Morte Darthur

					              Morte D’Arthur

   Published in 1485
   Not a poem, but a lengthy prose narrative
    based on very lengthy French prose works,
    telling the entire rise and fall of King
    Arthur’s kingdom.
   It’s length makes it a less unified work than
    Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
               Morte D’Arthur
   Malory’s tale follows not one, but many of King
    Arthur’s knights.
   These various adventures are intertwined using a
    technique known as “interlace.”
   The French translation of the title is “Death of
    Arthur,” indicating Malory’s primary source, a
    French prose romance called La Mort le Roi Artu
    (The Death of King Arthur).
              Morte D’Arthur

   In Malory’s tale, the source of Lancelot’s
    chivalry and the cause of the downfall of
    Arthur’s kingdom is the courtly love
    relationship between Lancelot and
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   Lancelot is the central figure in Malory’s
    work. He is Arthur’s best knight and no one
    surpasses him in chivalry, except for his son
   Lancelot’s love for Guinevere is both a
    positive and negative force: it is the source of
    Lancelot’s greatness and downfall.
               Morte D’Arthur

   The upside to their relationship is inspired
    through courtly love.
   The downside is that it causes him to fail at
    the Grail quest and begins the war between
    Lancelot and Arthur, leading to Arthur’s
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   This upside/downside paradox reflects two
    different codes of behavior operating within
    the story:
       While Christianity condemns adultery, the
        chivalric code values courtly love because it
        makes the lovers better people.
       Society also benefits from the knight’s love-
        inspired valor (as Arthur did in the years of
        Lancelot’s favor with him).
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   Grail Quest:
       The Holy Grail was introduced into Arthurian
        legend by Chretien’s (French romantic
        troubadour) Story of the Grail, an unfinished
        work. The Grail was a dish used to carry a
        communion wafer to an old man.
       In Malory’s work and the Vulgate Cycle (on
        which Malory based his work), it becomes a holy
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   In Malory’s work, the Holy Grail becomes
    the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper, as
    well as the cup used to catch some of his
    blood during the Crucifixion.
   It was said to have been brought from
    Jerusalem to England by Joseph of
    Arimathea, a direct ancestor of Lancelot and
    his son, Galahad.
                 Morte D’Arthur
   Galahad has all of his father’s knightly perfection,
    but none of his sins, and is therefore able to
    complete the Quest of the Holy Grail and is
    ultimately borne by angels directly to heaven.
   Lancelot is, thus, identified as the best of all earthly
    knights because of his deeds that are inspired by
    love for Guinevere, but fails as a celestial knight
    because of that same love.
              Morte D’Arthur
   In the selections that you read…
   The lovers are betrayed by the spite of
    Agravain and Mordred.
   Lancelot accidentally kills Gawain’s
    brothers, Gaheris and Gareth while rescuing
    the queen, thereby becoming an enemy of
    Gawain and causing civil war in Arthur’s
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   Eventually a peace treaty is established and
    Guinevere is returned to Arthur and
    Lancelot goes into exile.
   Gawain, however, pushes Arthur to raise and
    army and pursue Lancelot (to avenge his
    brothers’ deaths).
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   Meanwhile, while Arthur is off waging war
    against Lancelot, Mordred declares himself
    king and tries to marry Guinevere; Arthur
    and his army must return home to fight
   Gawain repents his anger against Lancelot
    before his death.
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   So, Gawain’s ghost comes to Arthur, telling
    him that Lancelot will save him from
   Guinevere decides to become a nun;
    Lancelot, a monk.
   At the end of the tale, the two lovers still
    love each other despite their new found faith
    and saintly status.
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   Guinevere is able to predict her own death (a
    sign of God’s Grace).
   Lancelot has a vision of his own death (more
    signs of heavenly favor), and his death are
    accompanied by signs of holiness.
   Guinevere is reunited with her husband in

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