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Literary Analysis of King Arthur
Transcript of Literary Analysis of King Arthur
A compilation by Sir Thomas Malory of Romance tales about the legendary King Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, and the Knights of the Round Table.
Le Morte d’Arthur
The book interprets existing French and English stories about these figures, with some of Malory's own original material.
Malory ‘s sources were several Norman-French romances dating from 1225-1230.
In addition to the French sources, Malory added material from a 14th century English alliterative poem, the Morte Arthur.
Malory wrote Le Morte d’Arthur in 15th century England. The century began with Henry V deciding to invade France. Henry found ways to justify his choice, claiming a hereditary entitlement to France and a desire to unite Europe under a Christian flag.
Miserable weather and rampant dysentery hampered his invasion, but eventually Henry achieved great victories and succeeded in his quest to unite France and England, and emerged a legend.
The first known publication of Le Morte d’Arthur was in 1485, by William Caxton. This edition was divided into 21 books and 507 chapters.
Three more editions followed at intervals to the time of the English Civil War.
In 1934 a manuscript was discovered in the Fellows Library of Winchester College.
The text of this second manuscript is more fully developed in sections than the earlier known edition and it is divided into ten parts, forming five larger sections.
This later manuscript, published in 1947 as The Works of Sir Thomas Malory, is the text most commonly used today.
Most of the events in the book take place in Britain and France in the latter half of the 15th century. In some parts, it ventures farther afield, to Rome and Sarras (near Babylon), and recalls Biblical tales from the ancient Near East.
Sir Thomas Malory (1405-1471)
Newbold Revell, Warwickshire
Had a wife named Elizabeth Walsh
Knighted in 1442, he served in the parliament of 1445
repeatedly imprisoned between 1451 and 1460
Did most of his writing in prison
Malory's original book was called The Book of King Arthur and His Noble Knights of the Round Table
William Caxton printed it in 1485 and gave it the misleading title of Morte d'Arthur
In 1468, he was excluded from the list of Lancastrians granted pardon by king Edward IV.
Henry VI briefly regained the throne in October 1470, all Lancastrian political prisoners in London’s jails were freed.
Five months later, on March 14, 1471, Malory died and was buried in Greyfriars Churchyard
He was jailed, but escaped by swimming a moat
evidently a violent, lawless individual who committed a series of crimes, including poaching, extortion, robbery, rape, and attempted murder.
son of Sir Lancelot and Elaine
has a seat on King Arthur’s Round Table
succeeds in the quest for the Holy Grail
Round Character (?)
last of the Knights of the Table
disobeyed the dying King Arthur about putting Excalibur into the lake twice, then obeyed
Magician who helped Uther into marrying Igrayne
Gave King Arthur to Sir Ector
King Arthur’s counselor
Morgan Le Fay
Arthur's half sister
an evil sorceress who learned her magic during her years in a nunnery.
scheming and plotting against Arthur.
–Nephew of King Arthur
–Was killed by King Arthur
–Attempts to take over the kingdom while King Arthur was not around
King Arthur’s real father
Gave King Arthur to Merlin
wife of Uther Pendragon
was married to Gorlois
Took care of King Arthur
Ruler of Camelot
fighter of the Saxons
a great king who brought peace and unity to England for years.
Married to Queen Guinevere.
Arthur's wife although she doesn't love him
A French knight
Arthur's best knight and a great fighter
Father of Sir Galahad
With 26 men, he ambushed the Duke of Buckingham and tried to murder him.
He stole livestock, and extorted money with menaces.
He was accused of rape on two occasions.
Leading a small army of 100 men, he attacked Combe Abbey, terrifying the monks and stealing their money and valuables
He was granted a royal pardon in 1455
The Legends of King Arthur
The Round Table
It is a physical manifestation of Arthur’s sense of fairness and justice. The table is designed so that the king’s knights will not squabble over rank—there is no head of the table for the best knight to claim as his own.
Arthur does not want to create conflicts among knights because he wants them unified in their struggle to maintain peace in England.
Point of View
Characters often attempt to rectify their sins by devoting themselves to God.
A major theme throughout the text, chivalry defines the code of ethics that the Knights of the Round Table must uphold.
The Journey/The Quest
Knights within Le Morte d’Arthur have a strong desire to seek adventure, to do noble deeds, and to find glory within the most difficult of circumstances.
the love that the Knights of the Round Table have for Arthur
the love of God
love of family
courtly love encourages knights to perform acts of valor in honor of their lady.
Each character is defined not only by his familial relations, but also by his abilities, whether on the battlefield, as a lover, or as a leader. Knights are usually defined with epithets about their abilities or loyalties.
The Holy Grail
The Holy Grail, a copper cup or platter used by Jesus at the Last Supper, represents an otherworldly power that even Arthur’s knights are incapable of achieving.
To find the Grail requires, in addition to knightly prowess, a purity of mind and soul that seems almost contradictory to the ideals of chivalry.
symbolizes all that Arthur has not achieved. This revelation that Arthur’s England is far from a state of grace also marks the beginning of the end of his reign.
The Questing Beast
King Pellinore has no real reason for wanting to catch the Questing Beast—which is not a threat to anyone—and yet he dedicates his entire youth to the project. Remarkably, none of the other knights ever thinks to question Pellinore’s dedication, and in their minds, as in his, the quest gives him a purpose.
If Pellinore caught the Questing Beast, he would lose the activity that gives his life meaning, and when he has the chance to kill it, he chooses to help the beast instead. Once Pellinore finds real purpose in his love for his beloved wife, however, he forgets about the beast, reinforcing the idea that the Questing Beast is not meaningful in itself but is rather merely something to keep Pellinore occupied.
Le Morte d'Arthur tells the story of King Arthur and his Knights at the Round Table. Arthur, who is son of King Uther Pendragon but was raised by another family, takes his rightful place as king when, as a boy, he is able to pull the sword called Excalibur from the stone. Although he rules wisely and is counseled by Merlin the magician, Arthur makes enemies of other kings and is often at war.
When Arthur marries Genevere, her father gives Arthur the Round Table, at which 150 men can sit. Genevere, who is often present at the convening of the Round Table, acts as a moral compass for the knights, rewarding knights who behave well and chastising those who choose poorly. Malory specifically relates the stories of Sir Gawain, Sir Tor, and Sir Pellanor as a means of introducing the concept of chivalry.
Arthur is nearly betrayed by his sister Morgan le Fay, but he is helped by Nineve, a sorceress who learned her magic powers from Merlin before killing him. Arthur then fights the Romans when Emperor Lucius of Rome demands that Arthur bow to him. Although the war requires several battles, Arthur and his knights win and return to Guinevere and the other wives. Soon after, Launcelot establishes himself as the greatest knight in all the world by his virtue, loyalty, and bravery. At the same time, Sir Gareth, Gawain's brother, proves valiant in his adventures.
Tristam (also known as Tristan), who is son of King Melyodas de Lyones and the sister of King Mark of Cornwall, is then introduced, and his adventures unfold. He kills Sir Marhault to free his uncle from a debt owed to King Angwyssh of Ireland, and then falls in love with Isode (also known as Isolde), Angwyssh's daughter. Isode marries Tristam's uncle Mark, but Tristam and Isode remain lovers. Tristam is exiled by Mark, which means he can no longer use his true identity; thus, he fights as The Knight with the Black Shield. Tristam duels and beats many of Arthur's knights, but is eventually thrown in prison and becomes ill. He escapes and eventually meets and fights Launcelot in a duel predicted by Merlin. They become the best of friends.
Launcelot, who is in love with and completely loyal to Guinevere, rides one day in search of adventure. He kills a dragon, sees the Grail, and is tricked into lying with Pellas' daughter Elayne, with whom he has a son, Galahad. Guinevere, upon hearing of the affair, has Launcelot banished from court; Launcelot then wanders from place to place in his grief. Elayne, through her father, heals Launcelot through the Grail, and he eventually returns joyously to Camelot and the Round Table.
Launcelot introduces his son, Galahad, to the court, and Galahad takes the Sege Perilous, the seat at the Round Table that no knight has been worthy enough to fill. Galahad also draws the sword from the floating stone, establishing him as the best knight in the world, but also accepting the sword's curse — that it will later cause a grievous wound.
Most of the knights then set out separately on Grail Quest. During the Quest, Launcelot, Percival, and Bors experience deep religious conversion, while Ector and Gawain are told by a hermit that they are not pure enough to achieve the Grail Quest. Galahad, Percival, and Bors meet up and continue the Grail Quest, but they are briefly parted. Launcelot and Galahad continue to the Grail at Castle Corbenic, where Launcelot is shown to be unworthy of the Quest. When Sir Evelake dies after his embrace with Galahad, Galahad is identified as the knight who will achieve the Grail Quest. Galahad is made a king who dies shortly thereafter, while Percival becomes a hermit. Bors returns to King Arthur's court.
Launcelot also returns to the court and continues his love for Guinevere. After a series of trials, Guinevere is convinced of Launcelot's love for her. Although Arthur knows of the affair and overlooks it, he is prompted by Aggravain and Mordred (Arthur's son by Lot's wife) to take action; Guinevere is sentenced to be burned at the stake. Launcelot rescues her and takes her to his castle, Joyous Gard, but in the battle, Launcelot kills Gareth and Gaheris, who are at the execution but are unarmed. Launcelot returns Guinevere to Arthur, but Launcelot is banished, along with his followers. Gawain swears vengeance for the death of his brothers and insists that Arthur attack Launcelot. Arthur agrees, but while Arthur and Gawain are away, Mordred makes himself King of England, claims Guinevere as his wife, and attacks Arthur's army. Gawain is mortally wounded and warns Arthur in a dream not to continue the battle. Through a misunderstanding, however, the battle continues; Arthur kills Mordred but is mortally wounded by him, as Merlin has prophesied.
Launcelot and Guinevere both die of illness soon after, and Constantine becomes king. The Round Table is disbursed.
Arthur’s home is represented by Sir Ector’s Castle of the Forest Sauvage, a cozy place with a seemingly endless number of nooks and crannies for us to explore along with the Wart. Sir Ector’s castle is markedly different from the glorious Camelot or the gloomy castle at Orkney.
The castles in the novel have their own personalities that embody the hopes and fears of their inhabitants
“But I fele by thy wordis that thou haste agreed to the deth of my persone: and therefore thou art a traytoure – but I wyte the lesse, for my sistir Morgan le Fay by hir false crauftis made the to agré to hir fals lustis." (90.30-33)
Knights vs. lords
Ladies vs. knights
King vs. vassals
The conflict between the brutality and courtesy of knighthood by making frequent reference to blood sports, such as hunting and hawking.
blood sports are motivated by aggression and involve a great deal of brutality.
blood sports also involve a great deal of tradition and ritual
fantasy, heroic epic
Joyce, Leonore, April, Shannen, Azalia