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Additional info for A Short History of English Literature
In the same century Wace of Jersey used the Arthurian legends in his Roman de Brut, and soon afterwards (about the turn of the century) appeared Layamon’s Brut, a verse history of England connecting the British kingdom with the ancient world by linking the first legendary British king Brut with Aeneas. The poem takes in the reigns of King Lear and Cymbeline. Arthur is the great national figure, and the crucial story of his passing is included. There was some indebtedness by Malory to a fourteenth-century poem in alliterative verse, Morte Arthure, whose material resembles what was to be found in Geoffrey of Monmouth and Layamon; but Malory also followed French sources closely.
Balthazar falls in love with Bel-imperia, Elizabethan drama 43 who hates him. Lorenzo, a villain, abets him. The two men murder Belimperia’s chosen lover, Horatio; and Horatio’s father, Hieronimo, finds the hanging corpse. Here begins a long campagin by Hieronimo to discover the identity of the murderers and to exact vengeance, a campaign carried on, like Hamlet’s, with subterfuge and plotting, and culminating in a play within the play. This inner play suddenly moves from fantasy to reality when stage murder becomes real murder: Lorenzo and Balthazar, who have agreed to take part, are stabbed to death.
His distinction is to have excelled in two literary forms, his Moral Fables and his Testament of Cresseid. The Fables (the tale of the Cock and the Hen, the tale of the Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, the tale of the Fox and the Wolf, and so on) give to the animals the kind of human characteristics that Chaucer gave to Chauntecleer and Pertelote. ’ By deft touches of description and felicitously phrased dialogue Henryson enlivens the situations and relationships of the animals, and he presses home his moral in a concluding section at the end of the tale, labelled Moralitas.