No woman's story in Geoffrey's text resonates more lastingly than that of Ignoge, the Greek princess forced to become bride to Brutus. Geoffrey of Monmouth ordinarily composes his narrative with sangfroid: little human feeling animates its accounts of battles, wonders, political intrigue, strife. He is not given to moments of aching identification such as William of Malmesbury's wrenching account of the sinking of the White Ship (History of the English Kings 5.419). Ignoge has little presence in Geoffrey's text, but as she sets sail with a husband she never chose for a future that is wholly uncertain, we are given a lingering depiction of her last vision of her native land. The episode is at once so evocative and so moving that, as Robert Hanning observes, it "interrupts the flow" of the narrative, so that "for a moment the issues of national birth and freedom are forgotten; history itself is forgotten." Here is Geoffrey's vivid portrayal of the fading shores of home as glimpsed through bereft Ignoge's eyes:
The Trojans sailed away ... Ignoge stood on the high poop and from time to time fell fainting in the arms of Brutus. She wept and sobbed at being forced to leave her relations and her homeland; and as long as the shore lay there before her eyes, she would not turn her gaze away from it. Brutus soothed and caressed her, putting his arms round her and kissing her gently. He did not cease his efforts until, worn out with crying, she fell asleep (1.11)
As Ignoge's home slowly recedes, lost are the possibilities for any life she might have desired for herself, for any history she might have dreamed. Destined to become an appendage of Brutus, the source of his progeny, we next see Ignoge in what appears to be an afterthought, legitimating the birth of three sons (2.1). She is not mentioned again. Her children divide the land and carry on their father's work. It never occurs to them that in their bodies the blood of Troy mingles with that of Greece, that they possess hybrid blood in which two enemies have uneasily been conjoined. The sons of Brutus assume that they are simply Britons, as their father christened his people. They never dwell upon the complexities of history and descent.
Ignoge's gaze opens up the possibility of another story. An alien among strangers, suspended between cultures and no longer able to be of one or the other, Ignoge embodies everything her children so easily forget. Yearning for a home that can never be hers, this princess conveyed to an unfamiliar place suggests the difficulties faced by those who carry an identity full of difference, ambivalence, conflict. Ignoge inhabits that middle space where conqueror meets conquered, where a war unfolds between loathing and desire. She looks back to a receding homeland and forward to the impossible bind of mixed progeny on an island increasingly dominated by a single people. Ignoge is Greek, her husband Trojan, her children Britons, but her tears prevent such easy separations.
Geoffrey of Monmouth dreamed of a world where at first glance history and descent keep insular peoples solitary. As his textual world unfolds in all its intricacy, however, the peoples that populate Britain mingle and become -- despite their own fervent belief to the contrary -- impure. Geoffrey's ambivalent entwining of purity with hybridity is rather like William of Malmesbury's. Both writers posited clean separations but undercut them with anxious, medial spaces: one through marvels, the other through blood. The separateness of the island's peoples might be an impossible dream, but that did not stop this dream from being passionately embraced, much to the sorrow of those who carried blood that could never seem untainted. For these impure beings history was filled with heartache, and the present never ceased to hurt.