pardon a lfame,
Se onques jui avuec ma darnel
Certes, miauz voldroie estre morz
Que teus leidure ne teus torz
Fust par moi quis vers mon seignor,
Ne ja mes Deus sante greignor
Que j*ai or androit ne me doint,
Ainz me praingne morz an cest point,
Se je onques le me pansal.
He wished
to defend himself and the queen by arms
against the insulting accusations of Meleagant, but the king
reminded him that he was too weak and ill to fight.
29
Meanwhile, the queen had sent for Lancelot, who
now arrived and added his testimony to Kay1s uprightness of
character and his innocence in this particular case.
offered to take Kay1s place in the combat.
He
Meleagant accepted
his challenge.
4973
Et Lanceloz ancontre dit:
"Onques, se bamedeus m 19.it,
Ke le seneschal ne cornit
Qui de tel oevre le mescrut."
The relics were brought, and they took their oaths, Meleagant
swearing that Kay was guilty, and Lancelot that his claim
was false.
Lancelot was victor of the combat, but the
king,
who did
not wish his son killed, interfered, and the conclu­
sion of
the struggle was postponed to another time and place.
After this, Lancelot left the court to go in search
of Gauvain and was again taken prisoner by Meleagant.
Gauvain
was found by Lancelots men and was greeted with the news of
their leader1s capture.
He was in favor of instituting an
immediate search, but the rest persuaded him to return first
to report the matter to King Bademagu.
At court, they saw the
queen and Kay, who joined in petitioning the king to send out
searching parties without delay.
Messengers were sent, accordingly, to all parts of
the land, but returned unsuccessful.
Thereupon Gauvain, Kay,
and the others decided to go themselves.
Before they set forth, however, their plans were
changed.
As they were arming themselves after the meal, in
preparation for the expedition, a messenger entered the hall
and approached the queen with a letter.
This purported to be
50
from Lancelot and contained the news that he was safe and
well at the court of Arthur, whither he begged the queen to
come to join him with my lord Gauvain and Kay and all the rest*
Great joy reigned amidst the company at this news and they
prepared to leave at once#
They made their farewells to King
Bademagu, expressing gratitude for all the kindness he had
shown them.
Their return was hailed with delight by King Arthur#
He rejoiced not only to see the queen again, but Gauvain also,
and Kay and the other lesser knights.
But Lancelot was not
there, for the letter had been false#
It was many a long day
before he returned to them.
Here Kay*s activities break off.
He is simply mentioned some time later by the queen, in an
allusion to the incident of her abduction when Meleagant comes
to court for the final combat with Lancelot.
6198
nC,est Meleaganz qui me prist
El conduit Keu le seneschal
Assez li fist et honte et mal."
YVAIN1
I.
II.
Introduction
Story of Calogrenant. He has been defeated by the
Knight of the Fountain. Yvain swears to undertake the
adventure. (Kay present, in a surly mood. Insolence
to the <4ueen.) Arthur* s vow to go to the fountain with
any knights who wished to undertake the adventure.
Yvain* s secret departure in fear lest someone arrive
at the Fountain before him.
Adventure
1.
Introductions the Lady of the Fountain,
a. Arrival of Yvain at the fountain.
Fight with Esclados le Ros, the Knight of the
Fountain
1.
Chretien de Troyes S&mtliche Werke, Wendelin
Foerster, Max Ulemeyer, Halle, 1884.
""
31
b.
2.
III.
Imprisonment of Yvain, death of the knight,
jealous rage of’Laudine, the Lady of the
Fountain.
Yvain* s rescue hy Lunette, maid of Laudine
(magic ring),
Marriage of Yvain and Laudine.
Arrival of Arthur at the fountain; Yvain fights
with Kay.
Entertainment of Arthur and his knights.
Adventure: separation of Yvain and Laudine.
a. Advice of Gauvain to Yvain to go on a knightly
quest for one year; promise of Yvain not to
overstay leave; he breaks his promise.
b. Ring given by Laudine is taken away from him
because of his broken promise.
c. Madness of Yvain
Hermit cares for him.
Lady of Noroison cures him.
d. Fight in behalf of the Lady of Noroison with
Count Alier. Victory of Yvain.
e. The lion attacked by the serpent is aided by
Yvain and becomes his faithful pet. Yvain
becomes known as the Lion Khight.
Conclusion.
a. Lunette*s plight. Her mistress isincensed
with her because of Yvain* g long absence.
Lunette is seeking a champion to defend her.
b. Yvain rescues a land from the attack of the
giant Harpin of the mountain.
c. Fight with the three champions of the Fountain
in behalf of Lunette. Yvain does not dare reveal
his identity to Laudine.
d. Episode of the Noire Espine
Quarrel of the two sisters
Appeal to Gawain of the older
Appeal to Yvain of the younger (deprived of
her share of the inheritance)
The Pesme adventure interrupts Yvain*s journey
to Noire Espine; he frees the prisoners
there
Gauvain and Yvain fight to a draw; neither
recognizes the other until nightfall
e. The reconciliation of Yvain with Laudine.
Kay* s Part in the Narrative
The opening scene of this romance is the court of
the good King Arthur at Carduel in Wales, on the feast of
Pentecost.
After the meal, Kay was with a group of knights
32
outside the door of the queen1s chamber, listening to the tale
of a knight named Calogrenant.
and came out to them.
The queen overheard the story
It was an account of an adventure in
which Calogrenant had been defeated.
Hence the tale was not
to his credit, and upon the appearance of the queen he became
silent.
He was the only knight to rise at the queen1s approach,
for the others had not noticed her until she was in their
midst.
show
Kay, inclined to be quarrelsome, derided him for his
ofcourtesy, and asked the queen to make him continue
his account.
86
The queen rebuked the seneschal sharply.
"Certes, Keus, ja fussiez crevez,"
Fet la reine, "au mien cuidier,
Se ne vos polssiez vuidier
Del venin don vos estes plains.
Enuieus estes et vilains
De ranponer vos conpaignons."
Kay replied that he did not know what he said that was so
blameworthy, but he was willing to abandon the argument, and
go on with the story.
92
nDame, se nos ne gaeignons,"
Fet Keus, "an vostre conpaignie,
Gardez que nos n*i perdiens mie1
.
Je ne cuit avoir chose dite
Qui me doie estre a mal escrite,
Et je vos pri, teisiez vos ani
II n 1a corteisie ne san
An plet dfoiseuse maintenir.
Cist plez ne doit avant venir,
Ne 1*an nel doit plus haut monter.
Mes feites nos avant conter
Ce que il avoit comancie.
Que ci ne doit avoir tancie."
Calogrenant was greatly embarrassed and begged the
queen not to compel him to confess his humiliation.
At the
same time, he reproached Kay for being a trouble maker.
Kay was not to be turned from his purpose.
He asked the
But
53
queen to command the continuation of the story, not as a
favor to him, but by the faith she owed to the king.
124
”Dame, trestuit cil qui sont ci,n
Fet Keus, "buen gre vos an savront,
Que volantiers I1escouteront;
Ne n'an feites vos rien pour moil
Mes foi que vos devez le roi,
Le vostre seignor et le mien.
Comandez li, si feroiz bien.
The queen excused Kay to Calogrenant.
He was so accustomed
to evil and insulting speech, said she, that one must not mind
it.
But she really wished to hear his tale.
Despite his extreme reluctance, Calogrenant yielded
to her request and began the relation of a strange adventure
that had happened to him at a marvelous spring.
By the pour­
ing of a basin of water on a rock beside the spring, he had
caused such a terrific storm that it seemed as if the heavens
had burst asunder.
After the storm had abated, a knight
rushed upon him who fought him with the strength of ten men,
so that it was impossible to withstand him.
overwhelmed with the shame of his defeat.
Calogrenant was
When he had finished
his account, Yvain, who was his cousin, leaped to his feet
and vowed to set out for the spot immediately to avenge the
insult.
Kay jeered at his bold speech.
590
"Bien pert qu’or est apres mangier.”
Fet Keus qui teire ne se pot.
"Plus a paroles an plain pot,
De vin qu!an un mui de cervoise.
L 1an dit que chaz saous s’anvoise.
Apres mangier sans remu&r
Va chascuns Noradin tu&r.
Et vos iroiz vangier Forrel
The queen expressed extreme indignation at this
outburst.
She cursed Kay1s malicious tongue, and said that
34
if he could not be cured, he ought to be tied like a madman
in the church.
612
11Estes vos don que s forsenez,
Mes sire Keus, "fet la reine,
"Que la vostre langue ne fine?
La vostre langue soit honie,
Que tant i a d'escamoniel
Certes, vostre langue vos het,
Que tot le pis que ele fet
Dit a chascun qui que il soit.
Langue qui onques ne recroit
De mal dire soit maleoitei
La vostre langue si esploite
Qufele vos fet par tot hair.
Miauz ne vos puet ele trair.
Blen fachiez: je I'apeleroie
De traison s ^ l e estoit moie.
Home qu1on ne puet chastiier
Cevroit an au mostier liier
Come desve devant les prones."
Yvain refused to take offense, however, and tried
to smooth over the situation.
He was familiar with Kay1s ways,
and was not annoyed by his impudence.
He commended Kay1s wit,
and said that it was better to fight against a stranger than
against one1s companion.
The king now appeared, and being informed of
Calogrenant1s adventure, he swore three mighty oaths that
he himself would see this marvelous spring before a fortnight
had passed, and that all who wished might accompany him.
Yvain was not greatly pleased at this, for he feared that Kay
would demand and secure the right to fight the battle instead
of himself.
He decided
to go alone and at once, so as to
have his chance at the encounter before the rest got there.
He succeeded in defeating the knight of the spring, who,
however, escaped mortally wounded.
Yvain pursued him, for
he feared that unless he could take him alive or dead, his
55
victory would not be credited; and it was the memory of
Kay*s mocking words that spurred him on.
He followed the
wounded knight through the gate into his castle, where he
became a prisoner.
The knight died, and as Yvain watched
the funeral proceedings, he was again seized by the fear that
now he would have no evidence with which to convince Kay and
the others that he had really defeated his antagonist.
1346
S!il n*an tesmoing et garant,
Done est il honiz an travers.
Tant par est Keus fel et pervers,
Plains de ranpones et d* anui,
Que ja mes ne garroit a lui;
Toz jorz mes I1iroit afitant
Et gaz et ranpones gitant
Ausi com il fist I 1autre jor.
However, Yvain wedded the lady of the castle (the
change of Laudine1s jealous rage to love is the sort of
episode Chretien loves to describe) and became the knight
of the fountain himself, in time to receive King Arthur and
his followers when they arrived two weeks later onjthe eve of
the feast of Saint John the Baptist.
Kay commented on Yvain1s
absence from the company, and derisively asked what had become
of him and his fine boast to avenge Calogrenant.
Gauvain1s
indignation was roused by his ill-natured remarks.
2208
Kay* s reply
Et mes sire Gauvains disoits
”Merci, mes sire Keus, mercil
Se mes sire Yvains n'est or ci,
Ne savez quel essoine il a.
Onques voir tant n s^villa
Q,u*il deist de vos vilenie
Tant com il a fet corteisie."
was conciliatory.
2215
,!Sire,11 fet Keus, ”et je m 1an tes.
Ne m 1an orroiz parler hui mes
Des que je voi qu’il vos enuie."
56
The king then poured water on the stone, and as
Yvain had foreseen, Kay was the first to ask for the battle
■when the knight came.
He did not know, of course, that it
was Yvain whom he had to fight.
The king granted his request.
Kay thanked him and then mounted his steed.
Yvain
did not wish to injure him, but merely to inflict some mild
disgrace upon him.
So when they rode at one another, Yvain
unhorsed Kay, but without administering further punishment,
took his steed and offered it to King Arthur, at the same
time revealing his identity.
Kay humbled.
The company was pleased to see
He had fallen rather awkwardly: "A fet Keus la
torneboele," (2256).
2261
S’an fu mout bel a teus i ot,
Et fu assez, qui dire sot:
l,Ahi, ahil com or gisiez
Vos qui les autres despisiezt
Et neporquant s!est il bien droiz
Qu’an le vos pardoint ceste foiz,
Car onques mes ne vos avint.”
This gives the impression that Kay was a valiant knight, for
it is inferred that this was the first time he could be
accused of being unhorsed.
Upon learning who the knight was,
he was overcome with shame.
2279
Lors s’est mes sire Yvains nomez,
S ’an fu Keus de honte abosmez,
Et maz et morz et desconfiz,
Qui dist qu’il s’an estoit folz.
In the remainder of the story of Yvain, only two
references are made to Kay, and those are in connection with
theepisode related in
tion by Meleagant.
Lancelot concerning the queen’sabduc­
It was Kay who escorted her and was really
responsible for her going to meet the knight who had made the
37
challenge for her.
His failure to protect her brought
Lancelot and Gauvain to the rescue.
Consequently, Kay was blamed for the absence of
Gauvain and other knights fromjsourt when they were sought as
champions by other personnages in the narrative.'*’
PERCEVAL8
I.
Perceval in the Gaste Forest
a. The five knights.
b. His mother*s story; her advice to him before he *
leaves.
c. Perceval's departure for Arthur's court.
d. The encounter with the amie of Orguellous de la
Lande.
II. Perceval and Arthur
a. The Red Knight with Arthur* s gold cup#
b. The king deep in thought because of the shame brought
upon him by the Red Knight.
c. Kay gives Perceval the Red Knight's armor in jest.
Character of Kay.
d. The maiden laughs for the first time in years;
Kay* s unknightly conduct♦
e. Perceval kills the Red Knight.
f. Yonez helps Perceval put on the dead knight's armor
over his Welch clothes.
III.
Perceval on his way back to the Gaste Forest.
a. Gornemant de Goort, uncle of Blanchefleur, instructs
him in knightly behavior.
b. Biaurepaire, the castle of Blanchefleur.
1. Victory over Anguinguerran, seneschal of Clamadeu.
2. Victory over Clamadeu.
3. Perceval promises to return after seeing his
mother.
c. Castle of the roi pescheor.
1. The two men in a boat.
2. The castle hall.
3. The sword that will break in a peril known only
to its maker.
4. The Grail procession.
5. Perceval asks no questions.
6 . Inability to find anyone next morning. Perceval
1. Yvain: 3710;3915.
2. Chretien de Troyes S&mtliche Erhaltene Werke,
Alfons Hilka Max Niemeyer, Verlag Halle (Saale) 1932.
38
7.
departs. Meeting with his cousin who gives
him information regarding the Grail procession
and tells him of his mother1s death.
Fight with Orguellous de la Lande. Sent to
Arthur with defiance to Kay.
IV.
Arthur1s search for Perceval.
a. Three drops of blood on the snow remind him of
Blanchefleur1s complexion.
1. Fight with Sagremore.
2.
Fight with Kay.
3. Courtesy of Gauvain (Kay*s scorn).
b. Return to Carlion
c. The hideous damsel on theyellow mule.
1.
Her reproach to perceval for failing to ask the
questions.
2. Quest of the castle Orguellous.
d. Appearance of Guinganbresil who challenges Gauvain.
V.
Gauvain and the defense of his honor.
a. Tournament of Tintaguel.
La Pucele as petites manches.
b. Escavalon.
Reception of Gauvain (not recognized) by Arthur.
Gauvain, attacked by populace, defends himself with
Escalibur, and a chess board for a shield.
Fight of Gauvain and Guingambresil postponed for a
year.
VI.
VII.
Repentance of Perceval.
a. For five years he has done mighty deeds, but has
never entered a church.
b. Knights and ladies who reprove Perceval for riding
armed on Good Friday.
c. The hermit to whom he confesses his sin and who
gives him advice.
Gauvain and the search for the bleeding lance.
a. The adventure of the horse inthe garden. The maid
with th« wounded knight,, who warns Gauvain to retrace
his steps as this is the born de Gauvoie from which
no man returns.
The romance of Perceval forms a link that connects
the Arthurian legend with the Grail theme, thus uniting two
great currents of
medieval literature.
Kay*s association
with the Grail motif is purely incidental.
He has part in
the narrative simply by his activity as an Arthurian charac­
ter.
59
Kay1s Bart in the Narrative
King Arthur and his knights were in the large hall
at table, when Perceval, an uncouth youth quite unknown to
them, entered the room and demanded knighthood at the hands
of the king.
Moreover, he demanded the armour and equipment
of the Red Knight whom he had met in the courtyard, and who
had just insulted and threatened Arthur and carried off his
gold drinking cup.
Kay was wounded, it is not explained by
whom or how, but he was evidently in a bad humor.
In a spirit
of mockery he told the young adventurer certainly he might
have the armor.
He bade him go right ahead and take it,
although he felt, as well as did the others who were present,
that the untrained lad had no chance against the powerful
Red Knight.
1001
Li seneschaus, qui fu bleciez,
De ce qu!il ot sfest correciez
Et dit; "Amis, vos avez droit;
Alez li tolir or androit
Les armes, car eles sont vos.
Ne felstes mie que soz
Quant vos por ce venistes cit"
The king rebuked Kay for his ill humor and his discourtesy.
1008
"Keus," fet li rois, "por Deu mercil
Trop dites volantiers enui,
Si ne vos chaut onques a cui.
A prodome est ce trop lez vices.
He went on to point out to him how ill-natured It was to mock
another person or to promise anything impossible of fulfill­
ment.
Then the youth saw a maiden who laughed and told him he
was to be the best knight in the world.
This angered Kay
again, and, undeterred by the admonitions of the king, he
committed an unpardonable breech of knightly etiquette and
40
slapped the maiden1s face.
1048
Et Keus saut,
Cui la parole enuia mout,
Si li dona cop si estout
De la paume an la face tandre
Qu1il la fist a la terre estandre.
It had been prophesied that the maiden, who had not laughed
for six years, would not laugh until she saw the one who
would have all the glory of the knighthood.
The fool who had
made the prophecy, was standing by the fireplace, and seeing
him there, Kay further vented his ire by kicking him into it.
Perceval observed this scene, but said nothing•
He
left the castle, killed the red knight,with his javelin,
took the armor, recovered the king’s cup and sent it to him
by Yonez.
With it he sent a message of greetings to the king
and a promise to the maiden to avenge the blow which she had
received on his account.
The king was much surprised to receive the cup and
to hear of the exploits of the young knight.
He regretted
not having retained him at court, and blamed Kay for having
sent him off by his churlish speech.
1239
Lor dist li rois au seneschals
nHal Keus, con m*avez hui fet mall
Par vostre langue I1enuieuse,
Qui avra dite mainte oiseuse,
M'avez tel chevalier tolu
Qui hui cest jor m ’a mout valu.”
Than Yonez told them about the message to the maiden.
The fool was overjoyed to hear this report, and
predicted that before forty days, Kay would have paid for
both the blow and the kick, for his right arm would be broken
and he would have to carry it in a sling for six months.
Kay
41
all the more angry, would have liked to kill the fool,
saving the king* s presence.
The king continued to regret the doughty youth
who had gone away and who, he feared, would never return.
Meanwhile, Perceval went on his way, conquering one knight
after another, and each one whom he defeated he sent back to
the court of King Arthur with instructions to greet the king
and to renew his promise of vengeance to the maiden whom Kay
had slapped.
The first was the red knight already mentioned.
The second was Anguigneron.
practically the same message in similar wording
was carried to court by Clamadeus, the third knight conquered.
On the occasion of his arrival, the author gives us an excel­
lent description of Kay*s personal appearance and some of his
personal traits.
It was the feast of Pentecost.
King and
queen and counts and dukes and countesses, knights and ladies
were assembled at table.
And Kay came into the room to
announce the service of the meal.
2793
Et Keus parmi la sale vint
Trestoz desafublez et tint
An sa main destre un bastonet,
El chief un chapel de bonet,
Don li chevol estoient blont;
N !ot plus bel chevalier el mont,
Et fu tresciez a une tresce;
Mes sa biaute et sa pro&sce
Anpiroient si felon gap.
Sa cote fu d'un riche drap
De sole tote coloree;
Cainz fu d’une painture ovree,
Don la bocle et trestuit li manbre
Estoient d*or, bien m 1an remanbre;
Que l1estoire einsi le tesmoingne,
Ghascuns de sa voie s’esloingne
Si come il vint parmi la sale;
Ses felons gas, sa langue male
42
Redotent tuit, si li font rote;
Qu*il n'est pas sages qui ne dote,
Ou soit a gas ou soit a certes,
Felenies trop descovertes;
Ses felons gas tant redotoient
Trestuit oil qui leanz estoient,
Qu*onques nus a lui ne parla.
Et il devant toz s!an ala
Jusqu*au roi la ou il seoit,
Et dists "sire, s!il vos pleisoit,
Vos mangeriiez des or mes*"
At this point, Clamadeus entered the room, greeted
the king, and surrendered himself as prisoner*
Then he
delivered the message to the maiden, promising vengeance.
Again the fool leaped for joy, and predicted that Kay would
soon have his arm broken and his collar bone dislocated.
Kay
thought this prophecy foolishness, but he did not attack the
speaker because he did not wish to embarrass the king, who
spoke again with regret of the departure of the youth.
A short time later a fourth messenger came from
Perceval to the court to acknowledge his defeat in combat
with the "red knight."
with him was his damsel.
It was Orguelleus de la Lande, and
They requested the presence of the
queen and her ladies, and when all were assembled, the knight
greeted the maiden whom Kay had struck, and repeated Perceval*s
promise to avenge the injury.
his prophecy once more:
The fool leaped up and confirmed
"Lord Kay, may God bless me, you will
pay dearly for it and it will be soon."
The king also reminded
Kay of his discourtesy on the occasion of Perceval* s first
arrival at court, and blamed him for the absence of the young
knight.
Now Gauvain, who was present, was much astonished
43
at the prowess of this wonderful young knight, and asked who
it was that was able to defeat Orguellus de la Lande in com­
bat.
The king told him what he knew of Perceval, and then
said of the seneschal:
4114
EtKeus, qui enuieus estoit
Et est ancore et toz jorz iert
Ne ja nul bien dire ne quiert,
Li dist: MFrer, li rois te done
Les armes et les t'abandone,
Que maintenant les ailles prandre."
Cil qui ne sot le gap antandre
Cuida que il voir li deist
S f ala apres et si l'ocist
D'un javelot qu'il li lan$a.
In due time Perceval wreaked the vengeance so
frequently promised,
and in the
It happened oneday that
horse,
manner predicted by the
he was musing as he sat upon his
and he did not wish to be
of Arthur's court
thought he was
matter to the king.
fool.
interrupted.
sleeping and
Theknights
reportedthe
Sagremor was commissioned to go to him
and urge him to come to the court.
Perceval paid no attention
to Sagremor's request, but kept on musing.
Sagremor, offended,
attacked him, and Perceval showed himself sufficiently wide
awake to defeat him with ease.
Kay, who watched the incident,
jeered at Sagremor's failure.
Th« king reproved his mockery,
and told him to try it himself.
Kay was delighted to do so,
and confidently promised to bring the knight back with him,
whether willing or unwilling, and
name.
he would make him tell his
He had himself armed, rode forth, accosted the knight,
and called to him peremptorily:
4295
uVassaus, vassaus, venez au roil
Vos i vandroiz ja, par ma foi,
Ou vos le conparroiz mout fort.”
44
Perceval1s answer was to ride at him at full speed*
impact of their meeting Kay1s lance was shattered.
the catastrophe so long foretold.
In the
Then came
Kay was thrown from his
horse on to a rock in such a manner that his arm was broken
and his collar bone dislocated.
He fainfeed with anguish, and
his horse, freed of its master* s weight, fled back to the camp.
Seeing his horse return riderless, the squires
quickly rode off to find the seneschal,
when they found him
fainting, they all thought him dead, and then began a great
lamentation which they all made over him.
The king joined in
the general mourning, until he was told that Kay would recover
if he received proper treatment for his wounds, whereupon he
hastened to provide him with the best of care.
Meanwhile the knight, Perceval, was not forgotten.
The king now sent Geurain to invite him to court.
Gauvain
considered it particularly rude to interrupt a man absorbed
in thought and to attempt to force him to come to court against
his will.
He should be invited courteously.
vexed, replied with an insulting speech.
Kay, very much
Hal said he, Gauvain
was always victorious in combat because he waited until his
opponent had been worn out by previous encounters with other
knights.
He used soft words instead of courageous action to
prevail upon people to do his will.
4370
A cest Mot Keus se corre^a
Et dist: ,fHai mes sire Gauvain,
Vos 1*an amanroiz par la main
Le chevalier, mes bien li poist.
II iert bien fet, se il vos loist
Et la baillie vos remaint.
Einsi an avez vos pris maint:
Quant li chevaliers est lassez
45
Et il a fet d^armes assez,
Lors doit prodon le don requerre.
Que l*an l fi est aler conquerre.
Gauvains, 9ant dahez et mes cos,
Se vos estes mie si fos
Que 1*an ne puist a vos aprandrei
Bien savez vos paroles vandre,
Qui mout sont beles et polies.
Granz orguiauz et granz felenies
Et grant enui li diroiz ja.
Maudahez et qui le cuida
Et qui le cuide que j'i soiei
Gertes, an un bliaut de soie
Porroiz ceste besoingne feire
Ja ne vos i covandra treire
Espee ne lance brisier.
De ce vos po&z vos prisier
Que, se la langue ne vos faut
Por dire: "sire, D©us vos saut
Et il vos doint joie et santel"
Pera il vostre volante.
N ’an di rien por vos anseignier;
Mes bien le savroiz apleignier
Si come an aplaipgne le chat,
Si dira I1an: ,f6r se conbat
Mes sire Gauvains fieremant."
Gauvain naturally resented this sarcasm.
4404
"Hal sire Keus, plus belemant"
Fet il, "le me pofissiez dire.
Cuidiez vos or vangier vostre ire
Et vostre mautalant a moi?
Je l'an amanrai, par ma foi,
Se j’onques puis, biaus douz amis,
Ja n*an avrai le braz maumis,
Et sanz chenole desloiier,
Que je n 1aim mie tel loiier."
Here again, as in the Erec, Gauvainrs tactics suc­
ceeded where Kay* s had failed.
He spoke courteously to
Perceval and received courteous replies.
But before promising
to accompany him to court, Perceval wished to know if Kay were
there.
Being assured that it was Kay whom he had just de­
feated and injured, Perceval, very much pleased, answered:
"Then I have well avenged the maiden whom he struck."
When Kay saw Gauvain triumphantly bringing the knight
46
back to court, he conceded him the honor of having achieved
what he himself and others had not been able to do*
4517
Et Keus dit au roi, son seignor:
"Ore an a le pris et l*enor
Mes sire Gauvains, vostre nies.
The last reference to Kay in this poem is made by
King Arthur when he became aware of Perceval1s identity.
He
recalled Kay1s acts and words on the day that Perceval first
came to court, and pointed out that all prophecies relating
to the matter had been fulfilled.
47
Chapter II
CHRETIEN'S KAY
Chretien de Troyes established a vogue for the
Arthurian theme that dominated the literature of the period.
He made of the actors on the Arthurian stage life-like
characters that have gone their way through the centuries,
with an individuality that clings to them despite the many
radical modifications introduced by later writers,
Por that
reason, it is well, before proceeding further, to assemble a
complete picture of Kay as he appears in the four romances
just summarized, to serve as a basis of comparison with works
that will follow,
A brief preliminary survey of the functions
of a medieval seneschal will introduce Kay in his official
setting.
In Its earliest connotation, the term seneschal
meant "old servant," and later was used to designate the head
servant of a castle.
It was a title of respect and carried
with it dignity and power.
Under the Capetian dynasty, there
were five important offices in the royal household: the chan­
cellor, who was always a churchman, the seneschal, the constable,
the chamberlain, and the butler,
The seneschal acted as major-domo of the palace and
agent of the Kingdom of Prance.
He was second to the King
in power, and was commander-in-chief of the military forces.
1. Thompson, James Westfall and Edgar Nathaniel
Johnson. An Introduction to Medieval Europe, 300-1500, New
York, 1937, p. 476.
48
He had supervision over the king* s service, was steward of
the household, and presided over the king1s court in the
absence of the king.^
In the chronicles, we find the functions of a
seneschal similar to those of the household official of the
earlier period.
Besides supervising the table service, pro­
viding food, and directing festivities; he accompanied his
lord on all expeditions, military or otherwise, and carried
his standard in battle.
He served him, moreover, as messenger
and saw to the execution of his commands and projects.
It was the seneschals of the chronicles and of the
Capetian court that would have served Chretien as models, in
as far as he conformed to any existing type.
Since his
romances have to do mainly with the social life of the court,
its festivities, tournaments, quests, romantic and otherwise,
and not with wars and campaigns, Kay has no military duties
in them; but we find him engaged in all the household occupa­
tions proper to the seneschal of his time.
He held an honorable position at court, where he
was in charge of the king1s feasts in the manner of a chief
steward.
(£43)
The best description of his exercise of
this function is given on the occasion of the feast of Pente­
cost in the Conte del Graal, where his manner, his dress, and
his procedure are explained in detail.
(G 2820)
We find him in attendance upon the king in the
1.
Encyclopedia Brit.
49
palace (E 1525) (G 1001), as well as on various expeditions
(E 3940) (L 2170) (G 4279)*
He was called into council in
the matter of the bestowal of the traditional kiss by the
champion of the hunt of the White Stag (E 311), and he served
as Gauvain’s messenger to the queen (E 1096) and as Arthur’s
messenger to Perceval (G 4282)*
other than these instances,
no specific reference is made to his functions by Chretien,
but his presence on other occasions infers his occupation in
the duties of his office (G 1239, 2872, 4059).
Let us turn to the examination of his personality,
a matter in which Chretien was able to give freer reign to
his own creative fancy.
The possible extent of his adherence
to the literary types of Kay already in existence will be con­
sidered after observation has been made of Kay’s behavior in
his romances.
A trait of character consistently notable
throughout Kay's role in the works of Chretien, is his dis­
courtesy.
He arrogantly ordered Erec to accompany him to the
court of Arthur, and challenged him when he failed to comply.
(E 3985-4025)
This rudeness was repeated in the Graal romance
where he attacked Perceval for the refusal of a similar demand.
(G 4295)
In both of these episodes, Kay's insolence is con­
trasted with the courtesy of Gauvain, who, with knightly
deference, inducbd
Erec in the one case and Perceval in the
other to accompany him willingly to Arthur’s presence.
The slapping of the maiden’s face betrayed an extreme
want of chivalry, and his cruel treatment of the fool was
barbarous.
(G 1048; 1054f.)
Even if Kay was in a position
50
of authority over the fool which gave him the right to punish
him, the severity of his punishment exceeded the merits of
the case.
Less offensive, but still blameworthy, was Kayfs
want of consideration for the feelings of Calogrenant whom
he forced to continue the recital of his ignominious adventure
at the marvellous spring, despite his reluctance to do so in
the presence of the queen.
(L 124)
It was Kay* s sharp tongue that was the outstanding
weapon of his caustic nature and that put him at odds with
the rest of the world.
In his encounter with Erec, his speech
was merely blunt and arrogant without being actually malicious.
He spoke insultingly to Calogrenant, (L 72) and to Yvain
(L 591); he jeered at Perceval (G 1001) and Gawain (G 4370);
and he spoke derisively of Yvain (L 2178) and of Sagremor
(G 4274).
There is further evidence of Kay* s habit of offen­
sive speech, in the remarks of his associates and in the
comments of the author.
The queen accuses him of this defect
several times, either directly or in speaking of him to others:
L 1188-91
Se ne vos polssiez vuidier
Del venin don vos estes plains.
Enuieus estes et vilains
de ranponer vos conpaignons.
L 132-135
Costumiers de dire mal
Si qu*an ne l*an puet chastier.
L 614
La vostre langue soit honie
Que tant i a d*escamoniel
In this last speech the queen delivers to the
seneschal a lecture of some length on the evils of malicious
speech.
She tells him that his tongue makes him hated by all.
51
The kingfs references to the subject are more
numerous than the queen's.
They occur chiefly in the Grail
legend where he blames Kay for having alienated Perceval from
the court and thus deprived him of a valuable knight.
(G 1008)
"Trop dites volantiers enui"; (G 1241) "tu le gabas; Par ton
gabois"; (G4115)
"Et Keus, qui enuieus estoit Et est ancore
et toz jorz iert";
(G 4120) "Oil qui ne sot le gap antandre
Cuida que il voir le deist.”
Cil refers to Perceval, and the
king here indicates that Kay had spoken in irony and that
Perceval with simple and direct understanding, took him seri­
ously. (G 4280) "Keus . . . ce n'est pas buen
Q,ue si vos
gabez des prodomes,"
Several of the knights of the Round Table allude in
various circumstances to Kay*s sharp tongue.
Calogrenant
(L 110) says that he does not take offence at Kay's words since
♦
he knows that it is his custom to use annoying speech (dire
enui), and better knights than he have been thus insulted.
Tvain also exhibits a tolerant attitude.
(L 630) "de ses
ranpones ne me chaut," he says ... "Bien set ancontre vilenie
Repondre san corteisie, N*il ne fist onques autremant."
Yet
he fears Kay's sharp tongue as well as the rest, for he refuses
to return to the court without the evidence of his victory at
the enchanted Spring, lest he incur the seneschal's incredulous
mockery.
Gauvain makes no excuses for Kay's habit, but cen­
sures him directly, once for speaking evil of an absent knight,
(L 2208) and again when Kay had attacked him with bitter
52
words after suffering a disastrous defeat by
G 4404
Perceval,
"Hal sire Keus, plus belemant"
Fet il, "le me poissiez dire,
Cuidiez vos or vangier vostre ire
Et vostre mautalant a moi?"
A fourth in this group of witnesses who testify to the
seneschal* s langue male is the fool, when he predicts the
punishment that awaits him:
mains
"Que mar vit ses piez et ses
Et sa langue foie et vilainne."
(G 1263)
Moreover the author describes Kay as a gallant and
excellent knight in every respect save for his sharp tongue,
11Ses felons gas" (G 2810) are so feared that all shun his
approach.
In Kay* a own opinion he was a very worthy knight
and fit for any knightly deed.
This exalted view of himself
is manifested in a sort of foolish vanity and self importance
that made him always crave to be the first to undertake a
combat or to do something spectacular,
L 2228
Et mes sire Keus ot talant
Qu* il demanderoit la bataille
Queus que an fust la definaille.
II voloit comancier toz jorz
Les batailles et les estorz
Ou il i eiist grant corroz.
The general attitude toward Kay*s defeat at the enchanted
spring shows the typical reaction of the rest of mankind
toward an individual who is too self important.
They all
rejoiced to see him humiliated.
His spirit of boastfulness led Kay to demand the
favor of being allowed to act as the queen1s champion, and in
order to secure the privilege, he dramatically built up a
5o
little scene in which he announced his intention to leave
the court* (K 97)
He permitted both the king and the queen
to plead with him humbly in order to retain him (K 134; 144)
and finally yielded on the condition that he be granted this
opportunity to display his prowess.
Kay could not see faults in himself.
He overlooked
his own boastfulness and yet derided Yvain* s ambition to avenge
the humiliation of Calogrenant at the marvellous spring.(L 591;
2178)
In a similar case, he did not realize in the least
that his promptness in undertaking the task at which Sagremor,
a very valiant knight, had failed, was presumption* (G 4274)
He had perfect confidence in himself*
Despite the
disapproval of the entire court, he persisted in his project
of defending the queen in a perfectly unnecessary adventure,
and bade the company have no fears for her safety.
(L 194)
The fact that he was often overthrown and humiliated was no
deterent to his foolhardiness.
He had a Don Quixote kind of
courage that was as gallant as it was ludicrous.
He challenged
Erec when he himself was unarmed and mounted on a horse that
did not belong to him. (E 4026)
And when charged with perfidy
to King Arthur, he wished to challenge Meleagant in defense
of his and the queen* s honor, even though he was still suffer­
ing from serious wounds and had no horse nor equipment. (L 4916)
It is clear that he acted on the spur of the moment, without
stopping to consider consequences.
If in the encounter with
Erec, he had weighed the possibilities in advance, he could
hardly have risked inviting a combat while riding Gauvain* s
horse, for according to custom, in case of defeat, the horse
54
was always forfeit.
And indeed, he had had sufficient experience in
defeat to enable him to know what to expect from his own
powers when put to a test.
Curiously enough, on the occasion
of his downfall at the enchanted spring, the company, while
rejoicing that he who was so disdainful of others should be
humbled in turn, nevertheless said that he should be pardoned
this time, for it was the first time such a thing had happened
ta him.
L 2265
Et neporquant sfest il bien droiz
Qu'an le vos pardoint ceste foiz,
Car onques mes ne vos avint."
As a matter of fact, it had happened before, for he had been
obliged to yield in an encounter with Erec.
(E 4048)
And
there were a number of subsequent humiliations in store for
him.-*-
Throughout his career in the romances of Chretien de
Troyes, he has not a single victory to his credit.
Thrice,
he had to acknowledge the superiority of other knights,
because they accomplished feats that he had been unable to
perform.
The humiliation he suffered at the hands of Yvain
at the spring was rendered all the more acute by the recollec­
tion of the derisive words he had spoken of him previous to
the combat.
(L 2279)
He actually resented Lancelot's rescue
of the Queen after he had failed to defend her himself. (K4022)
And his speech acknowledging the superiority of Gauvain seems
to contain an element of sacrasm, especially as he had already
expressed his contempt for Gauvain's methods.
1.
Cf (K 258) (G 4307)
But he can-
o5
didly admitted that Gauvain succeeded where he had failed,
despite his strongest efforts. (G 4517)
Considering the
rather impressive series of catastrophies of which Kay was
the victim, we must conclude either that his conceit was so
great that nothing could convince him of his mediocre skill
in arms, or else that his impulse to show off was so strong
that he did not allow himself sufficient time for reflection
before plunging into hazardous or spectacular undertakings.
On occasion, he was capable of exercising a certain
degree of self-restraint.
Twice, when angered by the fool1s
predictions, (G 12765 2872) he forbore to take any revenge
for fear of annoying the king.
He ordinarily did not show
signs of resentment when defeated in combat nor when rebuked
by the king or queen.
Erec!s curt refusal to divulge his
identity; uNel savroiz anuit," Kay answered mildly with the
assurance that he only asked him for his own good; MNe vos
enuit; Car por vostre bien le demant.” {E 3992)
He accepted
criticism from Gauvain also, when reproached for speaking ill
of an absent knight, and replied that he would say no more
since his words were offensive.
mes
nNe m 1an orroiz parler hui
Des que je voi qu*il vos enuie." (L 2216)
On the whole his attitude toward his royal master
is characterized by uprightness and loyalty.
The only instance
of insubordination appears in his obstinate resistance to the
efforts
of Arthur and the queen to retain him at court in
the abduction episode of the Lancelot.
When accused of
illicit relations with the queea, in the same romance, he
56
emphatically asserted his innocence and swore that he would
rather be dead than betray his Lord. (K 4878)
The queen
supported his testimony, and pronounced him too courteous
and loyal to be guilty of such conduct. (K 4856)
Lancelot
added that anyone who knew Kay would never doubt his word
in such a matter. (K 4973)
The reader, judging purely from the character of
Kay as he has come to know it, even were he ignorant of the
facts of the case, would be likely to accept Lancelot1s
assertion without question.
The fact is, it would be diffi­
cult to associate Kay with the idea of secret love affairs.
This brings us to the question of Kay1s attitude toward
women.
A very serious breach of the code of knightly eti­
quette must be lodged against him on this score.
One of the
chief ideals of Chivalry was the protection and service of
women, and deliberately to harm or insult a maiden, as he did
by a physical blow, was a grave offence against a sacred obli­
gation.
This raises a question as to how a knight of such
importance as Kay, seneschal to the king, could have been
guilty of an offence of such gravity.
It is clear that he lacked the chivalrous attitude
toward women characteristic of his time and of the social
system to which he belonged.
for service.
No maiden ever appealed to him
He seems to have been utterly untouched by
sentiments of romantic love.
True, he begged the privilege
of acting as the queen1s champion, but not so much for love
of her as for the opportunity of gaining glory for himself.
57
He did not hesitate to place her in the gravest peril that
he might win renown*
In the main, his attitude toward the
queen was respectful, perhaps because of her position as
consort to the king.
Yet even in her regard, he permitted
himself certain liberties of speech.
In the Yvain, he went
so far as to suggest that if one gained nothing by her company
she should at least take care that one lost nothing by it.
K 92
"Dame, se nos ne gaiegnons,"
Pet Keus, "an vostre conpaignie,
Gardez que nos n*i perdiens miel"
The enigma concerning Kay resolves itself to this:
Vl/hy should Arthur have chosen as seneschal a personage so
indifferent to the highest ideals of knighthood, so devoid
of well-balanced judgment, and possessed of so many defects
in manners as to make him a trying individual to have around?
That Arthur was genuinely fond of him and that he was held in
general esteem is evident in many instances.
One need only
note the distress of the king and queen when he announces that
t
he will leave the court, and the lengths to which they go to
retain him; the joy with which he is welcomed back by King
Arthur when he returns after his ill-starred adventure with
the queen; the general grief when he was thought to have been
killed in his encounter with Perceval; Arthur*s solicitude
for his recovery.
In addition to these, there are examples of
the consideration shown him by individual knights.
restored the horse to him upon his request.
Erec
Yvain spared
him in the combat at the spring and was careful not to injure
him.
Lancelot testified to his loyalty and uprightness.
58
On the other hand, the list of instances offering
evidence of the defects in his character that would make him
an unsuitable type for a position of such importance, is far
longer,
Chretien offers no explanation as to why the choice
of the great King Arthur should have rested on him.
There is
no indication that the poet even considered Kay* s position
at court inappropriate.
Later romancers have, however, been
puzzled by this problem and have attempted to solve it after
their own fashion.
Their theory will be dealt with in a
subsequent chapter.
Those who have concerned themselves with the study
of the personality of Kay in the romances, even those who have
treated him briefly in passing, have been intrigued by the
problem of his dual nature.
It is rather generally agreed
that the Kay of the venomous tongue is given definite form,
if indeed he is not originated, by Chretien de Troyes.*1- Paris
credits Chretien with the creation of the type, although he
traces the first appearance to Eilhart von Oberg’s Tri stan.
f,Le premier indice d*une conception defavorable
du caractere du sdn^schal Keu parait se trouver dans le
Tristan allemand d'Eilhart d’Oberg, compost vers 1175..
toutefois il n*est pas certain que le pofete franpais
ou le po&te allemand qui le traduit n 1ait pas
connu
quelques poemes de Chre'tien, et e*est peut-$tre a.
Chr6tien qufil faut faire remonter les premiers
lineaments de ce portrait peu flatte du senechal
d*Arthur. .
(Hist Litt XXX p. 50)
We have seen why Geoffrey should have selected Kay
as Arthur*s seneschal, endowed as he was in the Welch tra­
1.
Benedict diss. p. 141 ff; Winters diss. p. 29;
Hopkins, p. 93 ff; Paris Hist. Litt. XXX p. 50; Sachse p. 171.
59
dition with all the qualities of a superior knight.
But why
should Chretien, in carrying on the Arthurian tradition,
make such radical changes in his character?^
Paris believes, whether Chretien specifically
designed it so or not, that the Kay of his romances serves
a real literary purpose, by affording a contrast with the
other knights and by introducing with his vivid, brusque per­
sonality, an element of reality into the "monde factice” of
©
the romances.
Miss Winters carries this a step farther in
the development of her theory that Chretien had a didactic
purpose in mind, which Kay with his vivid stubborn personality
was best fitted to serve.
Just as Gauvain, Perceval, Lancelot,
and others were presented as models of knightly virtues worthy
of imitation, so Kay was to be the example of unknightly
characteristics that were to be avoided.
A veritable vilain,
she reasons, would have been too low in the social scale to
serve an adequate didactic purpose.
associate with vilains.
Courtiers did not even
A knight of good standing, with Kay1s
disagreeable nature, offered a better example of social
1. The transition from the Kay of Geoffrey to the
Chretien type is explained by Professor Benedict as follows:
Three specific items are to be noted: the loss of Kay1s skill
in arms, the disappearance of Beduer as his companion, and the
development of his surly temper. Benedict believes, with Paris,
that it was largely due to specifically French modes of thought
that Kay1s character underwent this transformation. In his
opinion, current popular tradition and a lost Anglo-Norman body
of romance may have served as a connecting link. The Arthurian
cycle, brought by the Cymri to Armorica, in time grew away
from the Welch in separating Beduer from Kay and in emphasiz­
ing the unpleasant nature of the latter. (Diss. p. 210)
2. Paris Hist Litt. XXX p. 50.
60
pitfalls and taboos to be eschewed by aspirants to court
positions than one of low degree, for the absence of courtly
conduct would be much more striking in such a one than in a
11rough-haired rustic or a malevolent dwarf" of whom nothing
better was expected.^
Professor Benedict shares the opinion that Chretien
used the seneschal as a literary device to serve certain ends.
"Kay in Chretien is already a stock figure, a formula, so to
speak, in certain situations;" he writes, "and in studying
the use Chretien makes of him as a literary device, we get a
good instance of conventionality in medieval literary method."
Chretiens most obvious uses of him are to furnish comedy and
to act as foil.
"Courtesy and valor distinguish all Hound
Table Khights," says Benedict in this connection.
"Kay differs
from all the rest by his surliness, lack of prowess, and
envious nature."^
Then too, Kay is frequently employed as
foil to an individual knight, Gauvain particularly, or the
hero of some biographical romance.
Contrast, comic element, didactic purpose--these
destinies are competently fulfilled by Kay in the romances.
But where did Chretien get him?
If, as one may speculate, he
introduced such a character in imitation of the epics, there
were many sources from which to draw.
1.
2.
The matter of the
Winters, Diss. Chap. IV, V.
Benedict, Diss. p. 144.
61
parallel types has been treated repeatedly.'*'
Miss Hopkins
mentions particularly the Irish and Welch prototypes, Bricriu
and the Tristan seneschal, for example, as well as Thersites,
Hagen, Ganelon, Loki, and Unferth.
Both Benedict and Winters
devote chapters to the consideration of these comparisons,
which it will be unnecessary to repeat here, beyond the obser­
vation that where Miss Winters singles out Ganelon, Bricriu,
and the Tristan seneschal as exhibiting closer affinity with
Kay, and dismisses the others as possessing similarities too
general to show a real relationship, Benedict, after individual
analysis of each type, classifies them in groups according to
the various qualities they share with Kay.
With respect to the seven mentioned above, leaving
out Loki and the Tristan Seneschal, and substituting Conan
and Kay, he observes that all are jealous, malicious, envious,
evil-tongued.
"Yet, although all of them are of the same brood
in their envy and abuse of their comrades, there is a great
difference among them in the degree of seriousness with which
they are regarded.
malice.
Hagen and Ganelon are the most potent in
Ganelon is the arch-traitor; Conan, the prize clown.
Between these two extremes the others range themselves into two
groups, Hagen and Unferth with Ganelon; and Bricriu, Thersites,
and Kay with Conan.
All seven are in the company of the Epic
2
hero except Thersites, and each is a foil to the best knight.
1. Sachses Uber den Ritter Kei, p. 165.
op. cit., Winters, ojd. cit., Benedict, 0£. cit.
2, Benedict, op. cit., p. 4087
Hopkins,
eft
The association of Kay with this group is an interesting
hypothesis, and one that is well worth considering.
Let us suggest an additional possible source of the
surly, ambitious, ill-natured type of seneschal.
The odium
already associated with the name of seneschal as early as the
first quarter of the twelfth century may have had its effect
on Chretien’s conception of Kay’s character.
Under Louis VI,
the then notorious Garlande family had secured control of
several of the royal household offices.
A certain member of
the family, Stephan by name, designated as an "illiterate
gambler and libertine," held three of them at once, among them
the seneschalship.
His excesses eventually caused
the King
to deprive the family of these offices, and for sometime
thereafter, they were left vacant, while their functions were
■i
entrusted to the King’s relatives or to local agents.
Thus
Chretien had at hand at least one exemplar from real life,
within memory, at the time he began to write.
o
It is rather generally remarked also by commentators
on the role of Kay in Chretien that his malice increases from
one romance to another.
Miss Hopkins and Miss Winters agree
in the opinion that the Efrec and the Lancelot show him to be
of considerably milder disposition than the Yvain and the
Conte del Graal.
"In the Yvain," observes Miss Winters,
1. Thompson; Med. Europe, p. 477.
2. Benedict may have had this in mind also, when he
expressed his belief that the change in Kay from Geoffrey to
Chretien was due to specifically French modes of thought.
(Cf. p. 59, note)
63
Chretien1s development of the figure of Kay reaches its com­
pletion.
His evolution is now at a standstill and his
character will remain fixed at this stage until later romancers
begin to tamper with the concept which Chretien has set up#"'*'
She makes the distinction, however, that where Miss Hopkins
sees a contradiction in the character between the two groups,
she herself holds that there is no real contradiction, in
character, but simply an unfolding of the author1s conception*
2
Professor Benedict, on the other hand, places the
dividing line after the Yvain and considers that the greatest
change in character is revealed in the Graal.
Although he
finds the role of Kay more consistent in the two later romances,
and remarks that the seneschal already ceases to be a comic
figure in Yvain, he makes the statement:
"We could leave Erec,
le Roman de la Charette, and Yvain out of the question and
lose nothing.but the more lightly humorous side of Kay1s
character.
This question might be compromised by placing the
Yvain about midway between the Lancelot and the Graal; for
although in the former, evidence of Kay* s bad disposition
appears more pronounced than in any earlier instance,—
especially in his spiteful attitude toward Calogrenant and
Yvain and his rudeness in addressing the queen, — still he has
not yet descended to the point of inflicting personal injuries
1.
2.
3.
Winters, Diss. p. 52.
Ibid., p. 58.
Benedict, Diss. p. 201.
64
on a woman or indulging in cruelty to a dwarf as he does in
the Graal.
In any case, it cannot be considered that there
was any actual development of the character of Kay, or that
Chretien conceived him as an individual making rapid strides
on the downward path.'*'
As will have been remarked, the
analysis of Kay in the earlier pages of this chapter has
taken into consideration his personality as a whole, without
respect to chronological sequence.
The romances themselves
bear so little time relationship to one another that it has
taken considerable study on the part of investigators to de­
termine the order of their production.
It is quite evident
that they do not follow one another in such a way that one may
be regarded as a sequel to another.
All agree, for example,
that the Conte del Graal is a later work than the Erec.
Yet,
while a detailed account of Perceval1s introduction to the
court of Arthur is given in the Conte, we find him already
present in the Erec as one of the knighLS who hastened out
to meet the hero and his bride upon their arrival at court.
(E 1526)
1. A similar opinion is expressed by Mr. Otto G.H.
Schulz in his psychological study of the Chretien romances.
He makes the following statement regarding Kay: Unter den
Rittern an Artus1 Tafelrunde, die in alien Epen wiederkehren,
steht der grosssprecherische Seneschall Keu dem Neffen des
Kttnigs Gauvain gegeniiber, dessen Tapferkeit und Edelmut sich
ebenso gleichbleibt wie das streit-sdchtige und ammassende
We sen Keus.
Mit Keu1s Eigenart brauchen wir uns indes nicht
lange aufzuhalten, da sein Charakter von vornherein feststeht
und keine psychologische Vertiefung erf&hrt. Otto Schulz:
Die Darstellung psychologischer Vorg^nge in den Romanen des
Kristian Von Tfroyes. Halle a. s. Max ’
Niemeyer. 1903. p .42.
65
It would seem, therefore, not unreasonable to
conjecture that from the beginning Chretien conceived Kay
as a fixed type, conforming in some degree to the popular
conception of a seneschal, but adaptable to the exigencies
of any role that fit into the rest of the narrative.
His
progress through the romances, and his versatility are merely
indicative of the author1s ingenuity in keeping his character
interesting and lifelike.
This can be shownby Table A on
page 130.
While It is our effort to make this table as objec­
tive as possible, we recognize the difficulty of keeping it
purely so.
The element of personal judgment enters to some
extent into the selection of the main character traits and
their classification according to Kay1s various activities.
Yet we are thus enabled to present the evidence in graphic
form and to draw certain conclusions from it.
Kay1s functions remain essentially the same in the
four romances, and are mentioned only as events bring them
to the fore.
They are not explained but taken for granted.
Table service appears first in the Lancelot and again in
the Graal.
Meals are not specifically described in the other
two works, hence Kay1s duties in that connection are not
mentioned in them.
Attendance upon the king and queen is
inferred from his presence in their company in all four of
the romances.
the Graal.
He is employed as messenger in the Erec and
He serves as counselor in the Erec only, but
there are no councils in the other three to require his
b6
services.
His personal traits are, for the most part, fairly
constant.
He is always eager to fight, foolhardy in under­
taking a conflict, and invariably unsuccessful.
The absence
of one or the other characteristic in a given romance is not
emphasized by the presence of a contrary trait.
the Yvain
For example,
affords no instance of his loyalty, but there is
nothing to indicate that he was disloyal.
Similarly, the
fact that there is no situation calling for the display of
jealousy in the Erec does not at all prove that Kay was inno£
cent of that tendency.
On the whole, the type as handled by
Chretien is notably free from discrepancies or unharmonious
factors.
The one item that reveals a marked increase in
frequency in the later romances is discourtesy.
Yet even here
we may still claim that this does not indicate a fundamental
change in Chretien* s conception.
It is in the nature of man to be inconsistent and
changeable, and
circumstances.
his behavior is often due in large part to
In the Erec Kay is already spoken of as flHon
plains de grant felonie" (E 4044), even though the worst
aspects of his evil nature do not show up until a later work.
If he showed more spitefulness in the Yvain than in the Erec,
we must remember that in the former case, he had just been
mortified by seeing himself surpassed by another knight in
attention to the queen, and he was jealous of him.
Likewise
in the Graal, Kay was wounded on the day that Perceval came to
court, and consequently in bad humor to begin with.
Moreover,
67
his self esteem and his pride in the Round Table had been
touched by the maiden* s evident preference for a stranger
knight.
Under the stress of this double provocation, his
excess of ill humor is explainable.
Furthermore, if we take the parallel episodes of
his setting forth to invite the stranger knights, Erec and
Perceval, to the court, in the Erec and Graal romances respec­
tively, we shall find no great variation in his conduct in
the two cases.
He peremptorily commanded each of the knights
to accompany him to court, and upon their denial of his
demands, he challenged them.
His manner toward Erec was
milder, to begin with, than toward Perceval, but note also
that Erec had answered him while Perceval had ignored him and
Kay could not endure to be ignored.
In the latter case he had,
moreover, to make good his previous boasts that he would bring
the knight to Arthur whether willing or unwilling, and this
may have had the effect of making him somewhat more hasty.
Finally, Chretien* s description of him in the Graal
is more favorable than the brief comment cited above from the
Erec.
It is true, he censures Kay* s "felons gas" and his
"langue male" (2809), but he also refers to him as one of the
finest knights in the world:
"w»ot plus bel chevalier el
mont" (2798), and deplores the fact that his"biaute" and
"pro&sce" (2800) are impaired by his evil tongue.
Therefore,
the assumption that Chretien, whether due to exterior influ­
ence or to the natural unfolding of his own conception, was
consciously developing an increasingly sinister figure in his
68
*
portrayal of the seneschal, seems somewhat gratuitous.
It
appears that he was here preoccupied simply with the neces­
sity of inventing new situations in which to depict more and
more convincingly his original conception.
To account for the motives Chretien may have had in
placing this ill-mannered personage in one of the highest
offices of the court, we have only speculations of scholars
as to a situation that Chretien did not choose to clear up
himself.
Kay was to serve as a bad example in good company,
the enemy of courtly behavior.
As Sachsepoints out:
in the
epic, the good contrasts with the evil, whereas in the romances,
the contrast is between knightly courtesy and boorishness.
Dr. Sachse is tempted to sympathize with Kay, always the butt
of scorn, sacrificed to bring out the contrast with knightly
conduct.
This, he thinks, explains the king’s long-suffering
endurance of Kay’s insolence, and he considers it a better
explanation, indeed, than that offered by the Northern French
l
romanticists who invented the legend about Antor.
In fact, Arthur not only endured Kay, but apparently
was fond of him.
So, too, were the queen and other members
of the court who knew him well.
He evidently possessed
qualities that endeared him to his associates.
Is it not
possible to disapprove of an individual heartily and often
lose patience with him, and still retain an indulgent affection
1.
Sachse, op. cit., p. 174; Cf. Prose Merlin,
Vulgate Cycle II, p. 8T7 1* II*
69
for him?
It is this type of personage that we find in Kay,—
willful, headstrong, active, eager, loyal, and enterprising*
Everyone felt free to criticize him and make fun of him.
Court etiquette did not require the formality and decorum
then that we associate with the royal pomp of a later period,
so his want of dignity was not too offensive.
His hastiness
of temper and his lapses from knightly courtesy won pity and
easy forgiveness when they brought him to grief and humilia­
tion.
Moreover, in his capacity as trusted servant, he
stood a better chance to retain his position at court despite
his perversity than would a knight whose favor there depended
on his rank and prowess.
There are analogous instances in
fact and fiction of the court fool, who was often the only
person in the realm who could with impunity tell the king
wholesome but unpleasant truths.
Thus, the consistency of
Chretien1s portrayal of
the seneschal1s personality and actions appears to be suf­
ficiently established.
In the later romances, the composite
character becomes so pronounced that we shall find romances
in which he plays the role of hero, and others in which he
is a veritable vilain.
examiration of
We turn our attention next to the
his role in the post-Chretien romances.
70
Chapter III
BIOGRAPHY OP KAY
The romances which adhere most closely to the
chronicles in narration of the events of Kay1s life are the
prose romances: the Vulgate Merlin,^ Livre d1Artus,^ and Mort
Artu,-*-#^ and the Didot-Perceval,^ Modena-Perceval,^ and Huth
Merlin.*^ These contain the main events of his life in some
form, from his infancy to his death, and give us a biograph­
ical outline which will serve as a framework for his career
in both prose and metrical romances.
For that reason we place
them first, although the metrical romances are in many respects
closer to Chretien,
The Vulgate Merlin and Huth Merlin agree fairly
well on the circumstances of his infancy and parentage.
He
was born of good stock, but evidently of inferior rank.
His
father, Antor, was "un des plus preudomes,” or even, as the
king called him, ”11 plus preudoms de mon regne & li plus
sages & li plus loiaus envers moi,u
His mother was a good
1. Vulgate version of the Arthurian Romances, Ed.
by H« Oskar Sommer. 7 vols. Washington, 1909-16.
I. Joseph of Arimathea or Le Petit Saint Graal.
II. Merlin.
III-V. Lancelot del Lac.
VI. Q.ueste;'"Mort Ar£us.
VII. Livre D1Artus.
2. Mort Ar€u. Bruce, J. Douglas, Halle A. S.,
Max Niemeyer, 1910.
3. Didot-Perceval: Edited Jessie L. Weston in her
Legend of Sir Perceval. London, 1909. Vol. II, 9-112.
4. Huth Merlin: Merlin, roman en prose du XIIIe
siecle. Edited lay Gaston Paris and Jacob Ulrich. 2 vols.
Paris, 1886.
5. Vulgate: II, 78, 1.26.
ll
and virtuous woman,^ self-effacing and submissive to her
p
husband.
Because of their good qualities the parents of
Kay were chosen by the king to be the foster parents of his
son Arthur, heir to the throne.
The inferiority of their station becomes apparent
from the fact that their own son, Kay, was of sufficiently
slight importance
to be sacrificed to the welfare of the
mysterious child brought to them by Merlin, the court
magician.
That child, although they did not know it at the
time, was Arthur, son of Uter-Pendragon, King of Brittany.
The prospect of a substantial reward was an added inducement,
indicative of their moderate circumstances financially.
The first question asked by both foster parents,
regarding the child confided to their care, concerned his
baptism.
This matter having been arranged to their satisfac­
tion, and Merlin having refused to answer any more questions,
they accepted their charge without further discussion, and
dutifully provided for his welfare until such time as they
were to be relieved of their guardianship.
Kay, meanwhile,
was left to the tender mercies of a nurse of still lower
station than his own, and evidently of crude manners, for she
4
was blamed for his shortcomings in that respect later on.
The two youths, Arthur and Kay, grew up as brothers,
their true relationship not being revealed until the time of
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Vulgate: II, 110, 1.32
Ibid., 78, 1.2.
TETd., 80, 1,11.
TbiH., 80, 1.11.
Modena: 10, 1.26.
72
their young manhood,
Kay was slightly the older (he was not
quite six months old at Arthur's coming)^ and was the first
to receive knighthood.
fifteen
He was dubbed at about the age of
on the feast of All Saints,3 but no description of
this ceremony is given,
Uter-pendragon died that same year,
and the Christmas following was the day set by Merlin for the
selection of the new king.
The assembled nobles were con­
fronted with a large rock in which a sword was imbedded.
who could withdraw the sword would be the next king.
to have an opportunity to make the trial.
He
All were
At a time when
attention was centered elsewhere, Kay found himself without
his sword and sent Arthur to fetch it.
Unable to find Kay's
sword, Arthur innocently took him the one from the rock, and
by this circumstance, proved himself to be the rightful King.
Kay* s part in the scene was not to his credit.
It
seems that although Arthur was unaware of the significance of
the act of drawing forth the sword from the rock, Kay under­
stood it, and hastened to claim the feat as his own.
In this
matter we see at once that he did not inherit his father1s
integrity of character, for Antor would not lend himself to
the support of his son1s dishonesty.
He suspected Kay immedi­
ately, and by his questioning and by tests of his own devising,
forced him to reveal the truth.
1.
2.
Kay could neither remove the
Vulgate: II, 95, 1.26.
Arthur was fifteen years old when he came to
the throne, ’’jovencious esteit de quinze ans De Sun age forz
e granz*1 - Brut; 9247. Hence Kay would have been either
fifteen or sixteen at his knighting two months earlier.
3. Vulgate: II, 87, 1.26.
73
sword from the rock nor put it back in, while Arthur could do
both with
ease*
There was only one conclusion to draw. This
child who
had been nourished in his home was a child of destiny,
and Kay should not be allowed to stand in his way.
Yet Antor
was not blind to his son's interests, and he had certain
modest ambitions of his own for
advantage
him.
He was willing to take
of Arthur* s gratitude to exactfrom him a promise to
make his foster brother his seneschal, in return for all that
had been done for him, and to keep him in that office for life.'*'
The appointment was approved by the archbishop and all the
P
barons.
Thus Kay's future was made secure.
The first duty that fell to the new seneschal was
to carry the king's banner in battle.
It was a marvelous
banner, with a dragon on it jetting forth fire and smoke from
its mouth.
Arthur had to begin almost at once to defend his
right to the throne, and the wars with the rebel kings gave
Kay the Immediate occasion to carry the standard.
He bore it
bravely and gave a good account of himself in the struggle.
We find him fighting side by side with Antor, both giving aid
to the king when he was hard
pressed.
Arthur’s forces were
victorious and there were rich rewards for those who had aided
the cause.
A seneschal’s duty Included supervision of the table
service.
The first instance in which we find Kay exercising
1.
Vulgates II, 88, 1.35; Modena 10, 1. 1; DidotPerceval: 416; Ibid., 457.
2. Vulgate: II, 85.
3. Ibid., II, 99, 1.12.
74
this function is at a banquet given in honor of the arrival
of the kings Ban and Bors.
They had come from across the
channel to aid Arthur in his wars.
The welcoming ceremony
was held on the feast of All Saints, which was celebrated in
the traditional manner, beginning with High Mass.
This was
followed by the banquet, and the day ended with a tournament.
Antor, Lucan, and Girflet assisted Kay in his service of the
meal.
Later on, he distinguished himself in the tournament,
where his exploits were noted with interest by the kings and
the rest of the company.^
In the battles in which they soon engaged, Kay was
associated with Lucan and Girflet in command of one of the
"echieles" of the army.
This was another official function
of a seneschal according to the definition of that term given
by Paulin Paris;
"C’etait a la fois l’intendant d’une maison,
et le porte etendard, le chef d’un ost ou armee."
A series
of wars followed; wars against the Invading Saxons; an expe­
dition to aid Leodogan, Guinevere’s father; another expedition
across the channel to defend the countries of Ban and Bors
against invaders; and finally the campaign against the Romans.
These wars did not continue uninterruptedly, however.
There was one pause in the fighting, for example, for the im­
portant occasion of Arthur’s wedding with Guinevere.
Kay was
in attendance, had his place in the cortege, and served at
the king’s table for the feast.3
1.
3,
Vulgate; II, p. 110.
2.
Ibid., II, 323, 1. 23 f.
Ibid.,p.403.
75
Upon the return of the company to Logres with the
new queen, another banquet was held at which some decisions
of note were taken.^
The king made a vow never to sit down
to a meal on a high feast when he wore his crown, until an
adventure had occurred.
Immediately following this announce­
ment, a nobleman by the name of Nascien took an oath that any
lady who sought a champion at the court of .Arthur, should
without fail have the one she designated.
Thirdly, the Order
of the Knights of the Queen was founded, with a membership of
the best known younger knights of the court, including Gauvain
and Kay.
These events were of lasting importance and became
established traditions of the court.
Reference to the Order
of the Queen1s Knights does not occur outside of the Vulgate
Cycle, but the delay of the feast day meal for an adventure,
2
and the certainty of finding a champion at the Court of King
g
Arthur are matters encountered frequently in the romances.
The tournament held at Logres was between the Round
Table Knights and the Queen1s Knights and almost ended in
disaster, for jealousy between the two groups was at a high
mark.^
At this time Kay and Gauvain were not yet members of
the Round Table.
As nearly as one can determine from the
confusion that reigns in the time element among the different
versions, their election took place some time later.
§
There is an account in two sources of an expedition
1. Vulgate: II, 343 P.
2. ibid: VI, 6*. 1.10; VII, 74, 1.23; Mantel, 91.
3. wauchier: 11777; Mule sans frein: 151; Bel
Inconnu; Vulgate: VII, p. 153#
4. Vulgate: II, 344.
5. Ibid., II and Huth
Merlin.
76
against Rion, the insolent King of Ireland, who had demanded
of Arthur his submission, and his beard for the adornment of
his mantle*
According to the Huth version, this expedition
was followed by a surprise attack of the Saxons on Arthur1s
camp at Logres near the river Hombre*
The king and queen
with their immediate party escaped to a ford in the river,
pursued by the enemy who outnumbered them by one.
Kay
insisted on taking a stand against these opponents and dis­
patched two, while each of his companions attended to one.'*'
At the end of the Saxon wars, it was discovered that eight
seats were vacant on the Round Table, and the king desired
that eight of the most valiant knights in his kingdom be
selected to fill them.
Pour were to be chosen from among the
older knights and four from the younger group.
The latter
Included Gauvain, Girflet, Tor, and Kay (because of his exploit
at the ford),^
and from this time on we find no more mention
of the Queen* s Knights.
The military campaigns across the Channel are some­
what difficult to present clearly, for the accounts in the
various versions differ radically.
In the Vulgate Merlin, the
first expedition across the channel was made to defend the
country of Benoyc against the Roman invaders.
After a suc­
cessful defense, Arthur returned with his armies to England
for his marriage with Guinevere.^
1.
2.
3.
4.
Some wars with the Saxons
Cf. Vulgate:VII, 122, 1. 52.
Huth Merlin: Vol. II, p. 169.
Vulgate: II, 276.
ibid: 323
77
intervened and finally there came twelve messengers from Rome
with a letter from their emperor demanding tribute of the
Bretons.^
Arthur and his forces again crossed the channel
to answer the challenge with battle*
On this expedition the
incident of Arthur*s struggle with the giant of Mont St*
Michel takes place, the account of which agrees with that
given in the chronicles*^
In the battle with the Romans,
both Kay and Bedivere werestruck down, but it is
mentioned that they were not dead*
definitely
They were carried from the
field by relatives, who rejoiced to find them still alive.
In the Modena Perceval, the first expedition to the
continent is undertaken at Kay*s suggestion.^
It is after
Perceval has healed the Fisher King by asking the required
questions and freed the land from its enchantment.
Fearing
that the barons would now leave Arthur* s court to seek adven­
ture elsewhere, Kay proposed a campaign into France to hold
their interest.
The barons responded with enthusiasm and
pledged all their might to conquer France, Normandie, Rome,
and Lombardie, as far as Jerusalem*
Normandy was taken and
given by Arthur to Kay, who received with it the beautiful
5
daughter of its former ruler, the Duke.
After the conquest
of France, they returned home*
A short time later the twelve messengers from Rome
arrived with their demand for tribute, and a second campaign
1.
4.
Vulgates II, 455. 2. Ibid: 460. 3.
Modena Perceval: 85. 5. Ibid. 87.
Ibid. 470.
78
was launched against the Romans.
The success of this
venture inspired Arthur with the ambition to be crowned at
Rome, but before he could carry out this project, he was
recalled to England by the treachery of his nephew Modred,
whom he had left in charge of his queen and of his kingdom*
He was met by an army of Saxons at his landing, and in the
battle that ensued, Gauvain, Sagremor, Bedivere, and Kay were
killed.1
They were buried at Winchester.2
The Didot-Perceval
differs again by having Kay survive the first battle to
accompany Arthur in his pursuit of Modred.
He then met his
end in the same conflict in which Modred was killed and Arthur
fatally wounded.
Arthur did not die, but was transported to
Avalon.3
A third version of the final stages of Kay* s career
appears in the Mort Artus.
The expedition across the channel
was directed this time against Lancelot, who had been exiled
because of his perfidy in respect to the queen.
In the mean­
time the Romans invaded Gaul, and in a battle with them, it is
recorded that Kay was fatally wounded.
4
Hence he did not live
to accompany the king when he was recalled to England by the
treason of Modred.
The only romance which makes mention of Chinon, Kay* s
place of burial in the chronicles, is the Perlesvaus.
It was
to that castle that he escaped when pursued by the vengeance
of Arthur and his knights after he had killed Arthur* s son
Lohot.
His death is not mentioned, however, in this romance.
1#
3.
Modena! 109, 1.20. 2. Ibid* 110, 1.19.
Didot-Perceval: 502.
4. Vulgate: VI, 348, 1.1.
79
Into this brief summary of the main facts of Kay* s
life must be fitted the many other activities in which he
engages throughout the romances under consideration.
These
include, in addition to the prose works mentioned above, the
following metrical romances which we list, as nearly as could
be determined, in chronological order, together with the
editions used.
Middle
XII Century
Lai du Cor. Edited by Fredrik Wulff.
Lund, 1888.
Lai du cort mantel. Edited by Fredrik
W u H T “in Romania XIV (1885), 232-80.
Conte du Mantel Mautaill4— Montaiglon
et Reynonard* s Recueil des Fabliaux,
Paris 1872-90. Vol. Ill, p.l.
XIII Century
First
Quarter
Perceval Continuation: Perceval le
Gallois; le conte du Graal. Edited
by C. Potvin. 6 vols. Mons, 186572. (Soci^td* des bibliophiles
beiges, No. 21).
III-IV Pseudo-Wauc hi er, 10602-21916
IV-V
Wauchier, 2191^-34954
V-VI
Manessler, 34935-45379
Gerbert de Montreuil: La Continuation
de Perceval. Edited by Mary williams.
FVoTsI Paris, 1922-25. (CFMA, Nos.
28 and 50) •
Bel Inconnu: Edited by G. Perrie Williams.
Paris, 1929. (CFMA, No. 38). Also
Edited by C. Hippeau, Paris 1860.
Fergus. Edited by Ernst Martin. Halle,
1872, and by Francisque-Michel for
the Abbotsford Club, Edinburgh, 1841.
Yder. Der AltfranzBsische Yderroman nach
der einzigen bekannten Handschri^t.
Edited by Heinrich Gelzerl Dresden,
1913. (Gesellschaft fur romanische
Literatur, No. 31).
Meraugis de Portlesguez. Raoul von
-----Houdencl S&mtlicEe Werke. Edited
by Dr. Matthias Friedwanger, Halle,
1897-1909. Also edited by H.
Michelant, Paris 1869.
80
La Vengeance Raguidel. Raoul von Houdenc.
samfcliche Werke. Edited by Dr.
Matthias Friedwanger, Halle, 18971909; also by C. Hippeau, Paris 1862.
Second
Quarter
Third
Quarter
Last
Quarter
Durmart; Li Romans de Durmart le Galois.
EcJited by Edmund- Stengel, Tilblngen,
1873 (Bibliothek des literarischen
Vereins in Stuttgart, No. 116.)
Rigomer; Les Mervelles de Rigomer von
Jehan. Edited by Wendelin Foerster
and Hermann Breuer. Dresden, 1908-15,
(Gesellschaft fttr romanische Literatur, Nos. 19 and 39).
Chevalier; Li chevaliers as deus espees.
Edited 'Ey Wendelin Foerster. Halle,
1877.
Atre Perilleux* Edited by Bryan Woledge.
Paris 1936. (CFMA, No. 76). Der
gefahrvolle Kirchof, Herrigfs
Archives,’ XLII, p. 135.
Escanor: Per Roman von Escanor: Edited
Ey H. Michel ant. Tiibingen, 1866.
(Bibliothek des literarischen
Vereins in Stuttgart, No. 178).
Claris; Li Romans de Claris et Lari s.
Edited by Johann Altman. Tubingen,
1844. (Bibliothek des literarisbhen
Vereins in Stuttgart, No. 116).
La Mule Sans Frein. Paiens de Maisieres.
Conte en vers du cycle arthurien,
nouvelle edition critique par
Boleslas Orlowski. Paris, 1911.
Le Roman de Ham. Ed. by FrancisqueMichel in Histoire des dues de
Normandie. Soc. de lfHist. de
France. Paris, 1840.
Kay* s part in most of these romances is fleeting
and episodic.
He enters the narrative in the manner of a
•well-known personage, without introduction, and leaves it
again just as casually, without any formal leave taking.
No
account is taken of his age at the time. One can only esti­
mate it in some instances by the chronology of events.
So
far as his activity is concerned, he might be twenty or forty
81
or sixty years old.
It does not seem to matter.
Moreover,
the chronological sequence of events in which he figures is
practically impossible to trace from one romance to another.
Therefore, v;e shall not try to arrange these events in the
order of time, but shall consider rather their prominence
in the complete Arthurian setting.
We have, in the first place, those incidents which
feature certain motifs that are encountered over and over in
the literature of the period; such as the loathly damsel theme,
A knight brings to court a hideous damsel whose unsightly
features the author describes in detail.
The knight, however,
praises her beauty, and demands great consideration for her.
In this little comedy Kay is the one who announces the approach
of the lady and her knight in humorous fashion, and after their
arrival, makes fun of them openly in the presence of the court,
for which he is rebuked by King Arthur. The theme is used in
1
2
the Modena Perceval and in the Wauchier Continuation, while
3
in the Vulgate Merlin we have the motif in reverse, so to
speak.
Here a beautiful damsel appears with an ugly misshapen
dwarf, for whom she shows the highest regard,
Kay, as usual,
scoffs,4 but in the ceremony of the knighting he steps forward
to attach the golden spur.
The maiden repulses him, and
insists that only the king is to perform that ceremony.
It
is explained that the maiden1s love for the dwarf is justi­
1.
2.
3.
4.
Modena: p. 47 f.
Continuation: 1 25682-25720
Vulgate II, 452 f.
Ibid: 453, 1. 16,
82
fied by his high rank and great valor.
The loathly damsel
theme can be traced back to ancient sources^ and is used in
connection with various heroes*
Kay is never the hero, but
always the scoffer*
Another ancient motif, which has been associated
chiefly with the Grail legend, is that of the Siege Perilleux.
The ,!siege perilleux” is a special chair reserved at a banquet
table for a particular knight, usually designated as the best
knight or the one who is destined
to achieve the Grail quest.
Dire consequences will follow the
attempt of any one else to
occupy it.
This episode occurs in two of the romances under
consideration, Durmart and the Gerbert Continuation.
account, Kay laments the sad fate
In each
of the knights who have
failed in the adventure, and earnestly beseeches the hero not
p
to make the attempt to sit in the magic chair.
And in each
case he exhibits the greatest delight when the feat has been
successfully achieved.®
A favorite adventure of the medieval writers is the
sword-removing adventure.
in a dead body.
This is usually a sword imbedded
The knight who is able to withdraw the sword
is to be the avenger of the death.
assume different forms.
But the adventure may
Kay makes several attempts to remove
swords: once from the body of a dead knight, in which he does
not succeed, despite violent efforts which cause the wound
1.
Roger Loomis:
Celtic Myth and Arthurian Romances,
2.
3.
Durmart: 9517; Gerbert: 1413.
Gerbert: 1504.
p. 296 f.
83
to bleed a f r e s h . A t another time he tried to remove a sword
from the scabbard worn by a maiden.^
He failed and was
accordingly disdainfully repulsed by her, to his great anger
and humiliation.
His failure at the sword-removing contest
for the selection of the king has already been mentioned above.
Thus he never achieved any adventures of this type.
Kay* s mockery of the crude young knight and his
mistreatment of the fool is dealt with in two of the romances.
Chretien’s Perceval shows him to be very harsh and ill-humored.
He kicks the fool into the fire and slaps the maiden.
In
Fergus, the counterpart of Perceval, he is less cruel to the
dwarf, and there is no maiden.
In each case the dwarf
promises punishment, and the young knight leaves court with
threats of vengeance, which he renews from time to time in
messages sent back to court by knights whom he has conquered.
The vengeance is later carried out by the young hero, who in
the one instance^ unhorses Kay with such violence that his arm
is broken, and in the other throws him into the mud and ridi­
cules him as he is pulled out.^
In the Lancelot version of the coming of Perceval
to the court of Arthur, the motif
used.
of the rustic youth is not
Perceval is introduced and sponsored by his older
brother, Agloval.
He receives knighthood from King Arthur,
but is detained at court for some time on account of his youth.
1.
2.
3.
4.
v2243 ff. (14
Vengeance RaguidelJ 225 f.
Chevaliers as II espees: 1328.
Perceval! 4304
Fergus: 174, 1. 31. Cf. Floriant et Florete,
Cent.)
84
Comments from Kay and Modred on his failure to seek adventure
drive him to leave court secretly by night, and the king
censures the two gossipers for having caused the departure
of his best young knight.*^
Worthy of note is the fact that the motifs with
which Kay is most generally associated are those in which he
is made to appear ridiculous, or in which he is in some way at
a disadvantage.
The trials of the mantle and of the drinking
horn are particularly well suited to this purpose, and we find
them used in at least four sources.^
These were different methods of testing the fidelity
of the court ladies.
In the trial of the mantle, only she whom
it fit perfectly was above suspicion.
On the other hand, the
testing horn was offered to the knights.
Whoever could not
drink without spilling the wine was thus apprised of the
infidelity of his wife or ,,amie.u
In the Vengeance, Kay* s amie proves to have been
the least faithful of all the ladies, for the mantle came the
farthest from fitting her.
He betrays extreme vexation, and
and when reminded of the matter by Gauvain in a jesting tone
some time later, he curses all women.
In the Conte de Mantel
1. Vulgate: V, 389.
2. The Vengeance Raguidel, 3930; Wauchier, 15687 F;
Conte du Mantel; Lai du Cor. The motif is considered by Dr.
Wulff to be very old, anterior indeed to Chretien. ,fDvidemment
le fond du Mantel et de la Corne, en tant que contes ou lais
bretons, est bien ant3rieur non seulement a Gautier de Doulens,
le continuateur de Chretien qui a compost le passage de
Perceval contenant I1Episode de la corne, mais
1* epoque
m$me de Chr^tien.”--Romania, 1885 (XIV) p* 343.
85
he Is consoled for his lady* s defection by the fact that
all but one of the other knights share his chagrin.
In the
Lai du Cor he is not mentioned as taking part in the test,
but in the Wauehier, he is asked by Arthur to drink after him,
”que jou n* i soie empuisones,” and spills the wine so pre­
cipitately that the king laughs.
The four versions agree in
having all the ladies of the court, including the queen,
proved unfaithful, save the amie of Carados, whom the mantle
fits, perfectly and who in all confidence bids her knight drink
from the horn.
In three instances it is mentioned, or at
least inferred, that Kay* s amie, on the other hand, fared
the worst in the trial.
' Kay* s military career, so far as actual warfare is
concerned, is confined to the chronicles and the prose ro­
mances.
above.
Those campaigns and battles have been described
His fighting activities, however, manifest themselves
throughout the romances, prose and metrical alike, in innu­
merable tournaments, sieges, and private encounters.
The
first tournament mentioned in the Vulgate Cycle was held on
the feast of All Saints In honor of the arrival of the kings
Ban and Bors.
Kay, Girflet, and Lucan performed spectacular
feats^* and received the prize.
It was Kay again who proposed
the tournament at Logres, in which the queen*s knights fought
Q
the knights of the Round Table.
Later, when a party of
Round Table knights, in revenge for their defeat, attacked
1.
2.
Vulgate: II, 110, 1.11 ff.
Ibid., 344, 1.30.
86
some of the queen1s knights, Kay went with Yvain to halt the
conflict.^
When Lancelot went on his maiden quest to the aid
of the Lady of Nohant, Kay, distrustful of the young knight1s
powers, followed him and insisted on taking part, though he
was more of a hindrance than a help.^
A short time later
Lancelot himself, vexed by Kay1s insistence on having a
prisoner who was in his charge, unhorsed him and wounded him
in the thigh.®
At the place called La Fontaine du Pin, Kay
was the second of the knights to be defeated by Hector.^
An
attempt to defend the queen against a knight who claimed her
as prisoner in the forest of Camelot, yielded Kay another
downfall and a broken lance, while Lancelot came to the rescue
c:
of the queen.
Kay was later attacked and maltreated by
Griffon de Malx Pas, and carried away to prison.
At the
tournament of Peningue, he was unhorsed by Lancelot, when they
were both incognito and neither recognized the other.
7
In the affair of the nicknaming of Sagremor,
Gaheriet took summary vengeance on Kay for his impudence to
8
Gauvain, so that even the king resented his violence.-
There
is mention of Kay1s attempt of the adventure of the Laide
g
Semblance and of his failure to achieve it. In the long series
of defeats and failures that attend Kay1s participation in
tournaments or other conflicts, it is a pleasure to come upon
1.
3.
5.
7.
9.
Vulgates II, 110, 1.11 ff.
2. Ibid., Ill, 138-9
Ibid., 166.
4. Ibid., 269-80.
Ibid., IV, 302, 1. 9.
6. Ibid., 317, 1. 12*
Ibid., Ill, 210.
8. Ibid., VII, 47 f.
Ibid., 153.
87
one brilliant success, tbe encounter at the ford.
With such
valiant knights as Gauvain and Yvain in the party, he was the
one who invited the combat and made good his promise to slay
two of the pursuers while each of the others overthrew one.^
Coming to the metrical romances, we find recitals
of Kay1s encounters equally frequent.
At the Pentecost
tournament held by Arthur shortly after his election, Perceval
p
overthrew Kay and many more knights.
Again at Blanc Castel,
a tournament was begun with great success by the Round Table
!,Knights, but Perceval1s arrival on the second day turned the
$
*tide, and many fell before him. Kay was thrown with special
violence.^
A third overthrow at the hands of Perceval,
recorded in the Wauchier Continuation, took place at Castel
4
Brandelis.
At one of Arthur1s Pentecost assemblies, he was
c
unhorsed by Claris,
and *a la cort vermelle en la lande”
he was defeated by le Petit Chevalier, although he wore the
magic shield, which would have enabled him to conquer the
field had he won his first two jousts.
fi
He was unhorsed by
his enemy Felin de la Garde in the Tournament of the Ladies
of Blanche-Mores and Roche-Lande, and one hundred knights
7
entered the lists to avenge him.
Later Durmart defeated
him'in a conflict in Ireland that almost approached the pro­
1.
Huth Merlin, Vol. II, 164; Vulgate: VII, 122,
2.
3.
4.
6.
Modena Perceval: 17, 1.14.
Ibid: 78, 1. 2; 85, 1. 3; Didot-Perceval: 473.
Wauchier: 29171 ff. 5. Claris: 13167; 13213 ff.
Wauchier: 32401.
7. Durmart: 7005 f.; 7046.
1. 32.
88
portions of a pitched battle.
Durmart took the part of the
Queen of Ireland, while the Round Table knights fought on the
side of Nogant, her oppressor.
This time as Kay was borne
from the field, four hundred knights went into the combat to
avenge him.1
The list of Kay’s injuries is impressive and often­
times they were of a serious nature.
At least thrice his arm
O
was broken.
"z
He was wounded in the shoulder by Yder,
and in
4
the thigh by Lancelot.
He was repeatedly borne from the field
so badly injured that it was feared he would die.5
Whereupon
the king and queen and courtiers as a rule evinced a consid­
erable measure of grief.
of his sufferings.
He often swooned from the intensity
Arthur generally supplied him with his
g
own physicians or with the best that could be had.
Conva­
lescent periods were sometimes long.
In tournaments and battles, Kay killed
a matter of course.
many men as
But there are special ones mentioned whom
he killed in more or less cold-blooded or treacherous fashion.
These include Lohot, son of Arthur, whom he slew that he might
claim the exploit of killing the giant."7
There is an account
in Wauchier of a certain stranger knight whom he tried to
induce, with his usual want of tact, to come to the queen,
1. Durmart! 12973.
2. Perceval: 4304; Vulgate! VII, 48, 1. 37; L'Atre
perllleuxi 265.
3. Yder: 1141.
4. Vulgate: III, 166.
5. Vulgate: III, 200; Vengeance, 499; Escanor;
5750* 5774.
6 . Perceval: 4338; Wauchier: 29270; Durmart: 13807.
7. Perlesvaus: 4218 F.
89
and who unhorsed him for his pains•
Gauvain prevailed upon
the stranger, under promise of safe conduct, to accede to the
queen1s wish.
As they approached the queen, however, the
knight was mysteriously slain by a dart from an unseen hand.
Suspicion was directed to Kay, though his guilt was not
definitely proved*
We find an allusion later on in Manessier
to this same incident when the sister of the slain knight came
to court to seek aid against an enemy, Margon by name, because
her brother was not there to help her.
Gauvain took up her
cause, and she gave him a banner with a white lion on a field
of red, bidding him see that the lion was stained with Kay1s
blood.
Gauvain was unwilling to hold Kay responsible, since
there was doubt of his guilt, but the maiden insisted that she
knew 11par astrenomie'* that he had killed her brother with a
dart that he had concealed under his mantel.
Gauvain yielded
to her entreaties, and in the ensuing combat, Kay barely
p
escaped with his life.
An act of treachery that rivals his
slaying of Lohot, was his attempt to poison Yder for Whom he
entertained feelings of bitter envy and hatred.
That Yder
survived was due to his marvelous physical strength and to
the aid that came just in time to revive him from his coma.
3
On the other hand, in Escanor, where Kay is presented as a
figure of the gallant, chivalrous knight, he regretted having
slain Colivre l^Orguellus, a knight of evil repute, because he
felt he had killed him without sufficient reason.
1.
2.
3.
Continuation: 0 19843
Continuation: M38241-57.
Yder: 5707 P.
He was
90
was consoled, however, by a maiden who came to thank him for
having delivered her from her oppressor, the said knight
The medieval knight proved his mettle, as a rule,
by faring forth on a "queste," from which he sometimes did
not return for a year or two.
Usually he went alone, and
played the part of a hero wherever he happened to be.
It is
not often that we find a record of one who returned without
having accomplished what he set out to do.
Besides these
single quests there were expeditions in which a number of
knights would join, generally for the purpose of searching
for some knight who had been absent from court for a long
time.
It is in the latter type of quest that we find Kay
more often participating.
He was in the search party organ­
ized by the king to find Perceval, who had not returned to
court after KayTs mockery of
2
driven him away.
his uncouth appearance had
The thought of some absent knight would come to
Arthur occasionally at table and plunge him into a fit of
abstraction from which the other knights would try to arouse
him*5
At one time it was the neglect of his knights to rescue
Girflet from a long period of imprisonment that thus dejected
him, and a party was immediately organized by Gawain to seek
the missing knight.
that expedition.
A number of things happened to
Kay on
He had the experience of being made fit target
for a roasted peacock that he had demanded with too much
1.
3.
Escanor: 9132.
2.
Perceval: 427 4
Vulgate: III, p. 271, 1.4.
91
insolence for his dinner."*"
way.
It came about In the following
while reconnoitering for food, he entered a castle where
he found a dwarf roasting a peacock at a fireplace.
Kay1s
demand for the bird was naturally resisted by the dwarf, whose
cries, caused by Kay’s rough treatment, brought the master of
the castle to the scene.
The latter hastened to present the
peacock to Kay--by firing it at his head with such violence
that it felled him to the ground.
Kay returned to his com­
panions, crestfallen, to report that nothing was to be had at
that castle.
From certain evidence on his person it was
argued, however, that he to whom Kay had spoken was not without
food.
Gauvain went to see for himself, and received a cordial
offer of hospitality for the entire party.
From there they
went to the Castle Orguellous where Girflet was confined, and
laid siege.
Kay was the first man on the field of battle,
but he was tricked into crossing the boundary line, and was
o
ruled out of the conflict.
The castle was taken, neverthe­
less, and Girflet was freed. On.the way home, it was learned
that Gauvain1s son had been stolen, and another search party
was formed
to recover him.
In this quest, Kay refused to
take part.
The search for Lancelot forms the objective of the
extraordinary expedition into Ireland recounted in the Rigomer.
There was an element of the supernatural about the marvelous
castle in which he was incarcerated.
1.
2.
Wauchier: 16493.
Ibid: 18607.
3.
Weather was operated by
Ibid: 19529.
92
magic, and all kinds of wonders were seen.
Gauvain having
left the search party, to seek adventures of his own, Kay
took command after a fashion, and showed himself quite re­
sourceful in his leadership.
He was perfectly fearless in
the atmosphere of enchantment in which they found themselves,
and before the strange and uncanny folk with whom they had to
contend.
This is in contrast to his reaction to a similar
situation in the Mule sans frein, where he was thrown into a
state of constantly increasing terror by the successive stages
of the awe-inspiring adventure, and finally turned back, too
frightened to proceed.
fear.
Giants, too, filled him with mortal
On the quest for Laris, on which he entered reluctantly
enough, he was petrified with fright when one of these monsters
seized him and bore him away to the castle of Madoine.^
No
harm came to him, however, and later the giant befriended him
and his companions in their efforts to escape.
On another
expedition with Arthur, Gauvain, Yvain, and Yder, Kay in
advance of the rest of the company, espied two giants and was
so terrified
that he hid behind some bushes until the others
came up to him.
Asked by Arthur why he hid, he replied that
2
no living man could look upon those giants without fear.
Besides the amount of time that Kay must have spent
recovering from wounds received in combat, there were periods
of imprisonment of varying lengths that, totaled, would
1.
2.
Claris! 10174.
Yders 5624.
93
probably occupy a considerable portion of his days.
These
include his sojourn at the court of Baderaagu with the queen
until Lancelot came to their rescue.^
On another expedition
in behalf of the queen, he was made prisoner by Griffon de
2
Malx Pas, and later in the same narrative, we find him immured
along with other knights in the castle of Terrican,^ while
their shields hung on the branches of the pine outside#
These
shields, discovered by Lancelot, indicated to him the presence
of their owners within.
He attacked the master of the castle,
slew him, and delivered the prisoners, of whom there were
sixty or more.4
Kay spent an indefinite period of captivity with
5
Laris in the castle of the fairy, Madoine.
A later search
for Laris, who had disappeared for a second time, took him into
Denmark where he was again made prisoner, with Agravain,
Carados, Lucan, and Lais Hardiz, all of whom were released
subsequently through the efforts of Gauvain.
In the Perlesvaus,
he goes into exile to the Castle of Chinon, after his treach­
erous conduct towards his king, and remains there presumably
for the rest of
his days.
And again, in the Mule sans frein,
he is so humiliated by the disgrace of his failure to achieve
his quest that he spends some time in voluntary solitude in
his loge.®
An important question in the study of Kay* s career
1.
3.
5.
6.
Vulgate: IV, 205 f.
Ibid: V, 205, 1. 16
Claris: 10187 F.
Mule sans frein: 321.
2.
4.
Ibid: 317, 1. 12.
Ibid: 208, 1. 27.
94
concerns the status of his rank at court.
We find him free
to challenge knights of the highest rank, and to take part in
combats on an equal footing with powerful nobles.^
He seems
to have been able to absent himself from the court and from
his duties whenever he pleased.
He merely had to ask the
kingfs permission, just as did the other knights, and it was
rarely refused.
We noted in the discussion of his parentage,
that Kay was not of the nobility.
Antor reminded him of this
in his paternal injunctions in the Sagremor nicknaming episode?
He recommended to his son that he be a little less haughty,
in consideration of the fact that the knights whom he was
defying were the best in the land, while he himself was a mere
nvavasor•,l Furthermore, he remarked publicly that Kay was
"uns poures bacheler doutre pais,11 unworthy of the office of
seneschal, and he was prepared to force him to resign rather
3
than cause any further disturbance at court.
Gauvain does not
hesitate to rebuke Kay as an inferior, and the other com4
panions make him the butt of their jests.
Excepting the romances of Chretien, and the military
expeditions of the Vulgate Cycle, instances of the king1s
leaving court for the sake of adventure are rare.
He depends
on his leading knights to attend to such obligations as
championing the oppressed who petition him for aid, or releas­
ing imprisoned knights, or freeing kingdoms from evil enchant1. Gawain, Lancelot, Perceval, etc.
2. Vulgate: VII, 49, 1. 27. ff.
3. Ibid: 54.
4. Ibid: 47, 1. 44; Cont. W 16565; 32831;
Vengeance: 4172.
95
merits and the like.
But when Arthur does fare forth, Kay
is always a member of the expedition.
He accompanies the
king and queen on a journey to the Doloreuse Garde to learn
the fate of Lancelot. ■** When Arthur falls into the power of
the Saxon enchantress, Camille, Kay accompanies the rescue
party, and destroys Camille*s power by burning her books and
boxes.
We still find records of hunting parties*, in the
Lancelot, where Kay had an opportunity to defend the queen
from a would-be-abductor^ and also in the Gerbert Continua­
tion and in Fergus, in both of which he accompanied such
excursions.
An expedition on the scale of those described by
Chretien is mentioned in the first section of the Graal Con­
tinuation.
The king and queen set out with a large retinue
4
to be present at Gauvain1s combat with Gramoflanz.
Of a different nature was the excursion on which
the king invited Gauvain, Yvain, Yder, and Kay to accompany
him after his jealousy had been
ence
for
Yder.
aroused by the
Arthurand Kay were both of
queen1s prefer­
a mind to rid
themselves of the hero, Yder, by any means that would not
reflect on themselves.
He was exposed to the danger of com­
batting two giants single handed, and after surviving the test,
was tricked by Kay into drinking water from a poisoned spring.
For this treachery Kay would have answered with his life to
Yder1s father, had not his intended victim appeared on the
1. Vulgate: III, p. 161.
2. Ibid: 426 f.
5. Ibid: IV,
302, 1. 9.
4-. Continuation: W 10933.
96
scene to plead for his life and grant him a magnanimous
1
pardon.
It is especially interesting to find Kay regarded
as so real that he figures in one or two incidents in the
2
annals of the saints. From the Vita Sancti Cadoci we have
the following:
Arthur, while engaged in a game of dice with Kay
and Bedivere, saw a knight approach, hearing a beautiful damsel,
Galadus, on his horse,
Arthur, infatuated with the beauty of
Galadus, wished to seize her.
His companions dissuaded him,
reminding him that it was their custom to bring aid to the
weak rather than to attack*
On another occasion, a Breton chief named Ligessauc
killed three of Arthur1s men, and then took refuge with Saint
Cadoc.
Arthur, not daring to do violence to the man of God,
negotiated with him for the proper satisfaction.
They agreed
on a forfeit of cattle, three kine for each man killed.
Arthur arrogantly stipulated certain colors.
Saint Cadoc was
able to meet his demands by means of a miracle.
In delivering
the cattle, they were obliged to cross a stream.
In midstream
Kay and Bedivere endeavored to seize the animals by the horns,
whereupon a new miracle transformed
them into bundles of
ferns ("in filicis fascibus transfiguratae sunt”).
Struck by
the miracle, Arthur humbly begged pardon and promised hence­
forth to protect those who sought asylum with the
1.
2.
Rees. p. 23.
Yder: 6364 ff.
Lives of the Cambro British Saints; ed. W. J.
97
saint
The writer of these stories clearly looked upon
incidents from the lives of Arthur and his knights as elements
that added to the interest and popularity of his story.
In
the first legend, Kay and Bedivere appear in the role of good
counsellors to their less conscientious master, while in the
second they attempt to aid him.
One might question today the
ethics of the saint who would employ miracles to assist a
criminal to escape from justice.
Yet such was the naive
faith of the people of the Middle Ages for whom such stories
were composed that they would never question the conduct of a
saint nor God1s willingness to help him in any sort of project.
That the great King Arthur and his knights should have been
Impressed by the saint1s power, and won over to a greater res­
pect for religious authority, would have had all the more
potent effect on their simplicity.
The figure of Kay, by his
conduct and his association with Bedivere, is easily traceable
to the Seneschal of Geoffrey1s Chronicle.
A rather perplexing problem connected with Kay1s
life is the tracing of his family ties and relationships.
In
the early Wel^h records we find him to be the son of Kynyr
Keinvarwc or of Sevyn, as the case may be,^ and he has one
1 . Faral, Edmond: La Legende Arthurienne. Etudes
et Documents.
(Paris) 1929: TEe lives of these three saint s
are preserved in a manuscript of the end of the 12th century
(Brit. Mus., Cott. Vesp. A XIV), but seems to have been
composed sooner--about the year 1100. p. 256.
2. Loth: Kuhlwch et Olwen, p. 274 & note.
98
son, Garanwyn
1
and on© daughter, Relemon*
P
In the Breton
romances, he is the son of Antor, although he resembled him
so little that this paternity might have been called in doubt
had not his mother* s reputation for virtue been so unques­
tionably established*^
sisters.
There is no mention of brothers or
Arthur grew up as his brother, but this pretended
relationship would not account for the appearance of a nephew
in a later romance.^
Lais Hardis is a rather well known
character in the romances; only in the Durmart is he called
the nephew of Kay.
We also find mention of a son of Kay in
a list of knights of Arthur* s household compiled by Chretien:
"Gronosis qui mou sot de mal."
But who was the mother of Gronosis?
Chretien gives
no indication of a woman who has any special connection with
Kay beyond being the object of his scorn.
We find different
women associated with him in other romances, but the same woman
is found only twice in different sources.
According to the
Modena^Perceval, Arthur gives Kay the beautiful daughter
of the Duke of Normandy, along with her father* s dukedom, as
reward for his valor in battle.
7
And in the account of the
siege of the castle of Brun de Branlant, it is asserted that
Kay was loved by Lore Brulant, or Lore de Branlant, one of the
damsels who appealed for aid to save those within the castle
1*
3.
4.
6.
7.
Loth, ££. cit♦, p. 275.
2. Ibid: 283*
Vulgate VII, 47, 1. 21*
Durmart: 8475
5. Erec: 1739
Andrivete--Escanor and Androete— Conte du Mantel.
Modena-perceval: 67, 1. 14*
99
from starvation.^- But his real romance is the winning of
the princess Andrivete of Northumberland by tournament, and
his marriage to her after many delays and misunderstandings.
Besides the Escanor in which the account appears in full, we
find the name Androet,e occurring in the Conte du Mantel, as th
the name of Kay» s amie, who fails to lamentably in the mantle
test.
But the conception of her personality is'so different
in the two works that it is difficult to harmonize them or
to find any connection except in the similarity of the names.
One must not be too literal minded, however, in
trying to account for relationships in the Arthurian litera­
ture.
After all, if a character can with difficulty maintain
the integrity of his own identity, how can one expect his
genealogical connections to be free from discrepancies?
The
Conte du Mantel is presumably of a very early period, but if
the author of Escanor was familiar with this work, he dia’i
regarded it in the composition ofjhis own romance.
This independence among the medieval authors with
respect to one another1s production is part of the charm as
well as the bane of the literature of that period.
From the
heterogeneous mass of fiction in which we find Kay implicated,
it appears that the authors of the romances each dealt with
him according to his own fancy.
They felt free to link him
up with any of the legends in circulation, or to invent new
episodes in which to place him.
1.
There were no standards to
Continuations W 12443.
100
pin them down to conformity with one another1s conceptions
or with any predetermined norm.
the circumstances.
Kay1s character varied
It was adapted to fit any role*
with
101
Chapter IV
THE CHARACTER OP KAY IN THE POST-CHRETIEN ROMANCES
It now becomes our task to sketch in detail the
functions and character of Kay in the thirteenth century
romances, with a view to observing, first, in what respects
his behavior conforms to the traditional type as presented
by Chretien, and then, in what respects it deviates too
radically to bear any relationship to that source, and by
that fact, points to a different origin*
He retains all the functions assigned him by
Chretien, with some additional ones not mentioned in detail
by the earlier poet.
is his table service.
A prominent duty here, as in Chretien,
He is in charge of all the feast day
meals,1 some times with a large band of assistants.2
rated as the best seneschal in the land,
He was
and was recalled
to court if he happened to be absent on any special occasion.
4
Moreover, if he accompanied an expedition or a quest, it fell
5
to him to reconnoitre for food en route.
We have an instance
g
of this in the incident of the roasted peacock, and again at
the castle of Brandelis, where, although the food was already
7
provided, he took charge of the serving.
He was requested
1 # Vulgate* II, 109, 323; III, 109; Queste* V ;
Livre d*Artus: 55; Wauchier: 12612, 30989, 39210; Gerbert:
3370; Yder: 5680, 3120; Mantel: 91; 888; Escanor: 10370,
23095; Durmart: 9775; Bel Inconnu: 57; Escanor: 12835, 12850,
14293 22829* etc.
,
2 / Perceval: 2820; Durmart: 9943 (At another ban­
quet in Durmart, Kay was aided by but 15 knights.) 9796.
3. Escanor: 3088, 14293.
4. Ibid: 5651.
5. Ibid: 19853.
6 . Wauchier: 16355.
7. Ibid: 16817.
102
by King Cador of Northumberland, father of Andrivete, to
take over the management of his household during the diffi­
cult time of a large tournament which taxed the capacity of
his castle.*1' During the siege of the castle of Brun de
Branlant, when the starving citizens appealed for aid, Arthur
commissioned Kay to provide them with food, and he sent
p
enough supplies to last three days.
For his own wedding
he lavished provisions with open-handed prodigality for
the adornment of the church and castle as well as for the
garnishing of the table.
He was bountiful with largesse,
and his generosity on that occasion was praised on all sides.
Table service now includes the providing of water
4
for washing before meals.
The signal for this was the
5
g
sounding of a "graille
which was one of Kay* s duties*
A
custom observed after a tournament required that the victor
of the day should serve the first meats, after which he was
7
escorted to his place by Kay.
The behavior at table varies according to the occa­
sion.
Kay is often the victim of jesting remarks made by the
knights while he waits on them.®
In one instance related in
1. Escanor: 1500.
2. Wauchier: 11777
3. Escanor: 23009, 23034, 23095.
4. Vengeance: 4108; Gerbert: o370; Continuation:
W 12625, 32812, 32827; Perlesvaus: 590; Escanor: 14297.
5. Continuation: W 12880-85; 15768-69; Bel
Inconnu: 53.
6 . Continuation: W 15873-75.
7. Lancelot: 109, 1. 18.
8 . Continuation: Ilf 32831.
103
■fche Vengeance Raguidel, -when Kay and Gauvain had been
quarreling before the meal, and Kay was in a bad
temper,
he was not only chaffed by those whom he served, but he
exchanged violent words and blows with them."*"
On the other
hand, the table etiquette was most decorously observed when
renowned company was present. On such occasions Kay allowed
.
p
no noise or disorder and he exacted strict obedience from
his assistants.
When Durmart was a guest at the court, a
banquet of unusual splendor was held in his honor.
There
were fifty assistant servers and one hundred more to pour
the water.
During the meal a knight rode into the hall,
accompanied by a damsel and five dwarfs.
The space was
crowded and in order that the guests might see better, Kay
ordered all the squires out of the room.
They grumbled, but
they obeyed.5
It is while serving at table or when he comes to
announce the meal that Kay is most generally described as
handsome and splendidly garbed.
In one instance, he is
4
described as dressed in goId-trimmed scarlet satin and ermine. 1
On another occasion it is simply mentioned that he wore a cap
adorned with jewels.5
His assistants were richly attired
also, and his tables were covered with white cloths and the
salt cellars were of fine gold.
This description is
reminiscent of the one given of him by Chretien in his
1.
3.
5.
Vengeance: 4148.
Ibid: 10074.
Escanor: 14304
2. Durmart: 9988.
4. Continuation: W 12617
6 . Durmart: 9943, 57.
104
Perceval.
And a precedent for Kay1s handsome appearance
and rich apparel when serving at table is given by both
Geoffrey and wace.
On the feast of Pentecost they likewise
have him richly clothed, the one in crimson silk, the other
in ermine#**'
It is furthermore a usual medieval technique
for authors to describe elaborately costumes, furnishings,
etc.
In one or two instances, Kay* s equipment on the
2
field of ,battle is described*
At the
tournament of BlanchesMoresand Roche-Lande, his standard
and
shieldand arms were
silver and black, and he rode a large horse.
He wore armor
of different colors on succeeding days at the tournament in
Northumberland, the first day,
red and
plain,without device,
for he wished to be unknown.^
The second day he wore white
and was declared even more handsome than he had been the day
before.
Wauchier speaks of a garment, designated a "penne"
of ermine which he removed when he donned his armor.
In
1*Atre Perllleux he is dressed in rich apparel when he goes
5
forth to rescue a maiden.
The metrical romances contain no reference to Kay1s
office of banner bearer. The great wars of Arthur* s reign
are those fought with rebel kings, with the Saxons, and with
the Romans.
These are described in the books of the Vulgate
Cycle, chiefly the Merlin and the Livre d*Artus.
1.
2.
4.
He was
Brut: 10737 f; HRB pp. 245 f.
Durmarts 7005.
3.
Ibid: 8467.
Escanor: 31635 3755.
5. L*Atre: 240-250.
105
rewarded, with lands and a title for his valor in the cam­
paigns on the continent, but the later romances take no
note of either*
In these, he is always known simply as Keu
the Seneschal, Messire Keu, or Monsignor Keu*
To the king Kay was attendant, messenger and
trusted counselor.
His prominence in council may be a
survival of the prestige he enjoyed in the Welch legends,
or in the chronicles where he was known as the ”highest knight
in the land under the king*”
According to Wace, Kay and
Bedivere were the faithful friends and advisers of the king*
Chretien retained him in this office
2
and a number of later
romances maintain the tradition.
He had a certain keenness of observation that made
him valuable as informant in affairs that escaped the king1s
notice.
It was he who detected the dissatisfaction of the
knights on one occasion, and proposed a continental campaign
4
to hold their loyalty.
He was a member of the council of
twelve called to decide on the answer to be sent to the
c
Roman emperor*
And again, after the success of the Roman
campaign, he was summoned, along with the barons and other
prominent knights to advise the king in the matter of his
coronation at Rome.6
A council, having no connection with
war was held to devise a means of finding the missing knight
Guinglain.*7
1.
3*
5.
7.
Layamon! 24587.
Erec: 311-20
Ibid! II, 96 f.
Bel Inconnu: 5250.
2. Brut: 58
4. Modena-Perc.: 85, 1.19.
6. Ibid: 107
106
At a council resembling a court of love, in the
Meraugis, his advice was definitely cynical.
In the dispute
between the rivals for the love of the princess Lidoine, his
solution provided that the two should share her love, alter­
nately by the month.^
But he had the sagacity to uphold the
queen in the contention that the argument was within the
category that fell to her jurisdiction.2
Besides these larger assemblies, there were confer­
ences of a more private nature.
One such conference was
called by Arthur at which only Merlin, Gawain, and Kay were
present.
There is mention also of a council of eight held
in the queen* s chamber, to plan a strategic move in the
4
Saxon campaign.
And in another instance, Kay himself held
5
a council with the cooks.
Whatever may have been Kay* s
actual merit as a counselor, Arthur gives frequent" proof
of his confidence in him.
Sometimes he defers to his judg­
ment alone, without seeking further advice.®
Incidental duties that fall to Kay in certain of
the romances include mounting guard over a conquered castle,
some minor functions in connection with the dubbing of a
knight, and attendance upon the queen.
His part in the
knighting ceremonies included leading the aspirant to the
church for the night vigil® and arraying him in his new
1. Meraugis: 868.
2. Ibid! 894.
3. Modena-Perceval: 10, 1. 26.
4. Vulgate! VII, 211, 1. 25.
5. Continuation: W 11022-30.
6 . Rigomer: 15420; Meraugis: 894.
7. Vulgate: III, 427, 1. 14.
8 . Chevalier: 1540.
107
apparel.***
in the case of inferior knights, he evidently
was privileged also to attach the spur, as he attempted to
do for the dwarf knight.
Because of the latter1s high rank,
the damsel accompanying him would not permit it.^
In Kay* s early days at court, before he was a
member of the Round Table, he was one of the queen* s knights.
Twice he acted as her champion, although neither time suc­
cessfully.^
In the trial of the ’’false Guinevere” he was on
the side of the rightful queen, and disputed with Lancelot
the privilege of defending her against her knavish accusers.5
Lancelot triumphed; and Kay with the queen, watched his
conflict with three antagonists from the castle window.
Kay was ordinarily a member of the queen’s escort^
Q
or her messenger.
She exhibited strong affection for him
in the incident of his stubborn combat with Gauvain. She
9
wept and prayed to the Virgin to spare his life.
Then when
the conflict was halted, Kay was carried, weak and fainting,
to her chamber.
10
Another conflict, in which Kay engaged
with the knight Bagomedes, was settled by the queen, who
made peace by gently appealing to both knights to cease
11
hostilities for her sake.
Elsewhere, however, she mani­
fested open dislike and contempt for Kay.
1.
3.
4.
5.
7.
Huth Merlin;
8.
9.
10.
After Yder had
Chevalier; 1544.
2. Vulgate: II, 454, 1.7.
Vulgate; II, p. 344.
K. 217; Vulgate; IV, VII, 302, 1.9.
Vulgate; IV, 59, 1,21.
5,
Ibid; 66, 1.2.
Vulgate; VII, 25, 1.35; 206, 1.30; 211, 1.17;
Vol. II, 164.
Vulgate; IV, 317; Continuation: W 19675.
Continuation: M 39380-88
Ibid: 39438-53.
11. Continuation: W 31275.
108
unhorsed him for the third time in one encounter she ridi­
culed him and permitted one of her squires to insult him.1
In the examination of the character of Kay in the
thirteenth century romances, let us note in the first place
the evidence pointing to his conformity with the Chretienesque
type.
Churlishness in speech and manner is the prominent
feature.
His sharp tongue is constantly getting him into
trouble, and it is the subject of much of the comment concern­
ing him.
He is repeatedly described as an excellent knight
in every respect save for his unruly tongue and discourteous
2
conduct.
It was atrait he owed to the privation of his
own mother* scare in infancy.
He
is pronounced the most
malevolent tongued knight in all the world.^
His discourtesy ranged from mere facetious mockery
to downright cruelty.
His naturally acrid turn of mind made
him mistake sarcasm for wit, a wit which the victim of
pleasantry was seldom able to appreciate.
his
The resentment
of Fergus toward his ill-natured remarks prompted that hero
to leave court with threats of vengeance.
A serious rift
in court circles was caused by Kay* s mockery of Sagremor,
which began in a light enough vein, but ended by almost
causing the alienation of Gauvain and many of the best
knights from
court. His criticism drove away the uncouth
1.
Yder:
1517, 1529.
[7015
2. Ibid: 6626; Escanor: 435, 561, 862; Durmart:
3. Vulgate: II, 27.
4. Vulgate: V, 308; Rigomer: 10297; Claris: 4812.
5. Modena: 48, 1.22; Continuation: W 25688;
Vulgate: II, 453, 1.16.
6 . Fergus: 21, 1.16.
109
youth, Perceval, to the great displeasure of the king, and
of the other knights.'*'
He looked down upon youth from the
superiority of age and experience, and did not hesitate to
voice his opinion that valiant deeds should be undertaken
p
only by men who had proved their strength.
Kay* s lack of consideration for others disposed
him to act arrogantly to friend or foe.
knight who failed to yield to his wishes.
He threatened any
On many occasions
he mistreated dwarfs or servants who refused to comply with
his unjust demands.*^ He was cruel to the dwarf who refused
c
him the peacock,
to a squire who denied him his master* s
horse upon demand,6 and to a valet who happened him wLen he
7
was on the point of leaving court without permission.
He
was prone to throw dwarfs into the water or kick them into
g
the fire. Bagomedes was left to hang by his feet from a
tree for two days, after suffering insults and maltreatment
9
from Kay and his companions.
Kay's ignorance or disregard
for what was seemly and decent was frequently rebuked by the
king and Gauvain.10
He used vile language even to women.11
Acknowledging his own defect in a fit of depression one day,
he lamented that his malicious tongue was due to his having
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
8.
9.
10.
11.
Vulgates V, 389, 1. 11.
Vulgates III, p. 137, 1. 42;Gerberts
15427.
Vulgates IV, 302.
[255*
Continuation W: 16402; Clariss 23348; L ’Atre:
Continuation W: 16410.
Claris: 23360.
7. Vengance: 382.
Escanor: 900; Ibid: 9130; Fergus! 40, 1.35.
Continuations W 30644.
Vengeance: 241; Perlesvauss 672-3.
Escanors 934; Vengeance: 4176.
110
drunk from a foul fountain.
He would never be able to over­
come the bad habit.1
We find, indeed, that even the most valiant and
seasoned knights did not always escape his blighting remarks.
Gauvain,
Yder,
and Perceval4 (even after he had established
his renown), all came in for a share of his unsparing criti­
cism.
He bluntly told Perceval he could never achieve the
grail quest; he accused Gauvain of not being fit to accom­
plish the Vengeance Raguidel; he twitted Yder with having
lost the falcon to Erec.
He could not 'accept the praise of
5
other knights graciously, and Gauvain’s attempts to show him
6
kindness met with a rude rebuff.
He was most severe to
those whom he loved most.
7
He told the king, upon one occa­
sion when he had answered him with undue impudence, that it
was impossible for him to suppress a sharp retort to one who
offended him, no matter who he might be or what might be his
rank.^
But it was not often that Kay confessed or excused
his shortcomings; far more frequent are the manifestations
of his conceit, his invincible self-confidence, and his ten­
dency to boast.
He was indignant at being forgotten or
passed over in favor of other knights, and insisted on his
9
10
worthiness to precede.
He boasted of his skill in arms.
1. Durmarts 13799.
[l’Atre; 222.
2. Escanor; 284, 374; Vengeance; 4102, 4408;
3. Mantel; 650.
4. Gerbert: 1288.
5. Ibid; 1530.
6 . I'Atre: 412.
7. Escanor; 572.
8 . Ibid: 22625.
9. Perlesvaus: 6318.
10. Vulgate: II, 71, 1.12.
Ill
He consoled himself for a defeat one day by claiming that
his victor was the best knight present and the winner of the
tournament, a statement which in reality he had not remained
to verify.-*-
His numerous defeats and humiliations never
2
caused him to lose faith in himself or his powers#
He
received the jibes of his companions in silence sometimes,
but more often with angry retort.^
The fear of his anger
was likely to discourage derisive comment, even when the
knights rejoiced secretly at his downfall#
4
There are a few instances on record, however, when
Kay hung his head in shame#
Perceval, for one, succeeded
in producing this effect by reminding him of his broken arm,
after Kay had been making slighting remarks about him and
5
the Grail quest#
He was also known to reply almost apolo6
getically to a rebuke from Gauvain or the king.
His pride and self-confidence are further mani­
fested by his refusal to accept aid from Lancelot in combat.
He insisted on prolonging the conflict until he had overcome
his opponent single handed.7
His foolhardy ambition to
champion the queen and his unfailing eagerness for the first
Q
joust at tournaments resulted in humiliating failures. , If
1.
2#
3.
5.
6.
frein: 321.
7.
8.
173, 1.30.
Continuation: W14265.
Claris: 25402; Vengeance: 521.
(29275.
Continuation: HV 16571.
4. Ibid: 19724;
Gerbert: 1322.
Fergus: 23, 1. 3; Gerbert: 1317; Mule sans
Vulgate: III, 139, 1. 13.
Continuation: W 18571; Ibid: 29171; Fergus:
112
another knight claimed precedence, that knight1s downfall
always give him great pleasure, even though it invariably
meant his own subsequent defeat. / "When the knight in question
was Lancelot, however, as it always was when it was a matter
of defending the queen, Kay was forced to yield without any
o
hope of having his turn.
He was quick to challenge knights who ignored or
disregarded him, ^nd seldom failed to accept a challenge.
In the latter case he insisted on settling the matter with­
out delay.^
At a tournament he was ready to attack all
comers, and was usually the first victim of the unknown
hero.^
The news of a redoubtable warrior in command of a
castle produced in him an urge to attack.
He would rashly
predict his victory and the terms on which he would win it,
g
but ordinarily failed to realize his ambition.
Although as a rule eager for conflict, no matter
how foolhardy, there were occasions when Kay yielded to dis­
cretion, especially when subsequent circumstances proved that
such discretion had been misplaced.
If an adventure pre­
sented difficulties that he was unwilling to undertake, he
vehemently pronounced it impossible of achievement and
1.
Vulgates III, 279, 1. 28; Continuation:
2.
Vulgate: IV, 69, 1. 21;
1 32655.
Continuation:
M 39238.
3. Durmart: 13068 f.; Claris: 23402; Continuation:
W 31046; l*Atre: 222.
4. Continuation: W 31065; Ibid: M 39238.
5. Claris: 13167; Modena 17, 1. 14; Continuation:
W 32500; Bel Inconnu: 5666.
6 . Durmart: 12946.
113
unworthy of the efforts of any knight in his right senses.
To prove him mistaken, another knight would set forth on the
adventure and succeed brilliantly.^
The prospect of adven­
ture ordinarily appealed to Kay, however.
His curiosity
prompted him to investigate whatever seemed to promise an
encounter.
2
He wished to know the name of any new knight
3
who displayed unusual prowess.
Frequently his conflicts
were the result of his arrogance in making unreasonable
demands.
He would
command knights to follow him^ or to
5
6
yield^their horses or their prisoners.
His combat with
Modred and Dynadan because of his mistreatment of Modred’s
amie and her dwarf, was contrary to court ethics, for com­
panions of the Round Table were never supposed to attack one
another.
*7
This was not a generally observed ruling, however,
as Kay had encounters with Perceval, Gauvain, and many other
good knights of the Round Table.
In the Atre Perilleux he left the table to follow
a knight who had interrupted the meal with a challenge for
Gauvain’s amie.
Gauvain himself hesitated to go because
his strict code of etiquette would not permit him to leave
the table until the meal was finished.
Arthur’s viewpoint
of the matter appears somewhat less rigid, for he censured
1. Continuation! Mpl.J Yder: 5624.
2. Vengeance! 208; Ibid! 375; Mule sans frein.
3. Vulgate: III, 166, 1. 15; Ibid: 240;
Durmart: 8377.
4. Continuation: W 19734.
5. Gerbert: 4458; l’Atre: 255.
6 . Vulgate: III, 166.
7. Ibid: 1238.
114
Gauvain’s failure to take up the gage at once.
Kay could
never be trusted to defend the damsel successfully.
In
this, Arthur was right, for Gauvain, as he tardily set
forth to overtake the abductor, met Kay’s horse returning
riderless, and found the seneschal prone upon the ground
with a broken arm.
In the prose works, Kay enjoys a measure of suc­
cess in his encounters, but in the metrical romances the
usual result is downfall and humiliation for him.
At the
tournament of Blanc Castel, he was so violently thrown by
Perceval that he did not know whether it was day or night.
2
He was badly injured by Meliant in the incident of the queen’s
abduction.^
He was maltreated and made prisoner by Griffon
A
de Malx Pas.
r
He was unhorsed by:
the Petit Chevalier,
7
Perceval,.
/*
Bagomedes,
Gauvain, who all but killed him,
Yder,^ Durmart,10 and many others.11
8
His correspondingly
rare successes were in most cases achieved with the aid and
support of the other knights.
One trait of a true knight in which Kay was not
wanting, save in exceptional cases, was a fundamental
f
loyalty to King Arthur and to the Round Table.
jealous guard over the renown of the court.
1.
2.
3.
5.
7.
9.
11.
He kept
He was quick
L ’Atre Perilleux: 265 f.
Vulgate: II, 78, 1. 2; Didot-Perceval: 473.
Vulgate IV, 160, 1. 33.
4. Ibid: 317, 1.12.
Continuation: W 29171.
6 . Ibid: 31049.
Ibid: W 32500.
8 . Ibid: M 39305.
Yder: 1250.
10. Durmart: 13783.
Vengeance: 382; 486; Bel Inconnu: 5666.
115
to resent any insult to the king and took it upon himself
to avenge it*
It is true his lack of foresight and hasti­
ness of temper led him at times to act in a manner prejudicial
to Arthur1s best interests*
He was responsible for the loss
of several young knights to Arthur1s court in the beginning
p
of their careers*
But even in such cases, it was his high
regard for the honor of the court ancthis distrust of newi
comers which caused him to alienate them by his ridicule of
their lofty ambitions.
His loyalty extends also to Individual knights of
the Round Table*
He was generous in his praises of Lancelot,
whom he designated as the best knight in all the land, the
very flower of knighthood*
•z.
His attitude toward Gauvain
seems to have been a combination of admiration and jealousy.
Gauvain1s superiority in knightly virtue and his dominating
personality inspired Kay1s respect and compelled his obedi­
ence.
With the rest of the companions, Kay yielded to Gauvairfs
leadership and waited for his decisions.
faults freely.^
Gauvain rebuked his
And it was his knightly perfection, his
skill in combat, his gentle courtesy and impeccable behavior
that showed off by contrast Kay1s want of chivalry, his
ineptitude, churlishness, and other shortcomings.
Gauvain
accomplished the undertakings in which Kay failed; he won the
1. L 1Atre Ferilleux: 222; Rigomer; 15745.
2. Perceval and Fergus.
3. Vulgate; III, 239, 1. 10; Ibid; IV, 205, 1. 15;
Iv; 225, 1. 31; Ibid; V, 131; 208, 1. 27; 209, 1. 20; Con­
tinuation; W 19734.
4. Continuation: W 19734; Fergus: 22, 1. 25;
Ibid: 93, 1. 17; Yder: 2344; Ibid: 3122; Vulgate: VII, 1. 11;
48, 1. 4.
116
friends whom Kay*s discourtesy had alienated.
Despite his
jealousy of these superior qualities and of Gauvain*s popu­
larity, Kay manifestly cherished a genuine admiration and
affection for him,
even though his resentment betrayed
itself at times in bitter speeches and unjust criticisms.^
For his part, Gauvain exhibited a friendly, tolerant attitude
toward Kay, whilehe endeavored to restrain and correct his
many faults, and in his sternest disciplinary measures, he
was loath to do him ham .
Though inclined to jealousy, on occasion Kay
delighted in the successes of other knights.
He was enchanted
with the successful occupation of the magic chair by Durmart
4
and Perceval respectively.
Lancelot's exploits filled him
5
with admiration.
He was as a rule ready to join the search
party for a missing knight, or any other expedition at
Arthur's behest.
fi
Although ordinarily obedient to court
regulations, in some circumstances Kay took the liberty of
acting on his own initiative, as when he left the court
secretly, without the king1s permission, to pursue the purloiner of the five rings from the hand of the dead knight.
He took it upon himself to maintain court discipline, and
\
"
1. Vulgate: VII, 34, 1. 48.
2. Ibid: 47, 1. 4; Vengeance: 4068; Ibid: 4102;
Ibid: 4408; Escanor: 284; Ibid: 374.
3.
Continuation: M 39305; L fAtre: 392, 408,
412.
4. Durmart: 9700; Gerbert: 1504.
5.
See note 3, p. 115.
6 . Rigomer; 6577; Continuation: W 16340;Vulgate:
IV, 331, 1. 22; Ibid: V, p. 413.
7. Vengeance: 375.
117
he was on the alert to report delinquencies on the part of
other knights at once to the king.
He kept his eyes open
to all that was going on, so that he was able to supply
information upon the king's request.
Indeed, his officious
interference in affairs that really did not concern him indi­
cates a tendency to talebearing.1
In his attitude toward women Chretien* s Kay was
lamentably wanting in chivalry.
In this respect the later
authors imitate their model almost unanimously. With one
2
exception they all depict Kay as indifferent to love and
scornful of the favors of the fair ladies.
His language is
far from complimentary when speaking to them or of them.3
His violent anger at the faithlessness of his "amie" was due
to wounded pride rather than to a wounded heart.4
He took
the love of women lightly enough, and refused to be cast down
by their defection, provided the other knights shared his
5
humiliation.
He made a sort of joke of the trial of the
mantle and disagreed with Carados, who said that if his amie
were not faithful, he preferred not to know it so that he
6
would not have to stop loving her.
Kay used rude and violent language to the maiden
who interrupted his reverie on his way to Northumberland. He
7
called her names and threw her dwarf into the fountain.
He
refrained from doing her physical violence, contenting himself
1.
2.
4.
6.
Continuation : W 11943; Modena: 85, 1. 19.
Escanor.
3. Yder: 1534; Escanor: 6801,
Vengeance: 4181.
5. Mantel: 693.
Ibid: 819.
7. Escanor: 934.
118
by muttering what he would do to her if she were a man.'*’
He had no high opinion of women* s kindness.
His only comment
concerning the queen* s cruelty toward Lancelot was ,Ttels es
guerredons de f e m m e . H e
considered them thoroughly heart­
less, for they could sit at ease at the tournaments and
ridicule the knights who were suffering the fatigues of
battle for their sakes.^
In the Mule sans frein, he under­
took a quest on behalf of a damsel, but did not carry it
through, saying plainly that love was not worth all the
4
sufferings and perils of such an expedition.
Kay’s deficiency in the fine points of chivalry is
apparent in other respects also.
His attack on Perceval when
the latter and his horse were both in a state of exhaustion,
c
was singularly wanting in knightly honor.
His ridicule of
the loathly damsel and of the dwarf knight mark the.absence
of that delicacy of feeling that should have restrained him
from making light of others* misfortunes.
fi
King Arthur and
Gauvain have frequent occasion to reprove his want of tact.
7
t While Kay undoubtedly injects a vein of humor into
Arthurian literature, it is for the most part unconscious.
His associates were inclined to laugh at
him.
him rather than with
His sense of humor has neither subtlety nor refinement,
but his simplicity and the naivete of his ideas are at times
1.
Escanor:
3.
Durmart:
5.
Gerbert:
7.
45064; Perlesvaus: 672;
Fergus: 163, 1. 36.
1088.
2. Vulgate: IV, 206, 1. 35.
7677.
4. Mule sans frein: 246.
4446.
6 . See Note 5, p. 108.
Continuation: W 19734, 21644, 25688; M 41890,
Vengeance: 241; Gerbert: 1317;
119
delightfully refreshing.*^
in some of the romances he defi­
nitely presents the spectacle of the court buffoon, whose
outbursts of temper, silly boasting, and humiliating mishaps
p
are enjoyed by the king and courtiers*
With his volatile
temperament, Kay1s fits of anger are of brief duration, and
are ordinarily not taken very seriously.
At times he Is
childishly lighthearted and gay.3
His honesty is open to question*
He was inclined
to give glowing accounts of his exploits, with little
regard for the facts of the case.4
truth were not serious.
But his lapses from
They were of the kind in which a
schoolboy would indulge in order to attract attention or
avoid trouble.
In his youth, he had tried to convince Antor
that he, instead of Arthur, had withdrawn the sword from the
rock and had thus accomplished the feat that was to estab­
lish the identity of the new king.
He admitted the truth,
however, when Antor told him that he could no longer love
5
him if he was untruthful*
When accused by Bagomedes of
treachery and cruelty before the king, he denied ever having
seen the knight before.6
He likewise would not admit having
killed a certain knight brought by Gauvain to the queen,
though all present believed him guilty of the deed.*^
But
1* Meraugis: 868; Continuation: M 42592; Vulgate:
III, 110, 1. 12.
2. Continuation: W 16565, 18592, 32836; Escanor:
6890; Vulgate: II, 71, 1. 12; Durmart: 13805*
3. Vulgate: II, 47, 1. 21; Continuation: W 32401;
W 45048; Gerbert: 1504.
4. Claris: 23462.
5. Vulgate: II, p. 88.
6 . Continuation: W 30971.
7. Ibid: W 19840.
120
when questioned by Arthur as to his exploits during an
absence from court, he frankly admitted that he had not
1
conquered a single knight*
That Kay was favored with the trust and affection
of the king is another point on which all Arthurian romancers
agree.
In the Vulgate Cycle, especially in the Livre d1Artus
this bond of affection appears the strongest, and Arthur1s
consideration for his seneschal reaches its highest point.
In the episode of the nicknaming of Sagremor, for example,
he seemed willing to lose Gauvain and all the knights who
chose to accompany him rather than permit Kay to be reproved
or corrected.
It was only after Merlin and some of his
powerful nobles had appealed to him to reconsider that he
finally consented to force Kay to make honorable amends.
2
His usual attitude was one of kindly tolerance, not averse
to rebuking Kay severely when occasion demanded, yet
genuinely distressed and quick to provide him with the best
of care when he was injured*
He indulgently granted him the
A
5
first joust upon request, and sent him aid or interfered on
g
his behalf when he was in danger.
He rejoiced when Kay was
7
restored to health after an illness, or when he returned to
Q
court after an absence.
He rewarded him with honors and
1. Vulgate: V, 315, 1. 35.
2. Vulgate: VII, 49, 1. 7; 51, 1. 48.
3. Continuation: W 29270; Durmart: 13827; 13793;
Vengeance: 516.
4. Continuation: W 29171; Vengeance: 220.
5. Continuation: W 32514.
6 . Ibid: M 39393.
7. Ibid: M 39461.
8 . Escanor: 10291.
121
lands after services in battle."^ He deferred to his judg, 2
2
ment, and made him one of his counselors*
Kay, for his
part, was eager for the king*s approval^ and jealous of his
favor*
Despite his fondness for his seneschal, however, on
one occasion, Arthur very plainly showed his preference for
Lancelot,
Kay, arriving at court one day, clad in Lancelot’s
armor, had been accorded a glad welcome*
The discovery of
his incognito was such a keen disappointment to the king that
he lost color.^
There are instances also where the king
7
gives expression to his distrust of his seneschal1s powers
o
and times without number he administers rebukes.
Only once,
after Kay has given him no end of provocation, does Arthur
betray actual hatred toward him and declare his enmity
openly*9
In general, Kay was also on a friendly footing with
most of the companions, who knew him well enough not to bear
him any grudge because of his uncivil tongue.
nMais de ce
que kex dist ne chaloit a cels qui sa coustume sauoient."^9
In the early chronicles, the knight with whom he is most
frequently associated is Bedivere, who accompanies him on
all expeditions, receives similar rewards after victory, has
1* Didot-Perceval: 491.
2. Vulgate: II, 85, 1. 19; Huth Merlin: p. 164;
Rigomer: 15427.
5, Bel Inconnu: 5250*
4. Escanor: 4433 f.
5. Yder: 3269, 3289.
6 * Vulgate: V, 315, 1. 14.
7. L ’Atre: 332.
8 . Vengeance: 241; Continuation: M 41980, 45064;
Gerbert: 1317; Fergus: 168, 1. 36; Perlesvaus: 672.
9. Perlesvaus: 7920.
10* Vulgate: II, 110, 1* 35.
122
a similar office in the king1s household (cup-bearer), and
is mortally wounded in the same battle in which Kay loses
his life.
In the romances this knight is much less prominent.
He appears with Kay In the battles of the Vulgate Cycle, and
also In the incident of the Giant of Mont St. Michel.^
In
the other romances he is hardly mentioned.
The group immediately surrounding Kay generally
includes Gaivain, Lancelot, Perceval, Sagremor, Girflet, and
sometimes Gaavain1s brothers, Gaheriet and Gueherres.
Other
knights are associated with him in special romances, for
example: Brian des Isles,who is his companion in crime in
the Perlesvaus and his good and faithful friend in Escanor;
Yder, toward whom he alternates between friendship and enmity;
Claris and Laris, who befriend him and help him escape from
prison; Fergus, with whom his relations in the romance of
that name are similar to his relations with Perceval else­
where; Durmart, whom he admired as a hero, and whom he eagerly
desired to know; Carados, with whom he has little to do except
to be defeated by him in tournaments; Meliant and Terrican,
who were his enemies; and others of less Importance.
The
roles of these other actors in the great Arthurian drama are
as varied as that of Kay in many instances.
To trace the
relationship of Kay with each of them in the various versions
would present a new series of problems too extensive to be
included here.
1.
Didot-Perceval: p. 491.
123
As has been remarked elsewhere in these pages,
Kay is repeatedly used as a foil to make the high qualities
of other knights stand out to greater advantage.
him most frequently contrasted with Gauvain,
Laris^ and Lancelot.3
We find
but also with
A recurring motif found in different
authors is that of having Kay impersonated by some other
knight who wears his clothing and passes for him.
A humorous
situation results in which the knight masquerading as Kay
astonishes everybody by his unwonted prowess.^
This device
again emphasizes Kay*s inferiority in knightly valor.
Never­
theless, he was respected by the companions, and at times
exercised a measure of leadership over them*
Even if his
Judgment was not of the soundest, he was able to enforce it
5
by the power of his will.
Moreover, he enjoyed a sort of popularity in a
social way.
He was fond of having a company of knights
assemble in his lodge to spend a gay evening telling stories,
g
singing, and drinking wine or eating fruit.
When he was wounded in battle, there were many
7
knights to avenge him, and as he lay suffering in bed, his
g
companions came to cheer him and bear him company.
The romances which introduce the most striking
1.
Mule sans freini 373$ Yders 1141; Continuation;
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
Claris et Laris; 11100.
r
Vulgate; III, 139; IV, 66, 1.2; IV, 302. [1968.
Vulgate; V, 308, 1.3; Claris; 4812; Vengeance:
Rigomer: 13315; 13323.
Chevalier as II espees; 2426; Durmart; 9870.
Durmart; 7046; 13821.
8. Escanor; 6383.
W 16565.
124
deviations from the Kay depicted above, who, so far, con­
forms to the type presented by Chretien, are La Mule sans
frein, Perlesvaus, Escanor, Yder, and to a lesser extent,
Rigomer, and Claris et Laris* /In these works, Kay’s role
varies from the romantic hero (Escanor) to the treacherous
villain (Perlesvaus and Yder), through varying degrees of
cowardice (Mule sans frein) and aversion for knightly adven­
tures (Claris et Laris)*
He exhibits the extremes of courage
and faint-hearted timidity.
On the one hand he dares any
peril, and stimulated by love to an exertion in excess of
n
his ordinary powers, wins his lady in a tournament.
On
the otheE, he feebly abandons the quest he has undertaken
because of fear of the hardships to be endured*
2
His philos3
ophizing on the high ideal of true and worthy love is offset
by his bitter reflections on the futility of all deeds of
4
chivalry in the service of any lady*
In Rigomer he is the
ambitious leader, shrewd, domineering, and resourceful in
battle*
In Claris et Laris he
is the laggard, despising
adventure and all exertion for the sake of empty honor*0
The Perlesvaus and Yder vie with one another in
painting Kay in his darkest colors.
Treachery, cruelty, and
disloyalty to his king and companions, cowardice* deceitful­
ness, and vindictiveness are his chief characteristics,
unrelieved by any higher qualities than a bold courage and
1. Escanors 5326, 3346. 2. Mule sans frein: 321.
3. Escanor: 9206.
4. Mule sans frein: 244.
5. Rigomer: 10187, 10291, 10297.
6 . Claris et Laris: 10073, 10097, 23309.
125
a ruthless skill in arms#
These he displays quite consis­
tently in the Perlesvaus, while in the Yder, ignoble cowardice
must be added to the sum total of his unsavory traits.
The
author of the latter work numbers him among Arthur1s best
knights,but he assigns to him in the narrative only what
is despicable in character and activity.
It is evident that
the authors of these two works do Kay injustice.
At their
hands he assumes a role sufficiently remote from the standard
prevailing in the contemporary romances to indicate almost
complete independence of earlier models.
Kay was never treacherous in Chretien, nor was he
cowardly, as these works show him to be.
It is possible that
these traits come from prototypes used by Chretien, but it
is obvious that they do not come through him, at least not
through any of his extant works.
The one romance which might
have shown a connection of this sort, his Marc et Iseut, has
been lost.
Therefore, no one knows if Kay appeared in it or
If he showed any resemblance to the evil-natured seneschal
of that romance, considered by some to have been a prototype.
Kay, personally, has little to do with the Tristan
legend.
o
There is an instance of his coming into bontact
1. Yders 1144. Mr. Henrich Gelzer, who edits the
work,
has the following comment, however: ’’BeiChrestien war
Kei ein vorlauter, unversch&mter schreier, im Yder ist er ein
gemeiner schurke."
2. I am aware that Kay has a rather large part in
the Prose Tristan of the 14th century, but since this falls
outside of the period under consideration, and since the
episodes relating to Kay are, for the most part, incidents
found in the other Arthurian romances, an analysis of the
work has not been included here. W. H. Schofield has this
126
with Tristan in the Perceval Continuation by Gerbert de
Montreuil.
He expressed great joy at the coming
of this
hero to the court of Arthur, and later he was one of the twelve
knights chosen to accompany him on his return to the country
of King Mark*
There,
disguised as a minstrel, he took part
in the tournament with the rest- of the group, so it is not in
his character as seneschal that we find him in Tristan1s
company, but as a venturing knight.
In the Gerbert section
there is no confusion of identity between the two seneschals,
nor any comparison of their personal traits.
There is, however, a curious analogy between two
incidents taken from the Perlesvaus and Tristan romances
respectively, in which these two senescnals play similar
•}
roles.
This is in relation to the slaying of the giant or
dragon by Lohot, son of Arthur, in the one case, and by Tristan
himself in the other.
In each version, the seneschal (Kay in/
Perlesvaus, Aguynguerran le Roux in Tristan) after the monster
has been slain, cuts off its head, and returns with it to
court to claim the reward.
Similar devices are used by the
to say of the relationship of the Tristan and Arthurian
legends: nIn the earlier stories, Arthur and his knights
have practically no part to play*... Tristan was a hero once
quite independent of Arthur, and his thoroughgoing connection
with the Round Table is to be found only in the late compila­
tions, which departed far too freely from trustworthy tradition,
in order to gratify the taste of an uncritical Continental
audience whose appetite for familiar adventures appears to
have been insatiate. --Schofield, William Henry: English
Literature from the Uorman Conquest to Chaucer. London,
Macmillan, 1931. p. 2ll«
/
'!'* Le Roman de Tristan et Iseut renouvele par
Joseph Bedier. Ed. by Foster Erwin Guyer.
127
two authors to reveal the treachery of the perpetrator of
each of the crimes*
Now although there are dissimilarities
in the details, there is sufficient likeness to indicate
that in the minds of some writers at least, there was a close
association between Kay and his counterpart in Tristan*
Since
the Ur-Tristan, the earliest of the Old French versions, is
dated by most scholars around 1154, and the Perlesvaus is
placed about a half century later, the latter is evidently
indebted to the Tristan romance itself or to legends deriv­
ing from it for its version of the dragon-slaying incident.
Kay, then, may owe the evil reputation accumulated by him in
the later romances in part to his resemblance to Aguynguerran
le Roux, seneschal to the King of Ireland.
For the rest, an
additional source might be found in the hostile attitude
prevalent among the people toward the overbearing seneschals
of the Capetian Court.^
This is merely conjectural, however,
and not based on evidence.
Turning to the Escanor, we have a deviation in the
opposite direction from the norm prevailing in the contempo­
rary romances.
Here Kay borrows the attributes of the heroic
type of knight, such as appearing on successive days of the
tournament in different colors and exciting the curiosity
and wonder of the spectators by his prowess.
His subjugation
1.
During the reign of Louis IX seneschals were
appointed for the administration of affairs in certain out­
lying districts in southern France, called seneschauss^es.
Their power gradually became absolute in their domains and,
in many cases, led to abuses that brought the title into bad
repute. Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. Ill, p. 481, Vol.
VI. pp. 354, 545.
128
to the thralldom of love, his devotion to the service of
his lady, his timidity and respect, are reminiscent of a
Lancelot rather than of the indifferent, impudent seneschal.
There are instances elsewhere of Kay's willingness to under­
take an adventure or quest on behalf of a fair lady,
but it
was in a spirit of boastfulness rather than with the earnest­
ness of purpose he exhibits in the Escanor.
On the other
hand, the author does not entirely disregard the traditional
conception of Kay.
His conduct toward the maiden and the
dwarf at the spring shows him to be the same Kay who insulted
the maiden and the dwarf in Chretien1s Perceval. And his
disputes with Arthur and his jealousy of Gauvain are quite
in keeping with his well-known behavior in the romances.
Thus Kay exhibits in the Escanor a combination of
what Professor Benedict would call the Chretienesque and
Galfridian qualities, placed, however, in a setting that
required the addition of characteristics somewhat unfamiliar
to his type.
Following a new departure, the author adapted
the seneschal1s fundamental character to the regular role of
the hero of a biographical romance.
He had then to endow
him gratuitously with those qualifications that would make
him an acceptable hero.
The result is a Kay of heroic
stature, independent of the Celtic tradition (for there is
nothing supernatural in his powers), but possessed
of high
chivalrous qualities intermingled with those tenacious
1.
Mule sans frein; Durmart: 475.
129
personal traits that constitute his individuality*
In brief, we find in our examination of the postChretien romances a tendency to employ Kay in a great variety
of situations, and make his role conform to the circumstances
in which he is placed*
The prose romances offer the most
complete account of his life and display the most favorable
aspects of his character.
The metrical romances furnish
evidence of the extent of his popularity as a literary
figure.
In them he is taken for granted, and no attempt is
made to explain his presence or his office.
It was inevitable, perhaps, that eventually some
writer should conceive the notion of giving to this conven­
tional figure the prominence of a biographical hero.
His
role practically attains this importance inthe Escanor, where,
although he does not bear the title role, he shares the
honors with the actual hero, through a long romantic episode
that parallels the main narrative.
This romance marks the
climax of his career as a literary personage in the metrical
romances.
It is the only one in which his part is more
than merely transitory.
The variations between the tex-cs and the extent
of their dependence upon Chretien can be shown concisely by
an interpretation of the following tables.
130
TABLE A
EREC ET EN1DE
LANCELOT
YVAIN
Bedier
Paris
Foerster
Gilyer
B*
P.
F.
G.
B,
P.
F#
G.
1160
1168
1160-70
1149-50
1164
1172
11641164-5
1173-4
1173
1173
1166*7
PERCEVAL
(Graal,
B# 1190
P# 1174
F# 11734*
A# FUNCTIONS
1* Table Service
2#
1
Counselors
1
3* Attendance
2
4« Messenger
1
1
1
1
4
1
B. CHARACTER
Sarcasm(a)
1# Discourtesy (b)
Conceit (a)
2# Arrogance (b)
Scorn of Women (a]
3. Jealousy (b)
Quick Temper (a)
4* Obstinacy (b)
Ambition (a)
5* Officiousness (b)
Curiosity (a)
6# Keenness of
Observation (b)
Obedience (a)
7# Loyalty (b)
Truthfulness (a)
8# Honesty fb)
9# Butt of Jokes
la
lb
2a
4a
4b
la
la
lb
lb
la
lb
la
2b
la
lb
la
lb
la
la
2a
2b
la
lb
lb
la
lb
la
lb
4
3b
12
lb
2a
lb
6a
lb
2b
2a
lb
la
lb
2
2b
2b
1
1
la
lb
la
lb
la
lb
la
2b
C# FIGHTER
Eagerness (a)
1# Foolhardiness (b)
Humiliation (a)
2# Lack of Skill (b)
la
lb
la
lb
2a
lb
la
lb
D. CONTRAST
1
1# With Gauvain
1
2* With Others
1
"Where the dates are approximate, the numbers (1), (2), (3), (4),
placed after the roman numerals in these tables indicate the first,
second, third, and fourth quarters of the century, respectively#
131
TABLE B
RAOUL DE
HOUDENC
CONTINUATION
METRICAL ROMANCES
$
o
©
•H rH
©
CM
t»0
rt+ ih
© H
I
§)to IH W OjP H
JD O
o
o
U CM H CR O
© M IH M
s
~ CM © H
A, FUNCTIONS
~Y# Table Service (a)
Provision of Food (b)
Servioe of Water (c)
Standard Bearer (a)
2# Squadron Commander (b)
Guard (a)
3» Counselor (b)
Attendance (a)
4# Messenger (b)
Duties Connected
5, -with Knighting
B. CHARACTER
Sarcasm (a)
1* Discourtesy (b)
Conceit (aj
2, Arrogance (b)
Scorn of Women (a)
3. Jealousy (b)
Quick Temper (a)
4# Obstinacy ( b)
Ambition (a)
5, Officiousness (b)
Sluggard (a)
6, Cowardice (b)
Dishonesty (a)
7, Treachery (b)
Curiosity (a)
Keenness of
8. Observation fb)
Truthfulness (a)
9# Honesty (b)
Obedience (a)
10# Loyalty (b)
Generosity (a)
11# Friendliness (b)
Wit (a;
12# Butt of Jokes (b)
G. FIGHTER
Eagerness (a)
1# Foolhardiness (b)
Humiliation (a)
2# Lack of Skill (b)
3# Valor
D. CONTRASTS
1# With Gauvain
2# With Others
3a
3b
la
lo
Xa
2a
6b
2a
lb
la 2a
lb
2b
2a
la
3b
la
2b
CM © *"*
CM
frt rH
*rl
OS *H
t* w
la
la
lc
lc
lb
la
3a
lb
2b
2a
lb
« rH
0
lb
q>
la
lb
3a
lb
lb
2a
b 2b lb
3a
4b
la
lb
la
Jb.
la
la
Jk_
la
la
lb
lb
lb
la
3a
la
_lk
t?)—rrr
It pH
© CM
•rl H
lb lb
lb
2b
2a
3b
lb
la
lb
la
la
la
la
la
lb
lb
la
lb To lb
la
4b
la
5a
la la
2a
2b
la
lb
lb
la
lb
la la
_lb .lb
lb
2a
JLL
lb
132
CVt
P
-<
3*
M
QH
A. FUNCTIONS
1* Table Service (a)
2a
Provision of Food (b)
Service of Water (o)
Standard Bearer (a)
2 , Squadron Commander (b)
lb
Guard (a)
3. Counselor (b)
Attendance (a)
a la
4* Messenger (b)
Duties Conneoted
5. with Knighting
1
B. CHARACTER
Sarcasm (a)
la
1* Discourtesy (b)
lb
Conceit (a)
2* Arrogance (b)
Scorn of Women (a)
la
3. Jealousy (b)
lb
Quick Temper (a)
la
4* Obstinacy (b)
Ambition (a)
5* Officiousness (b)
Sluggard (a)
6, Cowardice (b)
Dishonesty (a)
7. Treachery (b)
Curiosity (a)
la
Keenness of
8* Observation (b)
lb
Truthfulness (a)
9* Honesty (b)
Obedience (a)
la
10* Loyalty (b)
2b
Generosity (a)
la
11* Friendliness (b)
3b
Wit (a)
12* Butt of Jokes (b)
b lb
C. FIGHTER
Eagerness (a)
la
1* Foolhardiness (b)
Humiliation (a)
a la
2* Lack of Skill (b)
3
3* Valor
D. CONTRASTS
1. Wi-tk Gauvain
2. With Others
-- -
(A ©
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rl
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A M M
o •K
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UM
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UM OM
-
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a#x M X
la
la
la
la
lb
lb
lb
lb
lb
la
la
la
lb
la
lb
lb
la
_lb
3a
3b lb
2a
lb lb
la
lb
4a 2a
2a
la
1
M
1
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J§ © M d3 M
PM O
§M
M
4»
®X
!"!Pi X
><3
la
la
3a
3b
la
la
la
la
la
3a
la
lb
lb
la
lb
lb
lb
lb
5a
2b
la
lb
la
4b
la
2a
©
m^
la la
lb
2a
lb
la
la
3b
e
3a
4b
lb
la
lb
Claris et Laris
1268
(0
Rigomer
XIII (2)
(Middle)
XII
Metrical Romances (Con*d)
Lai du Cor
Table B (Continued)
la
lb
la
lb
lb
la 2a
la 2a
2b
3
1
1
lb
2a
1
la
13^
4a
lb
la la
lb
3a 4a
lb 2b
s
»
s®
A. FUNCTIONS
T. Table Service (a)
Provision of Food (b)
Service of Water (c)
Standard Bearer (a)
2, Squadron Commander (b)
Guard (a)
3* Counselor (b)
Attendance (a)
4, Messenger (b)
Duties Connected
5# -with Knighting
B. CHARACTER
Sarcasm (a)
1* Discourtesy (b)
Conceit (a;
2* Arrogance (b)
Scorn of Women
3. Jealousy (b)
Quick Temper (a)
4* Obstinacy (b)
Ambition (a)
5* Officiousness (b)
Sluggard (a;
6, Cowardice (b)
Dishonesty (a)
7* Treachery (b)
Curiosity (a)
Keenness of
8. Observation (b)
Truthfulness (a)
9* Honesty (b)
Obedience (a)
10. Loyalty (b)
Generosity (a)
11. Friendliness (b)
Wit (a)
12- Butt of Jokes (b)
C. FIGHTER
Eagerness (a)
1* Foolhardiness (b)
Humiliation (a)
2. Lack of Skill (b)
3. Valor
1). CONTRASTS
1. With jSauvain
2. With Others
»
•5p
«Q
3 03
,0j rH
> 03
GO rH
HO H1
*o>
*rtM s
0 rH
►J X fU rH
o
Huth Merlin
1220
DidotPerceval
XIII-XIV
PROSE ROMANCES
Merlin
1230
Lancelot
1191-1201
Queste
Mort Artus
XIII (1)
1205
TABLE C
2a 2a
lb
lb
3a
2b
la
lb
2a
la
lb lb
b
3a
la 2a la
2b
la
lb
la
lb
2a a
lb
la a
la
b
1
2a 3a
2b
lb
la
lb
la
2b
2a
4b
la
lb
la
lb
la
la la
2b
4a
lb
lb
la
lb
la 3a
lb 7b
la
2b
6b
lb
la
la
b lb
a
lb
2a
a
la 5a
lb
2a 7a
lb
5
2a 1
la
la 1
1
2
1
2a
2
2
1
3
1
1
134
CONCLUSION
For this conclusion we have made tables for
(1) the romances of Chretien; (2) a representative group
of metrical romances, including the Continuation of Chretien1s
Perceval in its three sections, Wauchier, Manessier, and
Gerbert; (3) all the romances of the Vulgate Cycle that
contain references to Kay; (4) three other prose works ^
closely related to the Cycle.
arranged chronologically.
The romances of Chretien are
The metrical works have also been
arranged in chronological order as closely as their dates
could be ascertained, except the two lais of the Cort Mantel
and the Drinking Horn, which have been placed near the
Vengeance Raguidel because of their relationship to one of
the episodes in that romance.
The romances of the Vulgate
Cycle have been placed In the same order that they occupy in
Mr. H. Oskar Summer1s critical edition.
This is not accord­
ing to the order of their production, but following the chrono­
logical sequence of events in the narrative.
The Perlesvaus,
Huth Merlin, and Pi dot-Perceval follow the Cycle.
In an attempt to classify character traits by
tables, a certain amount of discrimination had to be sacri­
ficed, but an attempt has been made to include all essential
features, with a grouping in pairs (to conserve space) of
those which seem for some reason to be related.
The numbers
la, 2b, etc., indicate the number of times that the evidence
of the given trait was found in the work mentioned at the top
155
of the column.
The four divisions!
Functions, Character,
Fighter, Contrast, represent, we think, the salient points
of interest relating to our subject.
This investigation reveals that in both prose and
metrical romances Kayt s table service in Chretien has been
supplemented by the duties of providing food and bringing
water for washing before meals.
He continues to be employed
as messenger and counselor, as in Chretien, and he is fre­
quently in attendance upon the king and queen.
The prose
Merlin and the metrical Chevalier as .II. espees both contain
references to his connection with the knighting ceremonies.
Of the two, the latter is more explicit, defining his functions
in detail.
The Roman de Ham mentions one occasion on which
he made certain that candles were lighted for a celebration
in the castle.
The list of character traits here includes a number
of items that do not appear in the Chretien table.
The
Chretien technique, in fact, does not call for a wide range
of characteristics, whereas the later romances, each by a
different author In most cases, represent a greater variation
in the way in which Kay’s role is utilized.
Their interpreta­
tion of Kay*s character varies correspondingly.
Some of these
authors have presented a relatively simple characterization;
others have made him very complex indeed.
Where the story is
long and rambling there are likely to be inconsistencies.
For
example, in the Perceval Continuation there is evidence of
dishonesty (once), treachery (5 times) and sluggishness (twice)
156
as contrasted with truthfulness (once), obedience (once) and
eagerness for conflict (5 times).
Among the metrical romances, we find Kay at his
most versatile in the Perceval Continuation,
He retains all
the Chretien features, but already shows a tendency toward
deterioration in Wauchier.
In two instances he scorns knightly
adventure, in three, he is guilty of treachery, and in one,
of dishonesty.
Discourtesy shows up frequently, and reaches
the point of cruelty twice.
Manessier maintains this concep­
tion, giving evidence of treachery and several other deroga­
tory traits in the brief section alotted by him to Kay,
Gerbert
has no instance of treachery, but stresses his discourtesy.
These three writers followed Chretien most closely*
They
were familiar with his incomplete work, and each undertook
to bring it to a satisfactory denouement in his own way,
Manessier followed Wauchier, who had left his o n
contribution
unfinished, but Gerbert seems to have been independent of
both.
Of the three the last
perhaps adhered most closely
to Chretien* s conception*
The other romances of this group that mark the down­
ward trend of Kay* s character are the early thirteenth century
Yder, with its two instances of cowardice, two of dishonesty
three of treachery, and a Kay of prevailingly vindictive
nature; and Claris et Laris, and the Mule sans frein of the
last quarter of the century, in both of which Kay exhibits
sluggishness, fear, and scorn for knightly adventure.
The works that point to the better side of Kay* s
137
personality are Durmart, with its emphasis on valor,
loyalty, and friendliness; Rigomer, which offers evidence
of his loyalty, leadership, and fearlessness; and above all,
Escanor, which endows him with all the qualities of an heroic
knight: courtesy, devotedness in love, courage, resourceful­
ness, and the like.
Each of these works, however, maintains
the tradition of his discourteous manner and sarcastic tongue*
A glance at the tables will show that these two traits are
the most constant, here as well as in Chretien.
Other jfcems,
of frequent occurrence, are: scorn of women, quickness of
temper, and Kay* s tendency to mock others and to be mocked
in return.
His foolhardiness and eagerness for strife are
equaled by his lack of skill and his frequent humiliations.
He is contrasted with Gauvain more than with any other knight#
Turning to the prose romances, we find his role
most extensive and his character the most varied in the
Lancelot.
His discourtesy, sarcasm, obstinacy, and other
unpleasant traits are counter-balanced by his obedience,
loyalty, and friendliness.
This favorable aspect is main­
tained by the Merlin and the 3Livre d1Artus, both later works.
Thy one prose work that shows a decadent Kay is the Perlesvaus,
which is also the only one to introduce character traits
foreign to Chretien.
His treachery and disloyalty in that
romance have been discussed above in detail.
The Huth Merlin
parallels the Vulgate Merlin, and the Didot-Perceval contains
evidence of a similar nature.
In the prose works, Kay is more successful in
158
conflict than he is in either Chretien or the metrical works.
Instances of his valor exceed those exposing his ineptitude
in every romance except the Lancelot.
He is as eager for
conflict as ever, but less foolhardy, because better skilled.
The contrast is with other knights rather than with Gauvain.
It is doubtful if the dates of the post-Chretien
romances have any special significance injaccounting for the
variations in Kay1s character.
Of the romances within or
preceding the first quarter of the century, Yder and Perles­
vaus mark a definitely unfavorable type; Wauchier and
Manessier also indicate a downward trend; Gerbert, Bel
Inconnu, Fergus, Meraugis, and La Vengeance Raguidel show
no worse traits than the surly qualities already found in
Chretien; and the Lancelot is predominantly favorable.
In
the second quarter, Durmart, Rigomer, Chevalier as .II. espees,
and Merlin present a favorable view and offer no striking
deviations in either direction.
Escanor and the Livre d 1Artus
of the third quarter offer the best pictures of Kay to be found
in any of the literature, but this period also gives us the
Claris et Laris and La Mule sans frein, the two in which his
cowardice is most conspicuous .
Thus no particular develop­
ment of the type can be assigned to any given period of time.
It appears that Kay was simply a character to be
employed in accordance with the authors* needs.
By some,
he is integrated into the romance in such a way as to make
him a necessary figure inthe development of the plot.
large portion of the action in Chretien1s Lancelot, for
A
159
example, Is contingent upon Kay1s foolhardy ambition to be
the queers champion*
the whole story.
purely minor role.
He furnishes the starting point for
Other romancers, again, present him in a
Chretien makes this use of him in Erec
where his part is merely incidental, and he is in no way
responsible for the main events of the story.
So too among
the later romances we find those in which Kay has an integral
part in the action and others in which he is more or less
excess baggage, contributing only variety and color to a
plot that could get along very nicely without him.
His
personality, in either situation, depends on the viewpoints
of the individual authors.
A study of the locale of each of the romances
might throw some light on the causes for the variation in
the seneschals character.
During the reign of Louis IX,
when the seneschalship had become a sort of absentee landlord
office in southern France,^we,read that grave dissatisfaction
with the local incumbant in certain cases caused the king to
appoint personal agents, called "enqu^teurs” whose function
it was to visit those regions to settle disputes and check
abuses.
An audience in such a locality might have been
pleased with a romance satirizing an official who was the
object of public odium.
This angle of the question has not
been investigated by the present writer.
along with many more problems
1.
It must be left,
that have cropped up along
See p. 127 supra, note 1.
140
the way, fctr further investigation#
The more one delves
into the labyrinth of Arthurian lore, the more one is over­
whelmed with the magnitude and intricacy of the subject#
We have here only laid the foundation for a study
of technique in the portrayal of medieval characters. Various
elements are wanting to make the study complete, such as a th
thorough-going study of the authors of each of the romances,
and the influence they had one upon the other; an investiga­
tion of the environment and literary and social conventions
that formed the background of the action; a first hand
examination of all the original manuscripts for possible
variations of texts, and the like.
of work have not been available.
Facilities for this type
Moreover, the mass of
evidence accruing from such a minute investigation becomes
difficult to condense into a useful document.
In our own
case, the detailed account of Kay1s activities in all the
romances of the period proved too unwieldy to be included
in the argument.
For purposes of clarity and conciseness,
we have tabulated the findings, condensed the discussion as
much as possible, and omitted the narratives of all the
post-Chretien romances.
The net result of our investigation is as follows:
Chretien presents Kay as a figure of the conventional medieval
seneschal who performs the customary duties of his office in
so far as they are in keeping with the narrative.
Military
functions, such as carrying the standard in battle or command­
ing a military unit, would have been out of place in his
141
romances, since they deal only with the social side of court
life.
He endowed his seneschal with certain characteristics,
drawn, according to various theories, from possible oral or
written prototypes, from his own inventive genius (with
didactic purposes in mind), or perhaps even from living
figures of his time.
These characteristics, like the
functions, remain constant in the situations that call for
them.
In fact, Kay1s behavior in given circumstances is
practically according to formula.
In all the romances, he
is easily provoked to sharp speech, he is eager for combat,
he is quickly unhorsed by his opponents, he is the butt of
jokes, he is contrasted with other knights, and so on.
There
are variations in the degree of his bad humor, but no change
in fundamental traits.
Chretien’s followers have, rather generally, carried
on these conventions.
Even the prose romances, which obvi­
ously follow the chronicles in subject matter, betray the
influence of Chretien in their characterization of Kay.
Having accepted the Chretien model, indeed, they are at pains
to explain the high standing at court accorded him by the
chroniclers.
his childhood:
They find it necessary to invent the legend of
the substitution of an uncultured nurse for
his mother’s care, and Arthur’s promise to Antor to make
amends by granting him the office of seneschal.
Then, since
they record the campaigns and wars of Arthur’s reign, they
stress Kay’s military functions and credit him with a greater
degree of valor and with more success in his encounters than
142
do Chretien or the metrical writers.
The metrical romancers use Kay over and over again
in the same situations in which Chretien had placed him, but
also invent interesting conventions of their own.
They
connect him with stock motifs, current legends, and th©
like, in which he usually plays a minor part.
he reacts in true Chretienesque fashion.
As a rule
The intrusion of
such extreme traits as cowardice and treachery suggests an
exaggeration of his surly qualities that one could only
attempt to explain by a thorough and detailed study of the
psychology of the individual authors and all the influences
involved.
143
SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY
1*
Atre Perilleux. Edited by Bryan Woledge. Paris 1936.
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Archives. XLII.
2.
Boron, Robert de. Le Roman de l'Estoire Dou Graal, Ed.
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1927.
3*
Brut or Chronicles of England.
Brie. London, 190o.
"
4.
Chretien de Troyes: Christian von Troyes sttmtliche
Werke. Edited by Wendelin Foerster. 5 vols,
Halle 1884-1932.
I. Cliges
II. Yvain
III* Erec
IV, Lancelot
V. Perceval (edited by Alfons Hilka)
5.
Chevalier: Li chevaliers as deus espees.
Wendelin Foerster. Halle, 1877.
6.
Claris: Li Romans de Claris et Laris. Edited by Johann
Altman, Tttbingen, 1844.
(Bibliothek des
literarishen Vereins in Stuttgart, No. 169 .)
Edited by Friederich W.
Edited by
Pes Deux Bordeors Ribauz. Montaiglon et Raynouard:
Recueil general et conplet des faibliqux. Vol. 1.
Paris, 1872.
8 . Didot-Perceval: Edited by Jessie L. Weston in her Legend
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Edmund Stengel. Tttbingen, 1873 (Bibliothek des
literarischen Vereins in Stuttgart, No. 116).
3-0*
Escanor: Der Roman von Escanor: Edited by H. Michelant,
Tttbingen, 1866.
(Bibliothek des literarischen
Vereins in Stuttgart, No. 178).
11.
Fergus: Edited by Ernst Martin. Halle, 1872. Also
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Floriant et Florete. A metrical romance of the 14th
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Roxburghe Club. Edinburgh, 1873.
144
13.
Gawayne and the Green Knight. Edited by Richard Morris.
14.
Gerbert de Montreuil: La Continuation de Perceval. Ed.
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(CFMA.,
Nos. 28 and 50).
15.
Gligjois: Edited by C. H. Livingston. Boston, 1932.
Harvard Studies in Romance Languages, Vol. VIII.
16. Guillaume de Dole.
(See Roman de la Rose, Le),
17.
Ham. Le Roman de. Edited by Francisque-Michel in Histoire
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France. Paris, 1840.
18.
Historia Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth. Edited
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19.
Huth-Merlin: Merlin, roman en prose du XXII© si&cle.
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20 .
21.
Inconnu, Li Bel. Edited by G. Perrie Williams. Paris,
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Jaufrd, Le Roman de.
183£. Vol. 1.
M. Raynourd:
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23.
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26.
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145
28 . Lives of the Cambro British Saints, Text and Translation
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29.
Livre D ’Artus.
(See Vulgate)
30.
Les Mabinogion. Edited and translated by J.Loth. 2nd
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31.
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32.
Manessier:
33.
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34.
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35*
Modena-Perceval. Edited by Jessie L. Weston: The Legend
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36.
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37*
38.
39.
40.
Mule Sans Erein.
Paiens de Maisieres (see Orlowski).
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65-72. (Societe des
bibliophiles beiges, IMo. 21).
III-IV
Pseudo-Wauchier, 10602-21916
IV-V
Wauchier, 21917-34934
V-VI
Manessier, 34935-45379*
Perlesvaus. Edited by William A. Nitze and T. A. Jenkins.
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Edited by
41.
Queste del Saint Graal. Edited by Albert Pauphilet.
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42.
Raoul von Houdenc. S&mtliche Werke. Edited by Dr.
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I.
Meraugis de Partlesquez.
II.
La Vengeance Raguidel.
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146
43.
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44.
Roman de la Rose, Le, ou de Guillaume de Dole par G.
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Paris, 1893*
45*
Tristan of Beroul.
46.
Tristan of Tbomas. Edited by Joseph Bedier.
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(SATE)
47*
Vengeance Raguidel.
48.
Vulgate Version of the Arthurian Romances. Edited by
H. Oskar Sommer, 7 vols. Washington, 1909-16.
Joseph of Arimathea or Le Petit Saint Graal
II.
Merlin
III-V Lancelot del Lac
VI. Queste: Mort Artus
VII. Livre D 1Artus
Edited by Ernest Muret.
Paris, 1903.
2 vols.
See Raoul von Houdenc.
49.
Wace:
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50.
Yder:
Per AltfranzQsische Yderroman nach der einzigen
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147
CRITICAL WORKS
1.
App, August J. Lancelot in English Literature: His
Role and Character. Washington D.C., 1929.
2.
Baker, Sister Imogene, O.S.B. The King's household in
the Arthurian Court from Geoffrey of Monmouth to
Mallory. Catholic University of America.
Washington B.C., 1937.
3.
Baldensperger, Eernand. Melanges d fHistoire Litt^raire
Gdndrale et Comparde. Librairie Ancienne Honors
Champion. Paris, 1930. Tome Deuxifeme,
4.
Banks, Theodore Howard Jr. Sir Gawain and the Green
Knight♦ P. S. Crofts & Co. New York, 1929.
5.
Beck, Johann Baptist. La Musique des Troubadours.
Ed. Henri Laurens. Librairie Renouard. Paris.
6 . Bedier Joseph; Les Legends ^piques. Vol. IV. Paris,
1921. Le Roman de Tristan et Iseut renouvel^ par
Joseph Bedier. Edited by Poster Erwin Guyer.
New York, Appleton, 1931.
7.
Benedict, George W. Sir Kay the Seneschal of Arthur 1s
Court. Ph.D. Thesis. Harvard 1899.
8 . Boll, Lawrence Leo. Comparative Study of the Mule sans
frein and the Dieu Crone made at the Catholic
University. Washington D.C.
9.
Boulenger:
Les romans de la table ronde nouvellement
rediges. Paris, 1922-23.
10.
Breuer (See Eoerster)
11.
Brown, A. C. L.
12.
Bruce, James D . : The Evolution of Arthurian Romance
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