Article

Guillaume de Machaut

Alice V. Clark

in Medieval Studies

ISBN: 9780195396584
Published online March 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0049
Guillaume de Machaut

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
  • Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)
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  • Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400)
  • Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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Guillaume de Machaut (c. 1300–1377) is recognized by most scholars as the most important French poet and composer of the 14th century. Born in Champagne and probably trained in Reims and Paris, he spent much of his career as clerk, almoner, notary, and secretary to John, king of Bohemia, with whom he apparently traveled as far afield as Poland and Lithuania. His service was rewarded in part by ecclesiastical posts, as was typical for the time, and most scholars agree that he retired to a canonry at Reims Cathedral by about 1340. He apparently maintained, however, some connection not only to John but also to the French royal family, including Jean, duke of Berry, and to other patrons such as Charles, king of Navarre. In a series of narrative poems Machaut explored concepts of authorial identity and the relation between courtly love and the creation of poetry, and he had a major role in the development of fixed forms of lyric poetry. He wrote the earliest known complete musical setting of the Ordinary of the Mass in polyphony by a single composer, and he had a major hand in developing the polyphonic secular song. Later poets, notably Geoffrey Chaucer and Eustache Deschamps, acknowledged his influence, and the musical genres he helped create held sway into the following century. His works, literary and musical, are transmitted together in a series of manuscripts, many of which include images, and some of which appear to have been compiled and ordered under some level of personal supervision. This means that we know exactly what he wrote in a way often not possible for his contemporaries, since most music and much literature in the Middle Ages circulated anonymously. Some of the attention paid to Machaut by modern scholars is inevitably affected by this clarity of attribution, and scholars in many fields have examined ways in which his works both typify and go beyond what other authors in 14th-century France did.

Article.  10842 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; Literary Studies (Early and Medieval) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy ; Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400) ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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