Geoffrey of Monmouth
Born: ca. 1100, Monmouth near Wales
Died: ca. 1151, Oxford
A British scribe, possibly of Armorican stock who returned to England after the Norman Invasion of 1066. He is best known for a work called The History of the Kings of Britain, which is less history than legend and half-remembered British (i.e. Welsh) mythology. This is the major introduction of King Arthur to literature, however. Before Geoffrey, Arthur was only remembered by the Welsh. After Geoffrey, Arthur was adopted by the Normans as a symbol of national pride.
There is a certain irony in this, as the Normans=Norsemen, i.e. Vikings, who are related to the Saxons, the same people Arthur was fighting.
Geoffrey is also sometimes credited with a book called the Vita Merlini or Life of Merlin. However, some hold this as a spurious work, composed by another who simply attatched Geoffrey's name to the book for an air of authenticity.
Geoffrey's history is laughable; contemporaries called him "the father of lies." His storytelling, however, is fascinating and highly influential. Thanks to Geoffrey, Shakespeare was inspired to write two of his plays: Cymbeline, and his great tragedy King Lear, possibly second only to Hamlet.
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Mary Jones © 2004