King Arthur & the Matter of Britain

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Picture - Beardsley: Excalibur Le Morte Darthur by Sir Thomas Malory is the source of the Arthurian legends as we know them today.
Everything that we know with certainty about the author of Le Morte Darthur is found in his book. He was called Thomas Malory, he was a knight and a prisoner, and he finished his work during the ninth year of King Edward IV's reign (4 March 1469 to 3 March 1470). He loved hunting, tournaments, and chivalry, had read widely in Arthurian romance, and had access to a splendid collection of such romances while he was writing." -- Peter J. C Field, "Sir Thomas Malory," The Arthurian Encyclopedia, Garland Press, 1986

The Morte

Le Morte Darthur is known from two sources: a version printed by William Caxton in 1485, of which one complete and one partial copy are known, and a manuscript discovered at Winchester College in 1934 and edited by Eugène Vinaver in 1947. The former is available as electronic texts based on the A. W. Pollard 1903 Macmillan version, as Caxton's edition of Mallory's Le Morte D'Arthur, edited by H. Oscar Sommer (1889), at the Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse. New URL.

Caxton divided the text into twenty-one books, although the manuscript version makes it clear that Malory originally broke his work into eight books or "tales". The tales and their primary sources are:

The first tale, of the birth and crowning of Arthur, from the French Prose Merlin. (Compare the Middle English Prose Merlin.)
The second tale, of the invasion of France and Rome, from the English Alliterative Morte Arthure
The third tale, mostly concerning Lancelot, from the French prose Lancelot
The fourth tale, of Gawain's brother Gareth, based on a lost English poem
The fifth tale, of Tristram and Isolde, based on the French Prose Tristan
The sixth tale, of the coming of the Grail, based on the French Quest de Saint Graal
The seventh tale, of the romance of Lancelot and Guenivere, based mostly on the French Mort Artu and the English Stanzaic Le Morte Arthur
The eighth tale, of the discovery of Lancelot and Guenivere's adultery, and the battle between Mordred and Arthur, also from the French Mort Artu and the English Stanzaic Le Morte Arthur

William Caxton

William Caxton, best known as the man who edited and published Le Morte Darthur, is the father of English printing. New !

Essays and Commentary

Evidence against Lancelot and Guinevere in Malory's Morte Darthur: Treason by Imagination by E. Kay Harris. "This essay focuses on two important departures Malory makes from his French source - deviations which constitute internal contradictions in his text - to show the Morte Darthur's intersection with the legal and political dimensions of the crime of high treason in fifteenth-century England." It's at Exemplaria, A Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies.
Links to other essays on Malory may be found at the Anthology of Middle English Literature New URL.

The New Arthurian Encyclopedia (Garland Reference Library of the Humanities, Vol. 931), edited by Norris J. Lacy, Geoffrey Ashe, Sandra Ness Ihle, Garland, 1991. hardcover ISBN: 0824043774; trade paperback ISBN: 0815323034. A revised and expanded edition of the original 1986 publication, quoted above.

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22 February 2004