The Arthurian Legends Room

The Arthurian Legends Room

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The Arthurian Legends Room

Sir Thomas Malory was born around the year 1416 and was the son of a country gentleman. He was an MP and a justice of the peace for a period of time. However, in the 1440's he was found guilty of a series of violent crimes, and he spent most of the 1450's in prison. By 1462, he was out of jail. Then, in 1468, he was charged with being involved in a plot against Edward IV, and he was sent to jail once again. It was during this later imprisonment that he finished Le Morte Darthur.

Within a few months of finishing Le Morte Darthur, Malory was released from prison. He died soon after in 1471. Fourteen years later, in 1485, William Caxton printed an edited text and gave the work its name. Centuries later, in 1935, a manuscript version of the text was found in the Winchester College library.

Le Morte Darthur is an eight-book story about the legendary King Arthur's life. Malory borrowed from a number of earlier works including the French Vulgate cycle (Arthurian prose romances) from the thirteenth century and Tristan, also French. Within the text itself, Malory often mentions the English books and French books from which he drew his story.

Arthurian Romances tell the tale of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. These knights live by a code of chivalry with a duty to serve God and their king; they strive to live a life of honesty and purity. In the modern world, Camelot is often used to symbolize this ideal of honesty and purity.

(from St. Martin's Anthology of English Literature: Volume I - The Middle Ages and The Norton Anthology of English Literature)

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

There is really very little known about the author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. There is speculation that he wrote the three other poems that are part of the same manuscript as Gawain. They are Pearl, Patience, and Purity.

The story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a combination of a number of separate plots that occur in folklore. These plots are the beheading game and the temptation.

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The beheading game involves a promise to exchange blows with an axe, and the temptation involves a lady's attempt to seduce a hero. In addition, the figure of the Green Knight is thought to have originated from a pagan vegetation myth. The myth involves the green man being decapitated as part of a ritual to ensure the return of spring. Although these elements all existed previously, they have been successfully woven together by the unknown author to make this poem what we know it as today.

(from The Norton Anthology of English Literature)
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