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King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

Powerful Essays
King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

The legends of King Arthur of Britain and his Knights of the Round Table, among the most popular and beloved of all time, originated in the Middle Ages. As they do today, medieval people listened to the accounts of Arthur with fascination and awe. It is certain that popular folktales were told about a hero named Arthur throughout the Celtic parts of the British Isles and France, especially in Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany (Lunt 76). Other stories of chivalry that did not include Arthur existed in this time period as well. Although these stories were not recorded at first, they were known as far away as Italy, where mosaics and carvings depict Arthurian characters. The tales are often mentioned by early writers including William of Malmesbury, who distrusted them as "lying fables" (Bishop 32). Today literary critics believe that such folktales are sometimes based on real characters, but the stories about them change greatly as they are passed from one generation to the next. This art of storytelling became an oral tradition among these people and their ancestors, so the question of King Arthur's actual existence still remains a mystery (Bishop 34). Nevertheless, the medieval world viewed much of the Arthurian legend as a part of history, and writers of the time built into the legend many of their highest ideals-deeds of chivalry, courtly love, and the contribution of the Arthurian legends and romances to literature.

Chivalry was a code of honor that developed for armed knights on horseback, the most powerful fighters in medieval warfare. The word is related to cavalry and to the French word chevalier, which means horseman, and gained its meaning during the Middle Ages (E...

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...ed the lives of simple men (Jordan 71). This was all a realm of the imagination conceived my great authors during the Middle Ages and was translated into medieval garb (Evans 74). Perhaps very few people realize what a very great realm of the imagination the legends of King Arthur are, and how vast a literature it has become. During the Middle Ages, this was the great theme of creative writing in poetry and prose (Evans 137). Not only in England, but preeminently in France and Germany were there also romances of Arthur. In fact, they existed in every language of Christendom at the time (Lunt 121). This spirit was preserved in the re-workings of writers throughout history. The legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, whether truly every existent or not, have had a profound influence on virtues, ideals, morals, and literature throughout history.
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