King Arthur The Classic Romance
The Middle Aged Romance • The Middle Ages marks the period from 1066 to 1517 approximately. • New form of literature developed in the middle ages—the Romance • A Romance is a long verse narrative about the adventures of knights and other heroes. • Romances express nostalgia for a past, more perfect, age.
Middle ages cont. • Storytelling was big entertainment; “scops, bards, minstrels, etc. spread their stories orally, as most were illiterate. • By the mid 12th century, literate poets such as Chretien de Troyes began to write the legends, creating more polished, “courtly” versions to be recited at formal gatherings.
Celebrated in romance stories as believers in chivalry Followed a chivalric code: bravery, honor, loyalty, piety, generosity to foes, protector of women Usually a brave, but crude warrior in early stories In 12th century, became “polished” and aristocratic His “lady” was rarely his wife or anyone he could hope to marry. Proved himself to his “lady” by adventure or quest His quest was fulfilled by a long journey with supernatural events, evil adversaries, and magical allies Struggle between good and evil (journey into the dark side of humanity) Who was a Knight?
Was King Arthur real? • The legend is based on a 6th century Celtic warlord who lived in Wales. • He led his people against Saxon invaders from Germany. • He supposedly was wounded in battle and buried at the abbey of Glastonbury in England.
The legend emerges… • In 817, a monk named Nennius composed the 1st written account of King Arthur—in Latin. • In 12th cent., Geoffrey of Monmouth, a historian, added Arthur to his history of British kings, including the story of Merlin and Queen Guinevere.
The legend grows… • Stories about Arthur grew in number and detail as the legends cycled through France, Spain, Germany, and Italy. • New characters were added, including Sir Lancelot, Sir Galahad, and Sir Percival • In the 12th century, Chretien de Troyes wrote the version which became popular and accepted all over Europe
Sir Thomas Malory’s Arthur • Malory completed a prose version of the Arthurian saga in 1470. • He gathered all of the tales circulating in Europe since the onset of the Middle Ages. • Le Morte d’ Arthur was published 1st in 1485 by William Caxton, the first English printer.
Malory’s legacy • Le Morte d’ Arthur proposes a return to the ideals of chivalry, to a simpler way of life with established codes of behavior. • Le Morte d’ Arthur is the first English prose epic, the last great medieval romance and one of the 2 most important pieces from the Middle Ages (2nd is Canterbury Tales).
T. H. White continues the chronicles of Arthur • The Once and Future King: a tetralogy consisting of “The Sword in the Stone,” “The Witch in the Wood, “ and “The Ill- Made Knight.” • He published The Book of Merlyn in 1977.
The story behind “The Sword in the Stone: • King Uther of England loved Igraine, another Knight’s wife • With help of magic, he deceived Igraine into thinking he was her husband. • Arthur was the child conceived of this “trick.”
Merlin and Arthur, the child • The great magician Merlin protected Arthur, taking him to Sir Ector and asking him to raise Arthur as his own child. • No one knew Arthur’s identity until he revealed it by pulling out the famous “sword in the stone.”
The Round Table • As a part of his education, Arthur had been “turned into animals” to see the world from different perspectives. • While he was King, Arthur established an order of knights who believed in “might for right.” • To equalize ranking, knights would join each other at the “Round Table” to make laws and discuss ways to help the oppressed.
Deadly family ties • Arthur’s half sister, Morgan le Fay—an evil sorceress herself-- constantly plots to destroy him and his knights. • Mordred, perhaps Arthur’s son by Morgan le Fay or just his nephew, wars against Arthur for possession of his kingdom, Camelot.
Arthur the Warrior King • Fought war against the Roman emperor Lucius and conquered much of Europe • Called home because his nephew Mordred had seized his kingdom and queen • Began the quest for the Holy Grail upon returning home
Arthur, the husband and friend • Guinevere, the beautiful daughter of a king, became Arthur’s beloved Queen. • Launcelot, the greatest of Arthur’s knights, was the best and worst of friends to Arthur. • Arthur, Guinevere, and Launcelot emerge as the world’s most famous love triangle.
Sir Launcelot du Lake • 150 Knights sat with King Arthur at the Round Table, but only one was his favorite—Launcelot. • Devoted to Arthur and in love with Queen Guinevere, Launcelot became torn causing great suffering for all three. • To prove his worthiness and overcome his dilemma, Launcelot set off on a quest like any brave knight would do.
Even when man dies, the legend lives on. • Arthur returns Excalibur before he dies. • Arthur is taken away by “the ladies of the lake” to be buried in Avalon. • The ruins of Glastonbury Abbey may be the original isle of Avalon.
Arthur’s gravesite?A marker there reads… • “Site of King Arthur’s Tomb In the year 1191 the bodies of King Arthur and his queen were said to have been found on the south side of the Lady Chapel. On 19th April 1278 their remains were removed in the presence of King Edward and Queen Eleanor to a black marble tomb on this site. The tomb survived until the dissolution of the abbey in 1539.”
Is there “romance” today? • J.R.R. Tolkein was a professor of medieval languages and literature at Oxford University. • His Lord of the Rings trilogy draws upon medieval romance characteristics to create the memorable characters and story lines we love today.