The Legends of Arthur

The Legends of Arthur

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The Legends of Arthur are considered the most treasured pieces of collected literature. Many writers have been fascinated by the mythical Knight and his adventurous tales. Of those authors are two of the most recognized– Sir Thomas Malory and Mary Stewart. Though the dates of which they lived were separate (Malory -1400's; Stewart -1900's), their love and interest of the Legend must have been equally great. If you look, though, and read the two stories, one might find a way to compare and contrast the two. Both authors use a unique point of view that are surprisingly different from on another.
Malory's view is presented to me as a distant relationship between the narrator and the story:
...the commoners arose with a tumultuous cry and demanded that Arthur should be made king. The nobles, knowing in their hearts that the commoners were right, all knelt before Arthur and begged forgiveness of having delayed his success for so long. Arthur forgave them and then, offering his sword at the high altar was dubbed first knight of the realm. (333)
For such a climactic and honorable moment, Malory didn't use descriptive sentences to show the great king taking up the sword and the ruling of a great nation.
Almost 500 years later, Mary Stewart will invent a way of telling the story through the eyes of a chief character, the wizard Merlin. With the use of Merlin's role and part in the legend, Stewart was able to help the reader feel depth and texture in the world of Arthur at the time of his coronation:
Flames from the nine lamps, flaring then dying; flames licking up the stone of the altar; flames running along the blade of the sword until it glowed white hot. I (Merlin) stretched my hands out over the palms flat. The fire licked my robe blazing white from sleeve and finger, but where it touched, it did not even singe. (335)
To me, as a reader, this makes me feel a lot closer w/ the story and its characters. Although it would seem that these two authors had similar thoughts and ideas when creating the points of view. They surprisingly don't.
Stewart's idea of using a character from the story (in this case, Merlin) to reveal its setting gives the reader a better understanding of the surroundings.

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As shown in the previous example, Stewart is able let the reader see a firsthand account of what the Sword in the Stone really looked like. Stewart's Merlin describes the setting, but not Merlin himself. In other words, there is not enough action to tell the reader what kind of person Merlin is.
In Malory's work, it is the complete reversal. What Malory lacked in scenic setting details, he made up for it with action and characterization:
Sometime later Merlin appeared before the king. "Sire," he said, "you know that you must provide for the upbringing of your child?.... ....Your child is destined for glory, and I want him brought to me for his baptism. I shall then give him into the care of foster parents who can be trusted not to reveal his identity before the proper time. Sir Ector would be suitable: he is extremely loyal, owns good estates, and his wife has just borne him a child. She could give her child into the care of another woman, and herself look after yours." (332)
This is a great example of Malory uses indirect characterization to show that Merlin was wise, and keen foresight, and was loyal to the king. Not only that, but characterization can also help explain the plot and the reader can predict what Merlin will do next, based on their judgement on Merlin's character from the last passage.
The big similarities between Stewart's and Malory's way of characterizing is that they were both able to make an interesting plot, even though their writing styles and preferences were unbalanced. Overall, these two authors brought out the real beauty of the Arthur legend. Stewart used her clever way of creating a strong narrator/story relationship. On the other hand, Malory focused on the plot and action and characters of the tales. There is not a simple way to say that Malory and Stewart had the same vision of Arthur's coronation, only to say they both had an extreme fascination of the magnificent Legends of Arthur. The Once and Future King.
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