SIR THOMAS MALORY LE MORTE D’ARTHUR*INTRODUCTION*SIR THOMAS MALORYBIOGRAPHY*BRIEF SUMMARY OF THETEXT*THEMES*CRITICAL OVERVIEW*CHARACTER ANALYSIS
INTRODUCTION• Although Le Morte D’Arthur is thought to have been written in 1469,the first known publication was in 1485,by William Caxton.Caxton’s edition was divided into 21 books and 506 chapters.• In 1934,another manuscript was discovered in the Fellows Library of Winchester College.This second text was published in 1947 as “The Works of Sir Thomas Malory” and was divided into five books.• Malory’s work;with the emphasis on courtly love,honor and virtue,valor and devotion,magic and miracles,has been an influential source for many writers,including Edmund Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene” and Alfred Tennyson’s “Idylls of the Kıng”.
SIR THOMAS MALORY BIOGRAPHY• The authorship of Le Morte d’Arthur has long been in dispute. Traditionally,this text has been credited to Thomas malory,a knight,who was born in about 1410 in Warwickshire,England. In his twenties,after serving with the Earl of Warwick in Calais ,he succeeded to his father’s estate.After inheriting his father’s estate,Malory led a quiet and affluent life.But for some reason, in 1450,Malory turned to crime. His crimes include multiple rapes,robberies and attempted murder.After a prison escape,Malory turned to robbing churches and was again arrested. When he was released,he returned to crime and as a result,he was imprisoned again.
Malory was evidently in prison once again whenEdward IV issued a pardon for prisoners that specificallyexcluded Malory. He died in 1471 and he was buried in Newgate, outsideLondon. There is no way to assert with complete accuracy ifthis Thomas Malory or any other Thomas Malory wasactually the author of this work. Yet,Le Morte d’Arthur is filled with battles,chivalry,jealousy and lust which are all ideas that Malory,the knightwho turned criminal,would know about and be familiar with.
The Tale of King Arthur• The birth of Arthur results from King Uther’s deceptive bedding of Arthur’s mother,Igrayne.• When Arthur has himself crowned king of Wales,the husbands of Uther’s three daughters,who are themselves kings,arrive for the coronation not to celebrate but to make war with Arthur.• After his victory over his enemies,Arthur meets and falls in love with Guinevere.Arthur also creates a child,Mordred,with Lot’s wife,whom he doesn’t realize is his sister.• Merlin arrives in disguise and tells him that he has lain with his sister and created a child who will destroy him.• Arthur orders the death of all highborn children born on May Day but Mordred survives.
The story shifts to an emphasis on revenge as a magicalsword is used by a newly released prisoner,Sir Balyn. Soon,another battle with King Lot ensues and Arthurmanages a great victory over his enemies.Merlin warns Arthur thathe must guard his scabbard and that it would be stolen by thewoman to whom Arthur would give it. Arthur gives it to her sister Morgan Le Fay who,later,givesit to her lover.After many battles,Balyn dies in an accidental battlewith his brother and Merlin fixes Balyn’s sword so that no man canuse it except for Lancelot or Galahad. Against Merlin’s advice,Arthur marries Guinevere.Herdowry is the Round Table,the seats of which have been filled withas many knights as Merlin could find. Arthur establishes the new code which demands that theknights be merciful,righteous in their battles,and honorable toward
The Tale of King Arthur and King Lucius• Lucius has demanded tributes from Arthur,who,in return, promises war and is supported by his knights.• He leaves for Normandy and Arthur’s forces destroy the enemy with Gawain emerging as a heroic figure.• Arthur next sends Launcelot and Cador to deliver the Roman prisoners to Paris but Roman forces ambush them.Launcelot proves himself a hero and defeats the Romans.• Arthur is crowned king of Rome and soon,he returns to England with his men.
The Tale of Sir Lancelot• After his victory in Rome,Launcelot returns to England. This part of the book consists mainly of Launcelot’s adventures,which embody the ideal heroic knight and the code of the Round Table.• He promises to help Sir Bagdemagus in a tournament and after he wins it,he is guided to Tarquin,who had earlier captured Launcelot’s nephew.• First he kills Tarquin,then he kills a thief and a rapist who had been attacking women and he also kills a giant which attacked women.• Launcelot willingly risks his life to help a maiden seeking help and even agrees to help a lady who deceptively attempts to have him killed.• Soon,everyone knows of Launcelot’s heroic deeds.
The Tale of Sir Gareth• Gareth is another of Lot’s son and the brother of Gawain. He is the perfect knight,more humble and pure than all the other knights.• He is in fact a kitchen boy who has been made a knight, which makes Sir Kay angry.• After several adventures and the defeat of many criminal types,Gareth proves his worthiness to be a knight of the Round Table.
The book of Sir Tristram de Lyones• The book recounts the adventures of Sir Tristram• At the age of eighteen,Sir Tristram meets Isolde and falls in love with her.Unfortunately,he delivers Isolde to King Mark,whom he serves.• The love potent which was prepared for Isolde and King Mark is instead consumed by Tristram and Isolde.• Isolde marries King Mark but she and Tristram will remain lovers.• King Mark eventually realizes what Tristram and Isolde are doing and the two lovers flee the castle.• King Mark captures Isolde and Tristram leaves Cornwall wounded.
In Britain,Tristram meets and marries anotherwoman,Isolde le Blaunche Maynes,but he will notconsummate the union. Lancelot condemns Tristram’s betrayal of his lady. After he again returns to Cornwall,Tristram is exiledby King Mark. Soon,Tristram encounters Arthur’s knights,assistsLancelot and enters a tournament. Tristram nearly wins the tournament and Lancelotdeclares Tristram the rightful winner.However,Tristram iswounded and he flees to the forest. After a series of adventures,not knowing each other,Tristram and Lancelot fight one another.
Soon,the two men arrive in Camelot and Sir Tristramis made a knight of the Round Table. King Mark is more jealous than ever because ofTristram’s success. Though King Mark desires to have Tristram killed, hefails at this as he is forced to ask for help from Tristramwhen his kingdom is at risk. Once the kingdom has been saved,King Mark writesto Arthur accusing Guinevere of faithlessness. The rest of the book’s this part is designed to revealthe valour and strength of Launcelot,Tristram and variousother knights’ engagement in tournaments and adventures.
The Tale of the Holy Grail• Previously,Launcelot had been tricked into an affair with Elaine,the daughter of King Pelles.• The child of that affair is Galahad.• At the beginning of this part,there is a report that a sword has been found in a floating stone.The sword is engraved with a legend that only the best knight in the world can pull it out and those who fail will be cursed.• Gawain tries as Arthur has ordered and fails.So does Percival.But Galahad arrives and easily pulls it out.• Soon,all of Arthur’s knights vow to go on the Grail Quest.• Galahad soon wins a white shield marked with a red cross.
The story behind the white shield claims that it hashealing powers. Galahad goes under many tests,proves his virtue,humility,generosity and worthiness. Galahad is the Christ-figure,who refusues to kill hisenemies. Meanwhile,Launcelot is undergoing his own testsand as a result,he learns that he has been motivated in hissuccesses,not by love of God,but by love of Guinevere. Launcelot regrets his sins and vows to become abetter man. Percival,Launcelot,Gawain and Bors each continuetheir seperate search for the Grail Quest.
Each man has visions which reveals his sins whilethey are sleeping.Like other knights,these three knightshave no luck because they are too sinful to succeed. Each man understands that he is too filled withpride and lacks the humility and devotion to God that isrequired to succeed. Launcelot tries the enter the Grail chamber but isstruck down just when he catches a glimpse of it. He lies in coma for twenty-four days beforerecovering. Galahad,accompanied by Percival and Bors,findsthe Grail and he is granted his wish of choosing his time ofdeath after his prayer.He performs many miracles afterthis event.
The Book of Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere• After the Grail Quest,the book reverts to Launcelot’s more human qualities and to a life less perfect than Galahad’s.• Launcelot has forgotten all the promises he had made during the quest and has turned to his love for Guinevere.• Launcelot must rescue the queen after Meliagrance captures her and his loyalty and love for the queen increases.• Launcelot is forced to choose between Queen Guinevere and King Arthur,and he chooses the queen.
The Death of King Arthur • It is clear to everyone that the queen and Launcelot are involved in an adulterous love affair.• Arthur has ignored this for some time but he no longer can ignore what has become knowledge and as a result,he orders Guinevere’s death.• As Guinever is about to be burned,Launcelot arrives,kills eveyone there including Gawain’s brothers.• The pope intervenes and Launcelot returns Guinevere to the king and is banished.• Gawain insists that he and Arthur attack Launcelot.• Gawain and Launcelot fight,Launcelot wins but he refuses to kill Gawain.
While Arthur and Gawain have been pursuingLauncelot;Arthur’s incestuos son Mordred seizes the throneand the queen. They return to fight Mordred and Gawain dies. Arthur kills Mordred but he also receives a fatalwound. He orders Excalibur to be thrown into the lake and hisbody is placed on a barge. Guinevere and Launcelot each turn to God in theirgrief and each soon dies. Sir Constantine becomes the king;the Round Tabledisperses and the knights wander off into other directions.
Courtly Love► There are many examples of courtly love in Le Morte d’Arthur,including the story of Sir Gareth and his winning of the Lady Lyonesse as his wife.► The story of romantic love and chivalry that most often comes to mind while talking about adulterous love is that of Launcelot and Queen Guinevere.It is clear that many of Launcelot’s actions are designed to please the Queen.► Launcelot fights to please and honor Guinevere,not the God. So,he is excluded from the quest for the Holy Grail.► According to a romantic tradition,a knight entering a tournament might also wear a lady’s token to express his love.
Sir Launcelot wears the token of Elayne of Astalot butonly to enhance his disguise.Later,he wears the queen’s tokenand thus he makes public his love for her. Sir Launcelot rescues her lady several times,causesGuinevere’s being sentenced to be burned. Sir Launcelot’s actions sets into motion events whichlead to the destruction of Arthur and of the Round Table. Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere’s courtly love wasfar more than a harmless romantic interlude.
HONOR► One important element is honor when King Arthur establishes the code for the knights of his Round Table.► Arthur’s knights owe him honor but more importantly,they owe honor to God.► Unfortunately,for nearly all the knights,their adventures, battles and tournaments,are fought to honor their king or more immediately,themselves.► Gawain fights for personal and family honor,Launcelot for the honor of the queen.► Because of this,almost all the knights fail in the quest for the Holy Grail.
FATE AND DESTINY► Many times,the readers are told a prophecy that includes death and destruction thanks to Merlin’s prophecies and magic.Characters are fated to meet one another in the battlefield or tournaments and to die or win based on an action that occurred much earlier and for which they had no responsibility.► This fate is not attributed to God or spiritual matters but instead to the characters present in the text.► Both Merlin and the Lady of the Lake act as the representatives of fate,manipulating the characters and their actions to create a fate they predict.
OBEDIENCE► Obedience is an element of the duty and responsibility which all knights owe to their king and God.► When Arthur commands the knights to try to pull out the sword in the floating stone and the knights are forced to face the risk of being cursed,Launcelot refuses Arthur’s order to try but Gawain willingly obeys his king.► Later,Gawain refuses to obey the king’s order that the queen be put to death.► Disobedience gradually leads to destruction.
REVENGE► Much of the action in this epic revolves around revenge.► The “eye for an eye” motif runs through the individual’s stories.For example,Sir Pellenor kills Lot,and Lot’s son Gawain will later kill Pellenor to avenge his father.► Had Gawain been able to pass on the need for blood revenge, the battle in which he and Arthur were destroyed wouldn’t have happened.► Ultimately,the theme of revenge,particularly familial blood revenge,runs through the epic and leads to the destruction of all that Arthur has created.
CRITICAL OVERVIEW► With this work,Malory functions as a compiler,compiling all the stories associated with the Arthurian legends and assembling them in one book.► Malory’s text suggests that the English were in need of the many important morals emphasized by Morte d’Arthur. Arthur’s establishment of the Round Table indicates a need for a code of conduct that will govern the land.► There is an implivation that only the purest of the knights who do not use their strength or talent with a sword in an unjust or murderous manner or who are not involved in adulterous affairs will be rewarded with God’s blessing.
KING ARTHUR► He forms the Round Table and establishes a code of behaviour,demnading his knights to be honorable.► Arthur loves his knights so much that he ignores the love between Guinevere and Launcelot,until forced to act.► He is wise and strong;his men demonstrate a great loyalty to him and he sets peace and tranquillity.► With Arthur’s death,the Round Table dissolves.
MERLIN► Merlin is a master manipulator and directs much of the action.► As a great sorcerer,he is responsible for the creation of the Round Table.► Merlin is both prophet and magician.► Although it initially seems that Merlin represents God,he does not.According to the medieval world,he represents the devil.► He meets his dawnfall by falling in love with Nineve,who just desires to learn his magic,and in the end,he is sealed alive in a cave where only Nineve can set her free.
GALAHAD► Galahad is the son of Launcelot.He is the best of the knights, the only one capable of succeding in the quest for the Holy Grail.► He represents a Christ-like figure.► He rejects pride and greed and refutes all the seven deadly sins.► He is motivated only by the love of God;is able to perform many miracles and protected from all dangers by God and faith.
KING MARK► Mark is the king of Cornwallwho is in jealousy of Tristram.► He marries Isolde,the woman whom Tristram loves.► An inept ruler,King Mark needs the man he hates most- Tristram- to defend his kingdom.► Mark is jealous of anyone who achieves success.► He eventually murders his brother because of jealousy.
TRISTRAM► Like Arthur,Tristram is born after his father’s death and is raised by a foster parent.► Like Launcelot,Tristram also loves the wife of his king.► In spite of the poor treatment afforded Tristram by his king, he continues to be loyal to King Mark,returning to defend him and save his kingdom.► His love for Isolde is unabated and although he marries another woman,he refuses to betray the woman he loves.► He successfully proves his strength and valor as a knight.► His name means “sorrowful-born” and he is also known as “The Knight with the Black Shield”.
READY FOR A FEW QUESTIONS ?► With Merlin’s help,how does Uther Pendragon persuade Igrayne to have an affair with him? A-He transforms into the image of his husband. B-He seduces her with wealth and power. C-He threatens to wage war against the Duke of Cornwall D-He uses powerful herbs to confuse her.► Why does merlin tell King Arthur to kill all children born on May Day? A-Because they were all born under an evil spell B-Because they will all die a shameful death C-Because the boy who will destroy Arthur is among them D-Because a new magician more powerful than Merlin was born that day.
>Why does Tristram go mad?A-He is tortured in prisonB-He discovers that Isolde is having an affairC-He is shipwrecked on an islandD-He will not consummate his marriage>Why does Launcelot lie with Elaine?A-He is trickedB-He wants a sonC-He loves herD-He is tired of being alone.
>Why does Launcelot refuse to draw the sword from the floating stone?A-He knows that he is not the best knight in the worldB-He wants Galahad to have the honor of drawing the swordC-He doesn’t want to fall under the sword’s curseD-He knows he will not be able to remove the sword>How does Melliagaunce know that Launcelot and Guinevere are lovers?A-He sees the two lovers in a dream and asks a hermit to explain what hesawB-He oversees a conversation between launcelot and GuinevereC-He sees blood from launcelot’s wounded hand on Guinevere’s bed sheetD-He explains his love for Guinevere and she tells him she is in love withLauncelot
>How does King Arthur die?A-He is mortally wounded by MordredB-He is mortally wounded by LauncelotC-He is heartbroken over Guinevere’s betrayalD-He is killed by robbers who overtake the battlefield.