Bevis of Hampton
Bevis of Hampton (Old French: Beuve(s) or Bueve or Beavis de Hanton(n)e; Anglo-Norman: Boeve de Haumtone; Italian: Buovo d'Antona) or Sir Bevois, is a legendary English hero and the subject of Anglo-Norman, French, English, Venetian and other medieval metrical romances that bear his name. The tale also exists in medieval prose versions, was transmitted to Romania and Russia, and was adapted into Irish, Welsh, Old Norse and Yiddish.
Bevis is the son of Guy, count of Hampton (Southampton), and his young wife, a daughter of the king of Scotland. The countess asks a former suitor, Doon or Devoun, emperor of Almaine (Germany), to send an army to murder Guy in the forest. The plot is successful, and she marries Doon. When threatened with future vengeance by her ten-year-old son, she determines to do away with him also, but he is saved from death by a faithful tutor, is sold to heathen pirates, and reaches the court of King Hermin, whose realm is variously placed in Egypt and Armenia. The exploits of Bevis, his defeat of Ascapart, his love for the king's daughter Josiane, his mission to King Bradmond of Damascus with a sealed letter demanding his own death, his imprisonment, his final vengeance on his stepfather are related in detail. After succeeding to his inheritance he is, however, driven into exile and separated from Josiane, to whom he is reunited only after each of them has contracted, in form only, a second union. The story also relates the hero's death and the fortunes of his two sons.
Three continental French chansons de geste of Beuve d'Hanstone, all in decasyllables, were written in the 13th century. They comprise from 10,000 to 20,000 verses. A French prose version was made before 1469.
The English metrical romance, Sir Beues of Hamtoun (see Matter of England), is founded on some French originals, varying slightly from those that have been preserved. The oldest manuscript dates from the beginning of the 14th century.
The printed editions of the story were most numerous in Italy, where Bovo or Buovo d'Antona was the subject of more than one poem, and the tale was interpolated in the Reali di Francia, the Italian compilation of Carolingian legend.
From Italian, it passed into Yiddish, where the Bovo-Bukh became the first non-religious book to be printed in Yiddish, and the most popular and most critically honored Yiddish-language chivalric romance.
In Russia, the romance attained an unparalleled popularity and became a part of Russian folklore. The Russian rendition of the romance appeared in mid-16th century, translated from a Polish or Old Byelorussian version, which were, in turn, translated from a Serbocroatian rendition of the Italian romance, made in Ragusa. The resulting narrative, called Повесть о Бове-королевиче (Povest' o Bove-koroleviche, lit. The Story of Prince Bova), gradually merged with Russian folktales, and the principal character attained many features of a Russian folk hero (bogatyr). Since the 18th century until 1918, various versions of the Povest' had been widely circulated (particularly among the lower classes) as a lubok. Such writers as Derzhavin and Pushkin praised Bova's literary value; the latter used some elements of the Povest' in his fairy tales and attempted to write a fantasy poem based on the romance. Pushkin also praised a version of Bova by Alexander Radishchev, written in 1799.
One alternative theory is that Doon may be identified with the emperor Otto the Great, who was the contemporary of Edgar the Peaceful, the English king Edgar of the story. R. Zenker (Boeve-Amlethus, Berlin and Leipzig, 1904) establishes a close parallel between Bevis and the Hamlet legend as related by Saxo Grammaticus in the Historia Danica.
Among more obvious coincidences that point to a common source are the vengeance taken on a stepfather for a father's death, the letter bearing his own death-warrant, which is entrusted to the hero, and his double marriage. The motive of the feigned madness is, however, lacking in Bevis. The princess who is Josiane's rival is less ferocious than the Hermuthruda of the Hamlet legend, but she threatens Bevis with death if he refuses her. Both seem modeled on the type of Thyrdo of the Beowulf legend. The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica characterizes the mooted etymology connecting Bevis (Boeve) with Béowa (Beowulf), on the ground that both were dragon slayers, as "fanciful" and "inadmissible".
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
- The Britannica article, in turn, references
- The Romance of Sir Beues of Hamtoun, edited from six manuscripts and the edition (without date) of Richard Pynson, by Eugen Kölbing (Early Eng. Text Soc., 1885, 1886, 1894)
- Albert Stimming, Der anglonormannische Boeve de Haumtone, in Hermann Suchier's Bibi. Norm. vol. vii. (Halle, 1899)
- the Welsh version, with a translation, is given by Robert Williams, Selections of the Hengwrt manuscripts (vol. ii., London, 1892)
- the Old Norse version Fornsogur Sudhrlanda, edited by G. Cederschiold, (Lund, 1884)
- A. Wesselofsky, Zum russischen Bovo d'Antona (in Archiv für slav. Phil. vol. viii., 1885)
- For the early printed editions of the romance in English, French and Italian see G. Brunet, Manuel du libraire.
- The information about the Yiddish version can be found in Sol Liptzin, A History of Yiddish Literature, Jonathan David Publishers, Middle Village, NY, 1972, ISBN 0-8246-0124-6.
- (French) Geneviève Hasenohr and Michel Zink, eds. Dictionnaire des lettres françaises: Le Moyen Age. Collection: La Pochothèque. Paris: Fayard, 1992. ISBN 2-253-05662-6
- BBC Cannes showing of medieval Southampton's Sir Bevois, 27 January 2010
- Hasenohr, 173-4.
- Boundaries in medieval romance, Neil Cartlidge, DS Brewer, 2008, ISBN 1-84384-155-X, 9781843841555. pp. 29-42
- Bevis of Hampton in the original Middle-English.