, also known as the Prose Lancelot
, the Vulgate Cycle
, or the Pseudo-Map Cycle
, is a major source of Arthurian legend
written in French
. It is a series of five prose volumes that tell the story of the quest for the Holy Grail
and the romance of Lancelot
. The major parts are early 13th century, but scholarship has few definitive answers as to the authorship. An attribution to Walter Map
is discounted, since he died too early to be the author. This cycle of works was one of the most important sources of Thomas Malory
's Le Morte d'Arthur
The Vulgate Cycle adds an intriguing dimension to the King Arthur tradition, perpetuating Christian themes by expanding on tales of the Holy Grail and recounting the quests of the Grail knights. During this period, material takes on even more historical and religious overtones with tales that include and deal both in the death of Arthur and Merlin (drawing all the way back to Nennius’ Historia Brittonum).
The Vulgate cycle combines elements of Old Testament with the birth of Merlin, whose magical origins are consistent with those told by Robert de Boron, as the son of a devil and a human mother who repents her sins and is baptized. Merlin is transformed into a prophet and given the ability of seeing future events by God.
The work is divided into five sections. The last three were actually the first to be written, starting in the 1210s. The first two came later, around the 1230s.
- The Estoire del Saint Grail (The History of the Holy Grail), about Joseph of Arimathea and his son Josephus bringing the Grail to Britain.
- The Estoire de Merlin (also called the Vulgate or Prose Merlin), about Merlin and the early history of Arthur.
- To this section is added the Vulgate Suite du Merlin (Vulgate Merlin Continuation), adding more of Arthur's early adventures.
- The Lancelot propre (Lancelot Proper), the longest section, making up half of the entire cycle. It concerns the adventures of Lancelot and the other Knights of the Round Table, and the affair between Lancelot and Guinevere.
- The Queste del Saint Graal (Quest for the Holy Grail), about the Grail Quest and its completion by Galahad.
- The Mort Artu (Death of Arthur), about the king's death at the hands of Mordred and the collapse of the kingdom.
The work was soon followed by the Post-Vulgate Cycle, a work based on the Vulgate but differing from it in many respects.
Norris J. Lacy
The first full English translations of the Vulgate and Post-Vulgate Cycles were overseen by Norris J. Lacy
. Volumes 1–4 contain the Vulgate Cycle proper.
- Lacy, Norris J. (Ed.) (December 1, 1992). Lancelot-Grail: The Old French Arthurian Vulgate and Post-Vulgate in Translation, Volume 1 of 5. New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8240-7733-4.
- Lacy, Norris J. (Ed.) (August 1, 1993). Lancelot-Grail: The Old French Arthurian Vulgate and Post-Vulgate in Translation, Volume 2 of 5. New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8153-0746-2.
- Lacy, Norris J. (Ed.) (March 1, 1995). Lancelot-Grail: The Old French Arthurian Vulgate and Post-Vulgate in Translation, Volume 3 of 5. New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8153-0747-0.
- Lacy, Norris J. (Ed.) (April 1, 1995). Lancelot-Grail: The Old French Arthurian Vulgate and Post-Vulgate in Translation, Volume 4 of 5. New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8153-0748-9.
- Lacy, Norris J. (Ed.) (May 1, 1996). Lancelot-Grail: The Old French Arthurian Vulgate and Post-Vulgate in Translation, Volume 5 of 5. New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8153-0757-8.
- Lacy, Norris J. (Ed.) (2000). The Lancelot-Grail Reader. New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8153-3419-2
- Kennedy, Elspeth (1986). Lancelot and the Grail: A Study of the Prose Lancelot. Clarendon Press.
- Kennedy, Elspeth (1980). Lancelot Do Lac, the Non-Cyclic Old French Prose Romance, Two Volumes. Oxford.
- Corrie, Marilyn. “Self-determination in the post-vulgate suite du Merlin and Malory’s le Morte d’Arthur.” Medium Aevum. 73.2 (2004): 273-89
- Goodman, Jennifer R. The Legend of Arthur in British and American Literature. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1988.