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Le Morte D'Arthur
Transcript of Le Morte D'Arthur
Why is Le Morte D'Arthur Important?
Main source for modern versions of the Arthurian legends
First large collection of Arthurian tales in English
One of the first books printed in English
The first English novel?
As many as six Thomas Malorys living at the time
Evidence from the text that he was both a knight and a prisoner
Since the 19th century he is widely accepted as being Thomas Malory of Newbold Revel, a man with an extensive criminal record including rape, extortion, and robbery
Attempts to prove it was anyone else have so far failed
Who is Sir Thomas Malory?
The Deeds and Misdeeds of Thomas Malory of Newbold Revel
Born between 1399 and 1418
Served as a professional soldier for the Duke of Warwick
Knighted by 1441
1443: Accused of robbery
1449: Elected to parliament
Jan. 1450: Accused of ambushing the Duke of Buckingham
May 1450: Accused of extortion
May 1450: Accused of robbery and rape
Aug. 1450: Accused of raping and kidnapping the same woman
Aug. 1450: Accused of extortion
June 1451: Accused of stealing 7 cows, 2 calves, 335 sheep
July 1451: Accused of stealing 6 does and vandalizing a deer park belonging to the Duke of Buckingham
25 July 1451: The Duke of Buckingham arrests Malory armed with 60 men-at-arms
27 July 1451: Malory escapes by swimming the jailhouse moat
Aug. 1451: Recaptured and charged of all the aforementioned crimes, spends the next year in prison
Oct. 1452: Bailed out of prison
Oct. 1453: Rearrested
May 1454: Out again
Oct. 1454: Arrested for sheltering horse theives, fights his way out two weeks later
Nov. 1454: Arrested again
May 1455: Moved to the Tower of London (which has an extensive library)
Oct. 1457: Bailed out of prison
Oct. 1462: Pardoned by newly crowned King Edward IV
June 1468: Having switched sides, is arrested for plotting against the king
July 1468: Is excluded by name from a general pardon
1469-1470: Finishes Le Morte D'Arthur at some point during this year
Feb. & May 1470: Excluded by name from two more pardons
Mar. 1471: Death of Sir Thomas Malory
Selections from books 20 and 21
Covers the outing of Lancelot by Mordred and Agravaine
Covers the rescue of Guinevere and slaying of Gawain's brothers
Skips the battle between Arthur and Lancelot
Skips Mordred usurping the throne while Arthur is fighting Lancelot in France
Skips the death of Gawain
Covers the deaths of Mordred and Arthur
Skips Guinevere joining a convent
Covers the deaths of Guinevere and Lancelot and much fanfare about Lancelot's deeds
The Death of Arthur
Le Morte D'Arthur
Originally written as 8 separate romances
Printed by William Caxton (1st English printer) as 21 books with 500+ short chapters
Compiled from the many French Arthurian romances
Some of the stories are reworked/rearranged
Contains internal inconsistencies, the stories do not all fit together coherently
Though written shortly after Chaucer, it is generally much easier for modern readers
Grand themes of Chivalry, Loyalty, Love, and the ideal of the Quest
How does a hardened criminal and general thug like Sir Thomas Malory come to write such an epic of Chivalry and Romantic ideals?
Why is Lancelot forgiven by Arthur and still held up as the hero at the end of the story despite his betrayal ultimately causing the King's demise?