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Encyclopedia > Wace

Wace (c. 1115–c. 1183) was an Anglo-Norman poet, who was born in Jersey and brought up in mainland Normandy (he tells us in the Roman de Rou that he was taken as a child to Caen), ending his career as Canon of Bayeux.

His extant works include:

Roman de Brut (c. 1155) was based on the work of Geoffrey of Monmouth. It cannot be regarded as a history in any modern sense, although Wace often distinguishes between what he knows and what he does not know, or has been unable to find out. Wace narrates the founding of Britain, by Brutus of Troy, to the end of the legendary British history created by Geoffrey of Monmouth. The popularity of this work is explained by the new accessibility to a wider public of the Arthur legend in a vernacular language. In the midst of the Arthurian section of the text, Wace was the first to mention the legend of King Arthur's Round Table and the first to ascribe the name Excalibur to Arthur's sword, although he on the whole adds only minor details to Geoffrey's text. The Roman de Brut became the basis, in turn, for Layamon's Brut, an alliterative Middle English poem, and Piers Langtoft's Chronicle.

His later work, the Roman de Rou, was, according to Layamon, commissioned by King Henry II of England. A large part of the Roman de Rou is devoted to William the Conqueror and the Norman Conquest. Wace's reference to oral tradition within his own family suggests that his account of the preparations for the Conquest and of the Battle of Hastings are reliant not only on documentary evidence but also on eyewitness testimony from close relations. The Roman de Rou also includes a mention of the appearance of Halley's Comet. The relative lack of popularity of the Roman de Rou may reflect the loss of interest in the history of the Duchy of Normandy following the incorporation of continental Normandy into the kingdom of France in 1204.

The Anglo-Norman language Wace wrote in is variously regarded as a dialect of the Norman language, a dialect of Old French, or specifically the precursor of Jčrriais. Writers in Jersey have looked on Wace as the founder of Jersey literature, and Jčrriais is sometimes referred to as the language of Wace although the poet himself predated the development of Jčrriais as a literary language. Wace is the earliest known Jersey writer.

Although the name Robert has been ascribed to Wace, this is a tradition resting on little evidence. It is generally believed nowadays that Wace only had one name.

Wace's descriptions of militarily strategic points on the coast of Normandy were used in the early planning stages of the Battle of Normandy.

There is a granite memorial stone to Wace built into the side of the States Building in Jersey's Royal Square. This includes a quote from the Roman de Rou that expresses the poet's pride in his place of birth:

Jo di e dirai ke jo sui
Wace de l’isle de Gersui

I say and will say that I am
Wace from the Island of Jersey

See also

  • Anglo-Norman literature

  Results from FactBites:
§9. Wace. XII. The Arthurian Legend. Vol. 1. From the Beginnings to the Cycles of Romance. The Cambridge History ... (470 words)
Wace’s poem was completed in 1155, and, according to Layamon, 51 was dedicated to queen Eleanor, the wife of Henry II—another fact which indicates the interest taken by the Anglo-Norman court in the literary exploitation and the dissemination of British legends.
Wace was a courtly writer, and in his narrative Arthur appears as the flower of chivalry, the ideal knightly warrior of the Norman imagination.
53 Wace’s poem, as a whole, thus represents an intermediate stage between the chronicles and the pure romances.
Wace (558 words)
Wace appears to have had no other name, single names being a not-uncommon occurrence in the twelfth century; before the reign of Henry II, surnames were rare though not unknown.
Wace's ancestry may or may not have been humble: some sources think he was of "noble race," his mother the daughter of Toustein, chamberlain to Robert I of Normandy.
Wace, it may be supposed, was a clerc lisant who became a maistre lisant, the Maistre Wace who names himself fifteen times in his writings, proudly using the designation "maistre" ten times to indicate that he was a professional man, proud of his occupation and of his standing within it.
  More results at FactBites »



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