The Book of Kyng Arthur

The Book of Kyng Arthur: The Unity of Malory's Morte Darthur

CHARLES MOORMAN
Copyright Date: 1965
Pages: 136
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130jm5v
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  • Book Info
    The Book of Kyng Arthur
    Book Description:

    Beginning with a consideration of Malory's ingenious chronology, this study shows that Malory achieved thematic and structural unity by selecting from the great mass of Arthurian legend three narrative strands -- the intrigues of Lancelot and Guinevere, the Grail quest, and the feud between the houses of Lot and Pellinore -- using these to illustrate a single theme -- the rise, flowering, and downfall of an ideal civilization. This selection and use of diverse materials, Charles Moorman asserts, indicates clearly that Malory set to work with a preconceived plan and that he did achieve his purpose, to write the "haole book of Kyng Arthur."

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6378-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PROLOGUE
    (pp. xi-xxx)

    When chapter 3 of this volume was published in one of the learned journals, an eminent American Malorian wrote me that he questioned whether the problem of Sir Thomas Malory’s intent in writing theMorte Darthur, either conscious or unconscious, could ever really be settled.

    This book will provide, I hope, at least a partial answer to his question. I intend (and ofmyintentions at least we can all be sure) to demonstrate in so far as it is possible to do so from the evidence at hand that Malory had a clearly-defined purpose in mind—to write a...

  5. One THE CHRONOLOGY OF THE MORTE DARTHUR
    (pp. 1-12)

    Of all the problems of structure and theme that arise in connection with theMorte Darthur, the most pertinent to study of Malory’s purpose and method and, hence, to establishing the unity of his book is that of the internal chronology of the work. For much of Eugène Vinaver’s case for the separation of the eight tales lies in his charge that Malory’s “inconsistencies” in overall chronology are due to the “fact that he regarded each of his works as an independent ‘tale’ or ‘book’ ” (p. xxxii), and, on the positive side, an examination of the strategy of the...

  6. Two THE FAILURE IN LOVE: LANCELOT AND GUINEVERE
    (pp. 13-27)

    Of the three controlling motifs, the most immediately compelling is the Lancelot-Guinevere story. For although the final tragedy is the culmination of the disastrous effects of all three and although Malory is careful to trace each of the three plot strands through all eight divisions of his work, Lancelot and Guinevere are, in a manner of speaking, Malory’s hero and heroine, and the reader’s first concern in theMorte Darthurnaturally should be with them.

    For, whatever else it may be, theMorte Darthuris the tragedy of two of the world’s most popular lovers, and their love and their...

  7. Three THE FAILURE IN RELIGION: THE QUEST OF THE SANKGREALL
    (pp. 28-48)

    The second, and in some ways the most important, of the three themes which infuse and direct Malory’s book is the quest of the entire court for that most striking and intriguing of all the relics of medieval piety, the Sankgreall, the Holy Grail. The Grail tradition begins, at least in writing, with Chrétien de Troyes’ twelfth-centuryConte del Graal. The hero of Chrétien’s romance, Perceval, witnesses a strange procession in which are carried a bleeding lance and a low, flat vessel(graal)which lights the hall. Although Perceval is later told that had he sought the meaning of what...

  8. Four THE FAILURE IN CHIVALRY: LOT AND PELLINORE
    (pp. 49-63)

    The third of the great failures of Arthur’s court, its inability to maintain the ideals of loyalty and knightly service demanded by its own definition of chivalry, is emphasized by a number of means throughout Malory’s book. Indeed, we are so prone to concentrate our attention on this aspect of theMorte Darthurthat we are apt to neglect the other equally important themes with which the book deals. But while it is misleading to oversimplify the theme of theMorte Darthuras “primarily a conflict of two loyalties …: on the one hand, the heroic loyalty of man to...

  9. Five ALL WHOLE TOGETHER
    (pp. 64-92)

    Two tasks remain to be accomplished: first, to point out how Malory’s three plots—the love of Lancelot and Guinevere, the Grail quest, and the Lot-Pellinore feud—interconnect and bind together the whole of theMorte Darthurand, second, to show, at least by example, how Malory integrates the seemingly unconnected strands of his sources into the whole fabric of his book. Taken together, these two accomplishments should go far to demonstrate the unity that Malory has impressed upon the waywardness of his sources.

    Malory’s use of his three major narrative lines would seem to be this: he first of...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 93-102)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 103-106)