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Arthurian Legend


Knights come to serve King Arthur at his capital city at Winchester, or Camelot. ... Raised by nuns, who lead him to Camelot. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Arthurian Legend

Arthurian Legend
Historical Arthur
  • Arthur existed, a war leader in the dark days
    following the collapse of Roman rule, around 450
    A.D. May or may not have been a king.
  • The Roman-Celtic population was being driven west
    by Anglo-Saxons.
  • Arthur briefly rallied and stopped the tide of
  • Won a mighty battle over the Anglo-Saxons at
    Mount Badon.

Arthur in Wales
  • As Britons were driven west into Wales, the
    legend of Arthur grew.
  • Around the legendary King Arthur clustered a
    series of marvelous figures, (i.e. Merlin,
    questing beast, Lady in the Lake, fire-breathing
  • And wondrous events (i.e. Quest for the Holy
    Grail, an embodiment of salvation, which had been
    brought to England by Joseph of Arimathea)
    frequently set around the festival of Pentecost
    (descent of the Holy Spirit into Christs
    apostles 50 days following Easter.)

The Legendary Arthur
  • Legends spread across Europe, particularly France
    (which comes to be entangled with England through
    William the Conqueror, Plantagenet Kings, 100
    Years War.)
  • Legends get romanticized through the poems of
    Chrétien de Troyes and many others.
  • Arthur becomes the hero who came to epitomize
    England of the 15th century.
  • King of the British Isles and Holy Roman Emperor.

  • Brings an age of justice and glory to England.
    This golden age was symbolized by the palace at

  • Notions of trust and obligation were strong.
  • Honor defined relations between people.
  • Honor was a complex concept in which one had to
    have a reputation and a commitment to integrity
    and courage.
  • Conduct on the battlefield and off.
  • From the chevalier, from French word for horse.

Chivalric or Courtly love
  • In medieval Europe, in both secular and religious
    life, love was elevated into a cult.
  • Worshipping from afar.
  • Gives a sacred character to courtly love
  • In reality, much seduction and infidelity.
  • Both pure and impure carnal love plays a
    significant role in the story of King Arthur.

Malorys Morte dArthur
  • Religious and carnal love, history and myth came
    together in the literary cycle of King Arthur and
    the search for the Holy Grail.
  • King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table,
    the love of Lancelot and Guinevere, and Sir
    Galahad and the Grail brought together the themes
    of chivalry, courtly love, and religious

Malorys Morte dArthur (cont.)
  • Captures passion, consequences, contradictions of
    romantic spiritual love.
  • One of the first great works of English prose, it
    summarizes the civilization of medieval chivalry
    in its ideal form.
  • Morte dArthur has inspired poems, novels,
    musicals, movies, comic books, role playing
    games, operas, video games, etc.

Thomas Malory
  • English knight served with distinction in the
    Hundred Years War, elected to Parliament.
  • In 1459, he and a group of fellow knights
    allegedly beat up and robbed some monks.
  • Sentenced to jail, where he died in 1471.
  • Used jail time to come to grips with the question
    of love to write Morte dArthur.

Morte dArthur
  • Uther Pendragon, a mighty ruler over the western
    part of the British Isles, falls for Igraine,
    wife of Duke of Tintagel
  • Merlin arranges for Uther to assume the form of
    the duke and be transported to his castle.
  • The real duke is killed in battle three hours
    before Uther visits Igraine, who then marries
  • Their son is Arthur, accepted as legitimate.
  • Uther Pendragon dies.

  • Arthur rides to an assembly in London. Word is
    the next king will be the man who can draw a
    sword from a stone.
  • Only the young Arthur can do so. Some nobles
    agree that Arthur should be the king of England.
    Some do not war.
  • This is not Excalibur.

Arthur as King
  • A strange woman in a lake gives the sword
    Excalibur to Arthur.
  • With that sword and his innate goodness, Arthur
    unifies Britain and the whole of Europe into one
    kingdom, with himself as Holy Roman Emperor.

The Round Table
  • Knights come to serve King Arthur at his capital
    city at Winchester, or Camelot. The knights sit
    at a round table (the dowry of Guinevere) because
    everyone is equal (ergo peers). Arthur is first
    among equals.
  • Arthur weds Guinevere.
  • The knights gather and serve the cause of good.

  • French, Ill-formed knight, knight of the cart
  • The greatest of all the knights brave,
    courteous, and bold
  • His only flaw is that he loves Queen
    Guinevereand she loves him.
  • Rescues Gwen and many other maidens
  • Does NOT succeed in Quest for Grail
  • Stays unwed to remain pure

Birth of Galahad
  • On a journey, Lancelot arrives at the castle of
    King Pelleas, who asks him to sleep with his
    daughter Elaine so that he will to sire the
    perfect knight.
  • When Lancelot refuses, Pelleas changes his
    daughters appearance so that she looks like
  • Lancelot sleeps with Elaine, sires Galahad.

  • Truly the perfect knight.
  • Raised by nuns, who lead him to Camelot. Takes
    the unfilled Siege Perilous, designated for the
    person that God chose to find the Holy Grail.
    Anyone else taking the chair would be struck
    dead, but for Galahad, a chalice appears.

Search for the Grail
  • The knights decide that a young boy should not
    seek the Holy Grail by himself, and the entire
    Round Table sets off.
  • Arthur is distraught, believes that many of these
    men of honor, courage, and faith will die on this
    lonely journey.

The Quest
  • Lancelot and many others fail.
  • Galahad remaining pure, and with Perceval and
    Bors find it and return it to Sarras, its
    rightful place.
  • Content to have achieved this goal, Galahad and
    Perceval die peacefully.
  • Bors, returns to tell about Galahads ascension
    to heaven for his goodness.

The Fall
  • Lancelots life is about gossip, defense of rep.
  • Lancelot and Guinevere are overcome by lust, and
    their affair is an open secret. Arthur shuts his
    ear to these rumors.
  • Modred tells Arthur he must show the world
    whether Guinevere is innocent or adulterous.
    Tests Lancelot, who fails.
  • Arthur, shamed, must exile Lancelot.

The Revolt
  • Arthur, without Lancelot, faces the forces of
    revolt led by Modred.
  • In a great battle, Arthur and Modred slay each
    other -- maybe.
  • As he is (maybe) dying, Arthur requests his sword
    thrown into the lake. When told that a womans
    hand reached up to take the sword, Arthur can

The Future King
  • According to Malory, Arthur was taken away to
    islands in the west by four queens, where he
    awaits the time when Britain needs him and he
    will return.
  • Guinevere becomes a nun Lancelot, a monk,
    fasting and serving God until Guinevere dies. Can
    no longer eat or drink, wastes away and dies.
  • Buried by knights who fought beside him.

Whats it All Mean?
  • Story of love, search for the Holy Grail, becomes
    a story of redemption.
  • Sinners, such as Lancelot and Guinevere, bring
    destruction to those they love. God can take away
    their sin so that they die in peace.
  • A great love story and a religious story.
  • Speaks to values of the Middle Ages.
  • Absolutely part of the British canon.

Is this a great book?
  • The theme distinction between lust and true
    spiritual love.
  • Written in noble language. The first long work of
    prose fiction in English language.
  • A universal story each generation has new
    movies, novels, comic books about Arthur.
  • Morte dArthur summarizes a culturethe world of
    the Middle Agesat its apex.

Other Biggies
  • Merlin
  • The Grail
  • Geoffrey Monmouth
  • Chrétien de Troyes
  • Tennyson and Arthur
  • Mabinogion
  • Twain and Arthur
  • Camelot, the musical