Le Morte d'Arthur

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Le Morte d'Arthur
Le Morte d'Arthur - Volume 1.djvu
Cover of Le Morte d'Arthur (1906 edition), Volume I
Author Thomas Malory
Country England
Language Middle English
Genre Prose

Le Morte d'Arthur (originally spelled Le Morte Darthur, Middle French for "The Death of Arthur" [1] ) is a reworking by Sir Thomas Malory of existing tales about the legendary King Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Merlin, and the Knights of the Round Table. Malory interpreted existing French and English stories about these figures and added original material (e.g., the Gareth story). Malory's actual title for the work was The Whole Book of King Arthur and His Noble Knights of the Round Table (The Hoole Book of Kyng Arthur and of His Noble Knyghtes of The Rounde Table), but after Malory's death the publisher changed the title to that commonly known today, which originally only referred to the final volume of the work.

Middle French is a historical division of the French language that covers the period from the 14th to the early 17th centuries. It is a period of transition during which:

Sir Thomas Malory was an English writer, the author or compiler of Le Morte d'Arthur, the classic English-language chronicle of the Arthurian legend, published by William Caxton in 1485. The title was originally used only for the eighth and final chapter of the work, which was called The Whole Book of King Arthur and His Noble Knights of the Round Table, but Caxton used it for the book as a whole.

King Arthur legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries

King Arthur was a legendary British leader who, according to medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the late 5th and early 6th centuries. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and his historical existence is debated and disputed by modern historians. The sparse historical background of Arthur is gleaned from various sources, including the Annales Cambriae, the Historia Brittonum, and the writings of Gildas. Arthur's name also occurs in early poetic sources such as Y Gododdin.


Le Morte d'Arthur was first published in 1485 by William Caxton and is today one of the best-known works of Arthurian literature in English. Until the discovery of the Winchester Manuscript in 1934, the 1485 edition was considered the earliest known text of Le Morte d'Arthur and that closest to Malory's translation and compilation. [2] Modern editions are inevitably variable, changing spelling, grammar and pronouns for the convenience of readers of modern English. Many modern Arthurian writers have used Malory as their principal source.

William Caxton 15th-century English merchant, diplomat, writer and printer

William Caxton was an English merchant, diplomat, and writer. He is thought to be the first person to introduce a printing press into England, in 1476, and as a printer was the first English retailer of printed books.


The exact identity of the author of Le Morte d'Arthur has long been the subject of speculation, owing to the fact that at least six historical figures bore the name of "Sir Thomas Malory" in the late 15th century. [3] In the work the author describes himself as "Knyght presoner Thomas Malleorre" ("Sir Thomas Maleore" according to the publisher William Caxton). This is taken as supporting evidence for the identification most widely accepted by scholars: that the author was the Thomas Malory born in the year 1416, to Sir John Malory of Newbold Revel, Warwickshire, England. [4] [5]

Newbold Revel Country House

Newbold Revel is an 18th-century country house in the village of Stretton-under-Fosse, Warwickshire, England. It is now used by HM Prison Service as a training college and is a Grade II* listed building.

Warwickshire County of England

Warwickshire is a landlocked county in the West Midlands region of England. The county town is Warwick, although the largest town is Nuneaton. The county is famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare.

Sir Thomas inherited the family estate in 1434, but by 1450 he was fully engaged in a life of crime. As early as 1433 he had been accused of theft, but the more serious allegations against him included that of the attempted murder of Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham, an accusation of at least two rapes, and that he had attacked and robbed Coombe Abbey. Malory was first arrested and imprisoned in 1451 for the ambush of Buckingham, but was released early in 1452. By March he was back in the Marshalsea prison and then in Colchester, escaping on multiple occasions. In 1461 he was granted a pardon by King Henry VI, returning to live at his estate. Although originally allied to the House of York, after his release Malory changed his allegiance to the House of Lancaster. This led to him being imprisoned yet again in 1468 when he led an ill-fated plot to overthrow King Edward IV. [4] It was during this final stint at Newgate Prison in London that he is believed to have written Le Morte d'Arthur. Malory was released in October 1470, when Henry VI returned to the throne, but died only five months later. [4]

Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham English military leader in the Hundred Years War and the Wars of the Roses, 1402–1460

Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham, 6th Earl of Stafford, was an English nobleman and a military commander in the Hundred Years' War and the Wars of the Roses. Through his mother he had royal descent to King Edward III, his great-grandfather, and from his father, he inherited, at an early age, the earldom of Stafford. By his marriage to a daughter of Ralph, Earl of Westmorland, Humphrey was related to the powerful Neville family and to many of the leading aristocratic houses of the time. He joined the English campaign in France with King Henry V in 1420 and following Henry V's death two years later he became a councillor for the new king, the nine-month-old Henry VI. Stafford acted as a peacemaker during the partisan, factional politics of the 1430s, when Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, vied with Cardinal Beaufort for political supremacy. Stafford also took part in the eventual arrest of Gloucester in 1447.

Coombe Abbey Grade I listed English country house in the United Kingdom

Coombe Abbey is a hotel which has been developed from a historic grade I listed building and former country house. It is located at Combe Fields in the Borough of Rugby, roughly midway between Coventry and Brinklow in the countryside of Warwickshire, England. The house's original grounds are now a country park known as Coombe Country Park and run by Coventry City Council.

Marshalsea Former prison in Southwark, London

The Marshalsea (1373–1842) was a notorious prison in Southwark, just south of the River Thames. Although it housed a variety of prisoners, including men accused of crimes at sea and political figures charged with sedition, it became known, in particular, for its incarceration of the poorest of London's debtors. Over half the population of England's prisons in the 18th century were in jail because of debt.


Elizabeth Bryan speaks of Malory's contribution to Arthurian legend in her introduction to Le Morte d'Arthur: "Malory did not invent the stories in this collection; he translated and compiled them..." Malory in fact translated Arthurian stories that already existed in 13th-century French prose (the so-called Old French Vulgate romances) and compiled them together with at least one tale from Middle English sources (the Alliterative Morte Arthure and the Stanzaic Morte Arthur) to create this text." [6] Malory's minor French and English sources include Erec et Enide , L'âtre périlleux , Perlesvaus , The Weddynge of Syr Gawen (or possibly this poem might be Malory's own work [7] ), Yvain ou le Chevalier au Lion (or its English translation Ywain and Gawain ), and John Hardyng's Chronicle. [8]

Old French was the language spoken in Northern France from the 8th century to the 14th century. In the 14th century, these dialects came to be collectively known as the langue d'oïl, contrasting with the langue d'oc or Occitan language in the south of France. The mid-14th century is taken as the transitional period to Middle French, the language of the French Renaissance, specifically based on the dialect of the Île-de-France region.

Middle English Stage of the English language from about the 12th through 15th centuries

Middle English was a form of the English language, spoken after the Norman conquest (1066) until the late 15th century. English underwent distinct variations and developments following the Old English period. Scholarly opinion varies, but the Oxford English Dictionary specifies the period when Middle English was spoken as being from 1150 to 1500. This stage of the development of the English language roughly followed the High to the Late Middle Ages.

The Alliterative Morte Arthure is a 4346-line Middle English alliterative poem, retelling the latter part of the legend of King Arthur. Dating from about 1400, it is preserved in a single copy, in the early 15th-century Lincoln Thornton Manuscript.

Malory called the full work The Hoole Book of Kyng Arthur and of His Noble Knyghtes of The Rounde Table, but William Caxton instead titled it with Malory's name for the final section of the cycle. The Middle English of Le Morte d'Arthur is much closer to Early Modern English than the Middle English of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales . If the spelling is modernized, it reads almost like Elizabethan English. The publication of Chaucer's work by Caxton was a precursor to his publication of Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. Where the Canterbury Tales are in Middle English, Malory extends "one hand to Chaucer, and one to Spenser" by constructing a manuscript which is hard to place in one category. Like other English prose in the 15th century, Le Morte d'Arthur was highly influenced by French writings, but Malory blends these with other English verse and prose forms. Caxton separated Malory's eight books into 21 books; subdivided the books into a total of 507 chapters; added a summary of each chapter and added a colophon to the entire book. [9]

Early Modern English, Early New English is the stage of the English language from the beginning of the Tudor period to the English Interregnum and Restoration, or from the transition from Middle English, in the late 15th century, to the transition to Modern English, in the mid-to-late 17th century.

Geoffrey Chaucer English poet

Geoffrey Chaucer was an English poet and author. Widely considered the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages, he is best known for The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer has been styled the "Father of English literature" and was the first writer buried in Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey.

Edmund Spenser 16th-century English poet

Edmund Spenser was an English poet best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is recognized as one of the premier craftsmen of nascent Modern English verse, and is often considered one of the greatest poets in the English language.

The first printing of Malory's work was made by William Caxton in 1485. Only two copies of this original printing are known to exist, in the collections of the Morgan Library & Museum in New York and the John Rylands Library in Manchester. [10] It proved popular and was reprinted in 1498 and 1529 with some additions and changes by Wynkyn de Worde who succeeded Caxton's press. Three more editions were published before the English Civil War: William Copland's (1557), Thomas East's (1585), and William Stansby's (1634), each of which contained additional changes and errors (including the omission of an entire leaf). Thereafter, the book went out of fashion until the Romantic revival of interest in all things medieval.

The Winchester Manuscript

Winchester College headmaster W. F. Oakeshott discovered a previously unknown manuscript copy of the work in June 1934, during the cataloging of the college's library. Newspaper accounts announced that what Caxton had published in 1485 was not exactly what Malory had written. [11] Oakeshott published "The Finding of the Manuscript" in 1963, chronicling the initial event and his realization that "this indeed was Malory," with "startling evidence of revision" in the Caxton edition. [12]

Malory scholar Eugène Vinaver examined the manuscript shortly after its discovery. Oakeshott was encouraged to produce an edition himself, but he ceded the project to Vinaver. [12] Based on his initial study of the manuscript, Oakeshott concluded in 1935 that the copy from which Caxton printed his edition "was already subdivided into books and sections." [13] Vinaver made an exhaustive comparison of the manuscript with Caxton's edition and reached similar conclusions. In his 1947 publication of The Works of Sir Thomas Malory, he argued that Malory wrote not a single book, but rather a series of Arthurian tales, each of which is an internally consistent and independent work. However, William Matthews pointed out that Malory's later tales make frequent references back to the earlier events, suggesting that he had wanted the tales to cohere better but had not sufficiently revised the whole text to achieve this. [14]

Microscopic examination revealed that ink smudges on the Winchester manuscript are offsets of newly printed pages set in Caxton's own font, which indicates that the Winchester Manuscript was in Caxton's print shop. The manuscript is believed to be closer on the whole to Malory's original and does not have the book and chapter divisions for which Caxton takes credit in his preface. The manuscript has been digitised by a Japanese team, who note that "the text is imperfect, as the manuscript lacks the first and last quires and few leaves. The most striking feature of the manuscript is the extensive use of red ink." [15] [16]


Most of the events in the book take place in Britain and France at an unspecified time (the historical events on which the Arthurian legend is based took place in the late 5th century, but the story contains many anachronisms and makes no effort at historical accuracy). In some parts, the plot ventures farther afield, to Rome and Sarras, and recalls Biblical tales from the ancient Near East. Malory modernized the legend by conflating the Celtic Britain with his contemporary Kingdom of England (for example identifying Logres as England, Camelot as Winchester, and Astolat as Guildford) and replacing the Saxons with the Saracens as foreign invaders. [17] Although Malory hearkens back to an age of idealized knighthood, jousting tournaments, and grand castles to suggest a medieval world, his stories lack any agricultural life or commerce, which makes the story feel as if it were an era of its own. Malory's eight (originally nine) main books are:

  1. The birth and rise of King Arthur: "From the Marriage of King Uther unto King Arthur (that reigned after him and did many battles)" (Fro the maryage of Kynge Uther unto kyng Arthure that regned aftir hym and ded many batayles)
  2. Arthur's war against the Romans: "The Noble Tale Between King Arthur and Lucius the Emperor of Rome" (The Noble Tale betwyxt Kynge Arthure and Lucius the Emperour of Rome)
  3. The adventures of Sir Lancelot: "The Noble Tale of Sir Launcelot (of the Lake)" (The Noble Tale of Sir Launcelot du Lake)
  4. The story of Sir Gareth: "The Tale of Sir Gareth of Orkney" (The Tale of Sir Gareth of Orkeney)
  5. The legend of Tristan and Iseult: "The Book of Sir Tristram de Lyones" (originally split between The Fyrste Boke of Sir Trystrams de Lyones and The Secunde Boke of Sir Trystrams de Lyones)
  6. The quest for the Grail: "The Noble Tale of the Sangreal" (The Noble Tale of the Sankegreall)
  7. The affair of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere: "Sir Launcelot and Queen Guenever" (Sir Launcelot and Quene Gwenyvere)
  8. The breaking of the Knights of the Round Table and the last battle of Arthur: "The Death of Arthur" (The deth of Arthur)

Because there is so much lengthy ground to cover, Malory uses "so—and—then," often to transition his retelling. This repetition is not redundant, but adds an air of continuity befitting the story's scale and grandeur. The stories then become episodes instead of instances that can stand on their own. [18] As noted by Ian Scott-Kilvert, the forms of romantic characters used in order to create the world of Arthur and his knight "consist almost entirely of fighting men, their wives or mistresses, with an occasional clerk or an enchanter, a fairy or a fiend, a giant or a dwarf," and "time does not work on the heroes of Malory." [19]

Book I (Caxton I–IV)

"How Arthur by the mean of Merlin gat Excalibur his sword of the Lady of the Lake", illustration for Le Morte Darthur, J. M. Dent & Co., London (1893-1894), by Aubrey Beardsley The Lady of the Lake telleth Arthur of the sword Excalibur.jpg
"How Arthur by the mean of Merlin gat Excalibur his sword of the Lady of the Lake", illustration for Le Morte Darthur, J. M. Dent & Co., London (1893–1894), by Aubrey Beardsley

Arthur is born to Uther Pendragon and Igraine and then taken by Sir Ector to be fostered in the country. He later becomes the king of a leaderless Britain when he removes the fated sword from the stone. Arthur goes on to win many battles against rivals and rebels due to his military prowess and the prophetic and magical counsel of Merlin (later replaced by Nimue), further helped by the sword Excalibur. It is following the Prose Merlin and later the Post-Vulgate Suite du Merlin. [8]

The first book also tells "The Tale of Balyn and Balan", of the treason of Arthur's sister Morgan le Fay, and of the begetting of Mordred, Arthur's incestuous son by one of his other sisters, Morgause (though Arthur did not know her as his sister). On Merlin's advice, Arthur takes every newborn boy in his kingdom and all but Mordred, who miraculously survives and eventually indeed kills his father, perish at sea (this is mentioned matter-of-fact, with no apparent moral overtone). Arthur marries Guinevere, and inherits the Round Table from her father Leodegrance. He then gathers his chief knights, including some of his former enemies, at Camelot and establishes the Round Table fellowship as all swear to the Pentecostal Oath as a guide for knightly conduct.

In this first book, Malory addresses 15th-century preoccupations with legitimacy and societal unrest, which will appear throughout the rest of the work. According to Helen Cooper in Sir Thomas Malory: Le Morte D'arthur – The Winchester Manuscript, the prose style, which mimics historical documents of the time, lends an air of authority to the whole work. This allowed contemporaries to read the book as a history rather than as a work of fiction, therefore making it a model of order for Malory's violent and chaotic times during the Wars of the Roses. Malory's concern with legitimacy reflects the 15th-century England, where many were claiming their rights to power through violence and bloodshed.

Book II (Caxton V)

This book, detailing Arthur's march on Rome, is based mostly on the Middle English Alliterative Morte Arthure, which in turn was heavily based on Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae . The opening of Book V finds Arthur and his kingdom without an enemy. His throne is secure and his knights including Gawain have proven themselves through a series of battles and quests.

Seeking more glory, Arthur and his knights then go to the war against (fictitious) Emperor Lucius who demanded Britain to resume paying tribute. After defeating the Romans and killing Lucius, Arthur is crowned a Roman emperor but instead returns to Britain.

Book III (Caxton VI)

"How Sir Launcelot slew the knight Sir Peris de Forest Savage that did distress ladies, damosels, and gentlewomen." From The Romance of King Arthur (1917). Abridged from Malory's Morte d'Arthur by Alfred W. Pollard. Illustrated by Arthur Rackham 316 The Romance of King Arthur.jpg
"How Sir Launcelot slew the knight Sir Peris de Forest Savage that did distress ladies, damosels, and gentlewomen." From The Romance of King Arthur (1917). Abridged from Malory's Morte d'Arthur by Alfred W. Pollard. Illustrated by Arthur Rackham

In this tale, based on a small part of the French Prose Lancelot along with an episode taken from Perlesvaus. [8] Malory establishes Sir Lancelot as King Arthur's most revered knight through numerous episodic adventures. Lancelot always adheres to the Pentecostal Oath, assisting ladies in distress and giving mercy for honorable enemies he has defeated in battle. However, the world Lancelot lives in is too complicated for simple mandates and, although Lancelot aspires to live by an ethical code, the actions of others make it difficult.

Other issues are demonstrated when Morgan le Fay enchants Lancelot, which reflects a feminization of magic, and in how the tournament fighting in this tale indicates a shift away from warfare towards a more mediated and virtuous form of violence. Malory also attempts to shift the focus of courtly love from adultery to service by having Lancelot admit to doing everything he does for Guinevere, but never admit to having an adulterous relationship with her.

Book IV (Caxton VII)

A short part that primarily deals with the adventures of the young Sir Gareth in his chivalric quest for Lynette and Lioness.

Book V (Caxton VIII–XII)

The tales of Sir Tristan of Lyonesse, Sir Dinadan, Sir Palamedes, Sir Alexander the Orphan, "La Cote de Male Tayle", and a variety of other knights. Based on the French Prose Tristan, or a lost English adaptation of it, Malory's Tristan section is the literal centerpiece of Le Morte d'Arthur as well as the longest of the eight books.

Tristan is the namesake of the book and his adulterous relationship with the Belle Isolde, his uncle King Mark's wife, is one of the focuses of the section. Various knights, even those of the Round Table, make requests that show the dark side of the world of chivalry. [20] It also includes the story of Lancelot fathering Sir Galahad by Elaine of Corbenic.

Book VI (Caxton XIII–XVII)

The Holy Grail's sighting at the Round Table in William Henry Margetson's illustration for Legends of King Arthur and His Knights (1914) The Holy Grail, covered with white silk, came into the hall.png
The Holy Grail's sighting at the Round Table in William Henry Margetson's illustration for Legends of King Arthur and His Knights (1914)

Malory's primary source for this long part was the Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal. Malory's version chronicles the adventures of many knights in their quest to achieve the Holy Grail. Gawain is the first to embark on the quest for the Grail. Other knights like Lancelot, Percival, and Bors, likewise undergo the quest, eventually achieved by Galahad. Their exploits are intermingled with encounters with maidens and hermits who offer advice and interpret dreams along the way.

After the confusion of the secular moral code he manifested within the previous book, Malory attempts to construct a new mode of chivalry by placing an emphasis on religion. Christianity and the Church offer a venue through which the Pentecostal Oath can be upheld, whereas the strict moral code imposed by religion foreshadows almost certain failure on the part of the knights. For example, Gawain is often dubbed a secular knight, as he refuses to do penance for his sins, claiming the tribulations that coexist with knighthood as a sort of secular penance. Likewise, Lancelot, for all his sincerity, is unable to completely escape his adulterous love of Guinevere, and is thus destined to fail where Galahad will succeed. This coincides with the personification of perfection in the form of Galahad. Because Galahad is the only knight who lives entirely without sin, this leaves both the audience and the other knights with a model of perfection that seemingly cannot be emulated through chivalry.

Book VII (Caxton XVIII–XIX)

The book is dedicated to the story of Lancelot and Queen Guinevere's adulterous romance, including his rescue of her from the abduction by Maleagant.

Book VIII (Caxton XX–XXI)

Arthur's final voyage to Avalon in a 1912 illustration by Florence Harrison The Passing of Arthur by Florence Harrison.png
Arthur's final voyage to Avalon in a 1912 illustration by Florence Harrison

Writing this part, Malory used the version of Arthur's death from parts of the Vulgate Mort Artu and the Stanzaic Morte Arthur. Mordred and Agravaine finally reveal Guinevere's adultery and Arthur sentences her to burn. Lancelot's rescue party raids the execution, killing many knights including Gawain's brothers Gareth and Gaheris. Gawain, bent on revenge, prompts Arthur into a war with Lancelot. After they leave to pursue Lancelot in France, Mordred seizes the throne and takes control of Arthur's kingdom.

At the bloody Battle of Camlann between Mordred's followers and Arthur's loyalists, Arthur kills Mordred but is himself mortally injured. As Arthur is dying, the lone survivor Bedivere casts away Excalibur and a barge carrying Morgan and Nimue appears to take Arthur to Avalon.

After the passing of King Arthur, Malory provides a denouement, mostly following the lives (and deaths) of Bedivere, Guinevere, Lancelot, and Lancelot's kinsmen. Arthur's appointed successor is Constantine, son of King Carados of Scotland, and the realm that Arthur created is significantly changed.

Modern versions and adaptations

The year 1816 saw a new edition by Walker and Edwards, and another one by R. Wilks, both based on the 1634 Stansby edition. Thomas Davison's 1817 edition was promoted by Robert Southey and was based on Caxton's 1485 edition or on a mixture of Caxton and Stansby; Davison was the basis for subsequent editions until the discovery of the Winchester Manuscript. Modernized editions update the late Middle English spelling, update some pronouns, and re-punctuate and re-paragraph the text. Others furthermore update the phrasing and vocabulary to contemporary Modern English. Here is an example (from Caxton's preface) in Middle English and then in Modern English:

Doo after the good and leve the evyl, and it shal brynge you to good fame and renomme. [21]
Do after the good and leave the evil, and it shall bring you to good fame and renown. [22]

There have been many modern republications, retellings and adaptations of Le Morte d'Arthur, some of them listed below. (See also the following Bibliography section.)

N. C. Wyeth's title page illustration for Sidney Lanier's The Boy's King Arthur (1922) Boys King Arthur - N. C. Wyeth - cover.jpg
N. C. Wyeth's title page illustration for Sidney Lanier's The Boy's King Arthur (1922)


The work itself


Related Research Articles

Excalibur legendary sword of King Arthur

Excalibur is the legendary sword of King Arthur, sometimes also attributed with magical powers or associated with the rightful sovereignty of Britain. Excalibur and the Sword in the Stone are sometimes said to be the same weapon, but in most versions they are considered separate. Excalibur was associated with the Arthurian legend very early on. In Welsh, it is called Caledfwlch; in Cornish, Calesvol; in Breton, Kaledvoulc'h; and in Latin, Caliburnus.

Guinevere Arthurian legend character

Guinevere, often written as Guenevere or Guenever, is the wife and queen of King Arthur in the Arthurian legend. Guinevere has been portrayed as everything from a villainous and opportunistic traitor to a fatally flawed but noble and virtuous lady. She has first appeared in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, a pseudo-historical chronicle of British history written in the early 12th century, and continues to be a popular character in the modern adaptations of the legend.

Gawain King Arthurs nephew and a Knight of the Round Table in the Arthurian legend

Gawain, also known as Gawaine or Gauwaine, among various other forms and spellings, is King Arthur's nephew and a Knight of the Round Table in the Arthurian legend. Under the name Gwalchmei, he appears very early in the legend's development, being mentioned in some of the earliest Welsh Arthurian sources. As Gawain, he appears in Latin, French, English, Dutch, German and Italian literature, notably as the protagonist of the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Other tales of Gawain include Historia Regum Britanniae, Roman de Brut, De Ortu Waluuanii, Diu Crône, The Awntyrs off Arthure, L'âtre périlleux, Le Chevalier à l'épée, and The Weddynge of Syr Gawen and Dame Ragnell, as well as the works of Chrétien de Troyes and the prose cycle Lancelot-Grail.

Galahad knight of the round table

Sir Galahad among other versions of his name, is a knight of King Arthur's Round Table and one of the three achievers of the Holy Grail in Arthurian legend. He is the illegitimate son of Sir Lancelot and Elaine of Corbenic, and is renowned for his gallantry and purity as the most perfect of all knights. Emerging quite late in the medieval Arthurian tradition, Sir Galahad first appears in the Lancelot–Grail cycle, and his story is taken up in later works such as the Post-Vulgate Cycle and Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. His name should not be mistaken with Galehaut, a different knight from Arthurian legend.

Lady of the Lake ruler of Avalon in the Arthurian legend

The Lady of the Lake is an enchantress in the Matter of Britain, the body of medieval literature and legend associated with King Arthur. She plays a pivotal role in many stories, including giving Arthur his sword Excalibur, enchanting Merlin, and raising Lancelot after the death of his father. At least two different sorceresses bearing the title "the Lady of the Lake" appear as separate characters in some versions and adaptations since the Post-Vulgate Cycle and consequently Le Morte d'Arthur.

Knights of the Round Table elite companions of King Arthur and order of chivalry in Arthurian romance

The Knights of the Round Table are the knightly members of the legendary fellowship of the King Arthur in the literary cycle of the Matter of Britain, in which the first written record of them appears in the Roman de Brut written by the Norman poet Wace in 1155. In the Arthurian romance tradition, the Knights are an order in the service of Arthur, tasked with ensuring the peace of the kingdom and charged with leading the quest for the Holy Grail. The Round Table at which they met was supposed to represent the equality of all the members. Different stories presented different numbers of the Knights, ranging from only 12 to as many as 150 or more.

Bedivere Legendary Arthurian knight

Sir Bedivere is one of the earliest characters to be featured in the Matter of Britain, originally appearing in a number of early Welsh texts in which he is named as Bedwyr Bedrydant. In the later versions, he is described as being the Knight of the Round Table of King Arthur who serves as Arthur's marshal and eventually returns Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake. He is frequently associated with his brother Sir Lucan and his cousin Sir Griflet, as well as with Sir Kay.

Gareth Arthurian character

Sir Gareth is a Knight of the Round Table in Arthurian legend, nicknamed "Beaumains" in Le Morte d'Arthur. He was the youngest son of King Lot and Morgause, King Arthur's half-sister, thus making him Arthur's nephew, as well as brother to Gawain, Agravain, and Gaheris, and either a brother or half-brother of Mordred.

Lamorak fictional character from the Prose Tristan

Sir Lamorak is a Knight of the Round Table in Arthurian legend, a son of King Pellinore and brother of Percival, Tor, Aglovale, and sometimes the Grail maiden Dindrane and others. Introduced in the Prose Tristan, Lamorak reappears in later works including the Post-Vulgate Cycle and Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. Malory refers to him as Arthur's third best knight, only inferior to Lancelot and Tristan, but Lamorak was not exceptionally popular in the romance tradition, confined to the cyclical material, subordinate to more prominent characters.

Elaine of Astolat figure in Arthurian legend

Elaine of Astolat, also known as Elayne of Ascolat and other variants of the name, is a figure in Arthurian legend. She is a lady from the castle of Astolat who dies of her unrequited love for Sir Lancelot. Well-known versions of her story appear in Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur and Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Idylls of the King, as well as in Tennyson's poem "The Lady of Shalott".

Sir Balin

Sir Balin le Savage, also known as the Knight with the Two Swords, is a character in the Arthurian legend. Like Sir Galahad, Sir Balin is a late addition to the medieval Arthurian world. His story, as told by Thomas Malory in Le Morte d'Arthur, is based upon that told in the continuation of the second book of the Post-Vulgate cycle of legend, the Suite du Merlin.

Dinadan fictional character in Arthurian Romance

Sir Dinadan is a Knight of the Round Table in the Arthurian legend's chivalric romance tradition. He is the son of Sir Brunor senior, a brother of Sirs Breunor le Noir and Daniel, and a close friend of Sir Tristan.

Eugène Vinaver was a Russian-born British literary scholar who is best known today for his edition of the works of Sir Thomas Malory.

Bagdemagus (pronounced /ˈbægdɛˌmægəs/) is a character in the Arthurian legend, normally depicted as king of the land of Gorre and a Knight of the Round Table. He chiefly figures in literature the father of the knight Maleagant, who abducts King Arthur's wife Queen Guinevere in several versions of a popular episode. Bagdemagus first appears in Old French sources, but the character may have developed out of the earlier Welsh traditions of Guinevere's abduction, an evolution suggested by the distinctively otherworldly portrayal of his realm. In most versions he is portrayed as a kinsman and ally of Arthur and a wise and virtuous king, despite the actions of his son.

Sir Walter Fraser Oakeshott was a schoolmaster and academic, who was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford. He is best known for discovering the Winchester Manuscript of Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur in 1934.

Elaine of Corbenic

Elaine of Corbenic, is a character in the Arthurian legend. She is the daughter of King Pelles of Corbenic and the mother of Galahad by Lancelot. She first appears in the Prose Lancelot, but fully emerges as a character in Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. Her first significant action is showing the Holy Grail to Sir Lancelot.

The StanzaicMorte Arthur is an anonymous 14th-century Middle English poem in 3,969 lines, about the adulterous affair between Lancelot and Guinevere, and Lancelot's tragic dissension with King Arthur. The poem is usually called the Stanzaic Morte Arthur or Stanzaic Morte to distinguish it from another Middle English poem, the Alliterative Morte Arthure. It exercised enough influence on Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur to have, in the words of one recent scholar, "played a decisive though largely unacknowledged role in the way succeeding generations have read the Arthurian legend".

The concept of treason can be dated back to the early Roman republic, but was defined by nebulous criteria. Frederic William Maitland, author of The History of English Law Before the Time of Edward I, has said that "treason is a crime [with] a vague circumference and more than one centre." Early French and Anglo-Saxon laws for the prosecution of persons deemed traitorous were inspired by, and in some cases, directly pulled from, late Roman and Germanic conceptions of the crime. It would be the common laws of this time period which would most directly influence those customary in King Arthur's court — assuming its existence is founded in more than the legends and fables of medieval romances.

Guiomar is the best known name of a character appearing in many medieval texts relating to the Arthurian legend, often in relationship with Morgan le Fay or a similar fairy queen type character.


See also

Notes and references

  1. Since morte (or mort) is a feminine noun, French would require the article la (i.e., "la mort d'Arthur"). According to Stephen H. A. Shepherd, "Malory frequently misapplies le in titular compounds, perhaps on a simple sonic and gender-neutral analogy with 'the'". Stephen H. A. Shepherd, ed., Le Morte Darthur, by Sir Thomas Malory (New York: W.W. Norton, 2004), 1n.
  2. Bryan, Elizabeth J. (1994/1999). "Sir Thomas Malory", Le Morte D'Arthur, p. vii. Modern Library. New York. ISBN   0-679-60099-X.
  3. ( Bryan & 1994/1999 , p. v)
  4. 1 2 3 Wight, Colin (2009). "Thomas Malory's 'Le Morte Darthur'". www.bl.uk.
  5. ( Whitteridge 2009 , pp. 257–265)
  6. Bryan (1994), pp. viii–ix.
  7. Lacy, Norris J.; Wilhelm, James J. (2015-07-17). The Romance of Arthur: An Anthology of Medieval Texts in Translation. Routledge. ISBN   9781317341840.
  8. 1 2 3 Norris, Ralph C. (2008). Malory's Library: The Sources of the Morte Darthur. DS Brewer. ISBN   9781843841548.
  9. Bryan (2004), p. ix
  10. McShane, Kara L. (2010). "Malory's Morte d'Arthur". The Rossell Hope Robbins Library at the University of Rochester. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
  11. W. F. Oakeshott. "The Text of Malory". Archived from the original on 2008-07-03. Retrieved 2009-01-11.
  12. 1 2 Walter F. Oakeshott, "The Finding of the Manuscript," Essays on Malory, ed. J. A. W. Bennett (Oxford: Clarendon, 1963), 1–6.
  13. Walter F. Oakeshott, "Caxton and Malory's Morte Darthur," Gutenberg-Jahrbuch (1935), 112–116.
  14. William Matthews, The Ill-Framed Knight: A Skeptical Inquiry into the Identity of Sir Thomas Malory (Berkeley, CA: University of California, 1966).
  15. The Malory Project (http://www.maloryproject.com), directed by Takako Kato and designed by Nick Hayward.
  16. Whetter, K. S. (2017). The Manuscript and Meaning of Malory's Morte Darthur. D. S. Brewer.
  17. Murrin, Michael (1997). History and Warfare in Renaissance Epic. University of Chicago Press. ISBN   9780226554051.
  18. "Morte d'Arthur." The Cambridge History of English Literature. A.W Ward, A.R Waller. Vol II. Cambridge: A UP, 1933. Print.
  19. Scott-Kilvert, Ian. British Writers. Charles Scribners's Sons, New York 1979.
  20. For instance, Sir Bleoberis, one of Lancelot's cousins, claims another knight's wife for his own and rides away with her until stopped by Tristan. In another episode, when Tristan defeats Sir Blamore, another knight of the Round Table, Blamore asks Tristan to kill him because he would rather die than have his reputation tarnished by the defeat.
  21. Bryan (1994), p. xii.
  22. Bryan, ed. (1999), p. xviii.
  23. Malory, Thomas; Lanier, Sidney; Kappes, Alfred; Charles Scribner's Sons; Rand, Avery & Co (16 October 1880). "The Boy's King Arthur: Sir Thomas Malory's History of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, Edited for Boys" via Open WorldCat.
  24. Malory, Sir Thomas (1 September 1950). Lanier, Sidney (ed.). "King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table". Grosset & Dunlap via Amazon.
  25. Dover Publications (1972). Beardsley's Illustrations for Le Morte Darthur, Publisher's note & back cover.
  26. University, Bangor. "Stories of King Arthur and the Round Table". arthurian-studies.bangor.ac.uk. Retrieved 2018-07-26.
  27. bookgroup.info: interview: Castle Freeman. Retrieved 2012-12-17.
  28. A Chat With Castle Freeman, Jr. Retrieved 2012-12-17.
  29. "Arthur Dies at the End Book Series: Amazon.com". www.amazon.com. Retrieved 2019-01-30.