The Lady of the Lake

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The Lady of the Lake is the name of a character, a poem, an opera and various plays

Also found as Lady of the Lake

The character

"The Lady of the Lake"[1] is an enchantress, a character in the Arthurian legends. She is a central figure in many of the stories, being the one who gives Arthur his sword Excalibur, enchants Merlin, and raises Lancelot after the death of his father. Given many names by various writers and copyist (e.g. Nimue, Nymue, Nimueh, Viviane, Vivien, Vivienne, Ninianne, Nivian, Nyneve, or Evienne), she is more generally known simply as "The Lady of the Lake".

She also appears as a character in both the film and stage play of Monty Python's Spamalot

The poem by Sir Walter Scott

The Lady of the Lake is a narrative poem by Sir Walter Scott, written in August 1809 while he and his family were holidaying in the Trossachs and along the shores and islands of Loch Katrine, which would provide the poem's setting.

While Scott drew on the romance of the legend, he told an entirely different story, focuses on the struggle between King James V and the powerful clan Douglas.

The poem was first published in 1810 as The Lady of the Lake; A Poem in Edinburgh by John Ballantyne and Co. and in London by Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme, and William Miller. The poem was tremendously influential in the nineteenth century, inspiring what is known as the Highland Revival.

Dramatised versions of the tale and the poem

A number of theatrical versions have been done of it over the years, including Gioachino Rossini’s opera La donna del lago (1819)[2].

The Lady of the Lake by Walter Scott (?)

According to Alasdair Cameron[[, the first stage version (probably by Scott himself) appears to have been performed in Edinburgh in 1810 as a lavish spectacle, with 'views taken from life'. The performance, though widely advertised and eagerly anticipated, was a failure.

The Lady of the Lake by Thomas J. Dibdin (1771-1841)[3].

The original text

There appears to have been two versions of this work, both by Dibdin and based on Scott's poem:

A "melodramatic romance" in two acts by Dibden, first performed at the Surrey Theatre, London in 1810 and then again in 1855 at Barnum's Theatre and the National Theatre, New York in 1855. Published in Boston by W. V. Spencer [1856?].

A three-act version ("a grand dramatic romance") in verse done at the Theatre-Royal in Dublin in 1811 and the text, revised from the prompt book, was published in Dublin by J. Charles, 1811 (but no author mentioned) as well as another version, ascribed to Dibden, but no publisher given. A third three-act version, called The Lady of the Lake, and Knight of Snowdoun, and ascribed to Dibden was published by T. O'Flanagan, 1825.

Performance history in South Africa

1861: Performed by the Sergeants of the Regiment (North Lincolnshire Regiment of Foot) on June 13 and 17 in the Garrison Theatre at Grahamstown, with the "Quarrel Scene," from Julius Caesar, Cool as a Cucumber (Jerrold), and an interlude by the Ethiopian Serenaders. The cast of the Dibdin play included Sergeant J. Lydon (James Fitzjames, the Knight of Snowdon), Sergeant-Major T. H. Smith (Sir Rodney Vich-Alpine Dhu, an outlawed chieftain), Sergeant T. M'Kay (Earl Douglas, an exile), Sergeant G. Brown (Malcolm Graeme, in love with Ellen), Sergeant G. Gill (Brian, a fiend-like hermit, attached to Roderick), Corporal D. Johnson (Allan Bane, an old minstrel in the service of Douglas), Private W. Dansie (Red Murdoch, a treacherous guide), Colour Sergeant P. Fox (Malise, henchman to Roderick), Sergeant T. Coughlin (Norman, a bridegroom, herald to Roderick), Corporal J. Logan (Sandy, the bridesman), Corporal T. Smith (Old Donald), Private J. F. Gay (Lady Margaret, mother to Roderick), Corporal J. Davies (Blanche of Devon, a wandering maniac), Corporal J. Davies (Ellen, the Lady of the Lake), Private J. Durney (Mattie, the bride). (For more on contemporary responses to the performances, see the entry on the North Lincolnshire Regiment of Foot)

The Lady of the Lake by Benjamin Askew

The Lady of the Lake is a stage play by Benjamin Askew. It opened at the Theatre by the Lake, Cumbria, playing from 13 June - 6 November 2015.

The Lady of the Lake Murder by David Schmidt

The Lady of the Lake Murder is a two act play by David Schmidt. Based on the Arthurian and Mallory materials, it was published by Off the Wall Play Publishers in 2017.


Facsimile version of J. Charles's 1811 edition the three-act play (no author mentioned), Google E-book[4]

Facsimile version of 1811 edition of the three-act play (no author mentioned and publisher unnamed), Hathi Trust Digital Library[5]

Facsimile version of Spencer's 1856 edition the two-act play, Dibdin credited, Hathi Trust Digital Library[6]

"The Lady of the Lake", The Walter Scott Digital Archive[7]

"The Lady of the Lake" in Wikipedia[8]

Go to ESAT Bibliography

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