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The History of the Kings of Britain [Paperback]

Geoffrey of Monmouth , Lewis Thorpe
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 30 2004 0140441700 978-0140441703 Reprint
Completed in 1136, "The History of the Kings of Britain" traces the story of the realm from its supposed foundation by Brutus to the coming of the Saxons some two thousand years later. Vividly portraying legendary and semi-legendary figures such as Lear, Cymbeline, Merlin the magician and the most famous of all British heroes, King Arthur, it is as much myth as it is history and its veracity was questioned by other medieval writers. But Geoffrey of Monmouth's powerful evocation of illustrious men and deeds captured the imagination of subsequent generations, and his influence can be traced through the works of Malory, Shakespeare, Dryden and Tennyson.

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The History of the Kings of Britain + Penguin Classics #2 Morte D Arthur + Penguin Classics Ecclesiastical History Of The English People
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About the Author

Very little is known of Geoffrey of Monmouth. He seems to have lived for a time in Oxford and in 1151 he became Bishop Elect of St Asaph, North Wales. He was ordained at Westminster in 1152. According to the Welsh Chronicles he died in 1155. Lewis Thorpe was Professor of French at Nottingham University from 1958 to 1977. He has published many books and articles on Arthur, both on the French and English traditions. He died in 1977.

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Britain, the best of islands,1 is situated in the Western Ocean, [1,2] between France and Ireland. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical and Literary Aspects Oct. 30 2003
In The History of the Kings of Britain, Geoffrey of Monmouth presents a detailed history of the Britons, beginning with Brutus in the twelfth century B.C. and ending with Saxon invasion in the seventh century A.D. Through the main characters of his book, Brutus, Belinus and Arthur, Geoffrey illustrates Britain's glorious past, recalling the events in chronological sequence and providing detailed descriptions of every event, especially those strategic to the building of Britain.
While Geoffrey's source has yet to be proved, in his own introduction, Geoffrey claims to follow a reliable and ancient source given to him by a friend. The lack of evidence to support this claim, coupled with the supernatural elements incorporated into The History of the Kings of Britain, makes it difficult for the modern reader to place complete trust in the text as a historical account of Britain's history. The text is, however, rich in historical value as from his writing, one can deduce much about the political structure of Britain in that time frame, as well as the sociological makeup of the nation. The emphasis on politics, war and international relations, form a rough picture of Britain's power system, and the lengthy stories revolving around his characters give the reader insight on the lives of the British nobility.
The History of the Kings of Britain deserves as much credit (if not more) for its literary value as its historical one. While Geoffrey considers himself a historian, his artistic talents, fluency and extensive use of vocabulary bring his accounts to life, turning the text into an enjoyable literary piece. Especially in key passages (in particular those concerning Arthur), Geoffrey makes very fine and detailed points, often narrating livelily.
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By Brandon
"The History of the Kings of Britain", by Geoffrey of Monmouth, is a piece of literature like no other. Anyone with an interest in medieval tales, ancient battles, and adventurous kings will be right at home while reading this book. If you are looking for accurate historical details of this time from long ago, then this may not be the best source. The book is full of multiple stories consisting of trickery, magic, and conquest. Whether it be King Utherpendragon magically disguising himself as a Duke to be with the woman he longs for, or King Arthur defeating all who stand in his way building an empire that spans from Britain to the heels of Rome itself, the events are all exhilarating to read. Magic defines the events of the stories, only adding to their appeal. Great kings lead their men to victory and there is a lot of backstabbing and destruction. The suspense never ends, and the ending always leaves you wanting more. The urge to continue on to the next story is persistent and that next story is never disappointing. Geoffrey does exaggerate beyond what is humanly possible. Utherpendragon actually acquires the physical likeness of the Duke, and Arthur is able to slay hundreds of men singlehandedly in one attack. With details of troop deployments and excerpts from speeches kings deliver to their men before battle, it becomes obvious it is unlikely that the details are historically accurate. Little time is spent discussing personal relationships; most of the stories revolve around battle. The book is easy reading for the most part. Some of the details offered before any given battle are hard to understand, but they rarely have a significant impact on the course of the plot. The price is more than fair, considering the volume of the book itself and the multitude of fantastic stories. Read more ›
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4.0 out of 5 stars History of the Kings of Britain Oct. 29 2003
Geoffrey's "The History of the Kings of Britain" is an engaging book about the King's who ruled over Britain and the great deeds they accomplished. I will concentrate particularly on the tales concerning Uther Pendragon and Arthur, since these are the characters that, in one way or another, helped form the image of Arthur we relate to in today's society.
The book is, for the most part, event driven. Geoffrey describes one battle after the next after the next. It is almost certain that he will name each and every important character just as he will explain what happens to them at one point or another. He takes great care in describing how the battles take place. You can be sure he will never miss a name. Although these and other little details about battles and events are interseting, they do not make up for the lack of insight into the characters lives, especially Arthur's.
Throughout the novel it is possible to get a feeling that Geoffrey continues to try and convince us that Arthur is the noblest and most generous of men. Arthur's actions, however, don't always seem to be so. Was his generosity true at heart, or was it a form of subtle bribery to keep his people's and allies favor? Why was Arthur so eager to enter battle, one after another, despite losing so many of his mens lives? Geoffrey does a good job of "telling" us of Arthur's greatness, but does a poor job of "showing" it.
Despite these minor flaws, The History of the Kings of Britain is, if not historically acurate, at least entertaining. The constant battles, change of events and the casual appearance of supernatural powers gives the book that old, medieval feel. As for the text, it is not difficult to understand. Some effort is required to completly comprehend the events taking place, but it's nothing too time consuming. Personally, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading about conquest, battles and anything relating to King Arthur.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Origins of Arthur, Lear and so much else
Geoffrey of Monmouth is the man who really started the "King Arthur Craze" of the 12th & 13th centuries. Read more
Published on July 7 2003 by J. Angus Macdonald
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable literature more than reliable history
Geoffrey of Monmouth's chronicle of the Britons (mostly in England) reads a bit like Herodotus though on a lesser scale. Read more
Published on July 3 2003 by Sho J. Morimoto
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
I highly recomend Geffory of Monmouth's "History of the Kings of Britain". This book explors the first rulers of Britain to the time when the Saxons took over the island. Read more
Published on June 14 2003
2.0 out of 5 stars Historical Literature?
As to this book's worth to either History or Literature is, in my mind, seriously in doubt. To anyone wanting to read this be forewarned that it reads as a list of: who invaded... Read more
Published on Dec 14 2002 by S. Robinson
4.0 out of 5 stars Bloody Britons
Geoffrey of Monmouth's History traces the kingship of Britain from its mythical origins after the fall of Troy to the beginning of Saxon rule. Read more
Published on Dec 20 2000
4.0 out of 5 stars A History in the Old Sense
This work, as another reviewer has mentioned, is not a history in the modern sense. It is full of fanciful tales: characters who assume the shapes of others, fights with giants,... Read more
Published on Oct. 25 2000 by Nathaniel Grublet
5.0 out of 5 stars History of the Kings of Britain.
A great book for anyone interested in historical fiction
Published on Jan. 22 2000 by patrick mcfarland
5.0 out of 5 stars Mostly myth with only a touch of history but a good book
The original source of Shakespeare's King Lear and one of the first books to tell the story of the births and lives of both King Arthur and Merlin. Read more
Published on Aug. 6 1998 by Ashley LeMay (leeash@supernews.com)
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