The Vulgate Merlin is one of the minor sources of Malory's Roman War Episode.
The Vulgate Merlin is the second part of the Vulgate Cycle, also called 'The Pseudo-Map Cycle' and the 'Lancelot-Grail Cycle' which has been dated by Jean Frappier to between 1215 and 1230 (p. 295), and consists of five sections:
- the Estoire del Saint Graal;
- the Merlin;
- the Lancelot;
- the Queste del Saint Graal; and
- the Mort Artu.
Oskar Sommer has described the Vulgate Cycle as 'the ultimate stage in a process of welding heterogeneous elements into a not very harmonious whole' (Introduction to Vulgate Cycle, p. vii).
The Vulgate Merlin, also sometimes called the Estoire de Merlin or Prose Merlin consists of a prose redaction of Robert de Boron's Merlin and a continuation of this material, which, in some respects, bridges the gap between the contents of Robert de Boron’s Merlin and the rest of the Vulgate Cycle.
Robert de Boron’s Merlin is thought to have been composed in the late twelfth or early thirteenth century and now only survives in a fragmentary form. The continuations of Robert de Boron's Merlin can be divided into what is known as the historical sequel, also called the Vulgate Suite, and what Ernst Brugger originally termed the romantic sequel, known as the Suite du Merlin or Huth Merlin. The historical sequel, which forms part of the Merlin in the Vulgate Cycle, is dated by Micha to after 1230 (p. 322).
This sequel contains the Roman War episode, which Micha notes is probably based on Wace's Brut. Ralph Norris notes that it is the Vulgate continuation, along with John Hardyng’s Chronicle, which provides 'the bulk of supplementary details' for Malory's Roman War episode (p. 54). In particular, Norris comments upon the corresponding placement of the Roman War earlier in Arthur's reign; in both instances 'the story of the Roman War was not a tragedy but an episode to be followed by the majority of the Arthurian story' as well as the response of the knights to the message from Rome (p. 60).
The current edition includes a transcription of the episode, which was suggested by scholars to be a minor source of Malory's Roman War Episode. The base-text of our transcription is The Vulgate Version of The Arthurian Romances: Lestoire de Merlin, ed. by H. Oskar Sommer (1908).
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