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Roberd of Cisyle and the Amalgamation of Forms Roberd of Cisyle is a "romance" in couplets, composed in the late fourteenth century in a Southeast Midlands dialect1 It is extant in ten manuscripts, which attests to its popularity, the three earliest of which2 are roughly contemporary with the putative original. This present analysis is based on the text from the predominantly religious Vernon MS., as edited by W . H. French and C. B. Hale.3 "The immediate source of the Middle English versions", according to Lillian Hornstein4 "is unknown; an early French romance may be predicated though no such version is extant". There are many analogues, however, one type of which is represented by the early fourteenth-century tale of Jovinian the Proud in the Gesta Romanorum.5 This tale type appears as AT757 in Stith Thompson's classification, The Types of the Folktale.6 Connections have also been seen with the Robert the Devil legend, mainly in the name of the protagonist and the humiliations suffered by him as penance. Roberd of Cisyle agrees with the pietistic romance Sir Gowther in the type of penance given, although this is the only point of agreement. Breul7 denies that these tales go back to the same nucleus but suggests that the English poet of Roberd has taken features from the Robert-saga and included them.8 The features of birth and youth in Robert le ! L. Hornstein in J. Burke Severs, ed., A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, Fasc. 1, Connecticut, 1967, 171. Oxford Trinity College D.57 (ca. 1374); Bodleian Vernon (ca.1390); Brit.Museum Add. 22283 (ca. 1400). ^Middle English Metrical Romances, N e w York, 1930 (repr. 1964), vol.2, 933-46. 4 Severs, op.cit., 172. 5 French and Hale suggest that the allusion in line 435 of the poem is to the Gesta version, "although it is not the immediate source" (ibid., 946). The English translation, Harley M S . 7333 (Sidney J. Herrtage, ed., EETS ES 33, London, 1962 [1879], 75-87), is referred to in this article. Its later dating (about 1440 A.D.) and the gradual change whereby "the story became the principal, and the Moralite the secondary element" (p.xiii) make it a more appropriate text for structural comparison with Roberd than the Latin original. 6 Stith Thompson, trans., The Types of the Folktale, FF Communications, No: 184, Helsinki, 1961. Various individual themes of Roberd have folktale analogues in motifs listed by Thompson in Motif-Index of Folk-Literature, 6 vols., Bloomington, 1955-8. These are summarized by Lillian Hornstein in the footnotes of her article, King Robert of Sicily: Analogues and Origins, PMLA 79, 1964, 13-21 (hereafter, Hornstein, King Robert). 7 Karl Breul, ed., Sir Gowther, Eine englische Romanze aus dem XV Janrhundert, Oppeln, 1886, 133ff. t , . 8 In this he concurs with H. Varnhagen, Ein indichses Marchen auf seiner Wanderung durch die asiatischen und europaischen Litteraturen, Berlin, 1882, 65ft. Varnhagen believes that the ultimate origin of the legend of Roberd was in ancient Hindu beliefs in metempsychosis. See also L. H. Loomis, Medieval Romance in 104 M. Bradstock Diable are lacking from Roberd, especially the stay at court as an unknown hero and the chivalric testing. In this present analysis, comparisons with Robert le Diable will therefore be made only in regard to the penance. Roberd is regarded as a "problem" romance because it has never been satisfactorily classified, and there is uncertainty as to whether it is or is not romance. L. H. Loomis says, "The Middle English version of Robert of Cisyle may be considered either as a romance or an ecclesiastical legend",9 and French and Hale qualify its inclusion in The Middle English Metrical Romances with the comment "strictly speaking, this is a pious legend, told to edifyratherthan to amuse".10 Hornstein describes the tale as "at one and the same time a metrical romance and an exemplum" and elaborates further its skillful synthesis of themes from folklore, Biblical commentary, and history not only encompasses a discriminating artistry, but provides fresh evidence of the process by which Biblical exegesis was transmuted into legend and into romance.11 This tale, it may be demonstrated, is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 103-116
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
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