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Le Morte d'Arthur [Norton Critical Edition]…

Le Morte d'Arthur [Norton Critical Edition]

by Sir Thomas Malory

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Norton Critical Editions

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2nd reading : The Noble Tale of the Sankgreal; I had to read this for a seminar essay, and I don't think it is among the best tales about the Knights. This is where they all need to show their virtues, and the knights who have not yet been sexually active are the ones deemed the most virtuous. Less humourous than other tales, and quite slow to read, however, it is all still very interesting to me, as the legends of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table are part of the beginning of literature as we know it.
One reason why it was slow reading is because the version I read is not in modern English, so the wording and the syntax is quite different, and it takes a lot longer to read and to make complete sense of it all. ( )
  Lexxie | Apr 23, 2013 |
It took me a long time to get through this unabridged, untranslated version of Le Morte Darthur, but it is -- for the most part, anyway -- worth it. The fact that Malory himself gave up on Tristan is a fair indication of that, and of course this is a hyper-masculine text and there are dozens of loving descriptions of battles and jousts, but the story of Arthur is, to my mind, one of the most powerful stories we tell (second only to that of Christ, in my mind). Nothing can bury that, not even a bad writer, and Malory wasn't that. A writer very much of his time, yes, but the work that inspired Tennyson, White and Steinbeck is obviously worth a look...

The Norton edition is a good one, as usual, with helpful glosses, notes, and supplementary material. For pleasure, I do recommend an abridged version of Malory, but for study I'd definitely suggest this. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
Weighing in at well over 900 pages the Norton critical edition contains all the background information you may wish to know before launching into the text itself. The only excuse for not reading it all is that most of it is so dull. I persevered (its in my nature) but at the end I was just relieved to be done with it.

A great amount of work has been done to provide an authentic text so as to present the reader with a true medieval experience, with a good introduction as to how it should be read and how it should sound. Malory’s English (mid 15th century) is not too difficult once you have got the hang of sounding it in your head phonetically and there is a good glossary at the back of the book. To ensure that the text is approachable for the modern reader the use of u, v, i, have been modernised along with the modern equivalents to th and gh and so what we have here is a language that would never have actually existed in this form. The text then is readable, but it still requires some patience.

It all starts well enough with the early life of Arthur and the sword in the stone episode being well described. This section features Merlin, but once he disappears from the scene the story starts to degenerate into a series of jousting episodes. The following section “The Noble Tale Betwyxt King Arthur and Lucius The Emperor of Rome” became almost unreadable for me, with seemingly endless battles, much confusion and so many knights and kings introduced that trying to keep track of them all was impossible. Malory’s writing here seemed at its flattest, which did not help the storytelling. A Noble Tale of Sir Lancelot Du Lake which follows is much better, but the two following very long sections “Sir Gareth of Orkney” and Sir Tristram De Lyones” are a very mixed bags indeed. Some bright spots, even some humour, but much of this is dreary tale telling. We have to wait till very near the end of Sir Tristram before elements of the holy grail story start to appear. The final three sections: The Tale of the Sankgreal (Holy Grail), The Book of Launcelot and Queen Guinevere and The Most Piteous Tale of the Mort Arthur, are very much better. This is the true stuff of legend and if you can stomach more of Malory’s dull prose then these are fascinating. These final sections are more imaginative, they contain some typical medieval dream visions and have a genuine feel for the disintegration of a time when there was more good in the world than evil.

Much of the problem of reading Malory is coping with his writing style. It is based on the Oral Tradition and so there is much repetition, especially of names, but this is not the only problem; Malory is using a limited vocabulary and he uses this unimaginatively; where descriptions are given then the same stock phrases and adjectives are used, to such an extent it is difficult to stop ones eyes glazing over. Malory’s sentence structure is fairly simple and the sentences tend to follow one another with very little connection Most of the time it is like reading a news report devoid of description and ornamentation.

I could not help comparing his style to (admittedly modern versions) of Chretien De Troyes or Wolfram Von Eschenbach’s stories of Arthur, which were written two centuries earlier and are far superior. Malory with his subject matter the age of Chivalry is looking backwards rather than forwards. He was writing at a time when the Wars of the Roses were dividing England and the age of chivalry was not much in evidence and his writing reflects this fact and so while the language is more modern than Chaucer’s for instance, the writing style seems to come from a period further back in time.

The Norton edition contains extracts from Malorty’s sources; translations from the Old French Vulgate, the alliterative Morte Arthure and from the Stanzaic Morte Arthur. There are also some background information/texts from Malory’s own time period all of which will be useful to the student and interesting for the more casual reader. The Critical essays are the usual mixed bag with Helen Coopers essay on Counter Romance and Mark Lambert's on Shame and Guilt being standouts. All the additional information contained in the Norton does firmly ground the text in a place and time and will appeal to those readers who want to find out more about the origins of the Arthurian legends.

Personally I found this both a fascinating and a frustrating reading experience. I fell asleep more times than I can remember than when reading any other book. Malory’s text just seemed to sap my concentration levels and yet at other times I was intrigued. I suppose what I have gathered from this experience is that I should not have read it all at once; dipping in and out of it may have been the answer, but too late now I have read it all. ( )
3 vote baswood | Jun 15, 2012 |
It's a great edition of the text with excellent secondary materials and essays.

However, I am very disappointed that an edition which advertises itself as being "unabridged" and in "original spelling" in fact silently emends all yoghs and thorns to gh and th. Use of u/v and i/j has also been ‘modernized’. It seems utterly bizarre to go to the lengths of reproducing such trivial features as Lombardic rubrication, when the Middle English alphabet this work was written in has been edited out. ( )
1 vote Widsith | Sep 7, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sir Thomas Maloryprimary authorall editionscalculated
Shepherd, Stephen H. A.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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From the Maryage of Kynge Uther unto Kyng Arthure that Regned Aftir Hym and Ded Many Batayles
How Uther Pendragon Gate the Noble Conqueror Kyng Arthur

Hit befel in the dayes of Uther Pendragon, when he was Kyng of all Englond and so regned, that there was a myghty duke in Cornewaill that helde warre ageynst hym long tyme, and the duke was called the Duke of Tyntagil.
Malory's 'hoole book, it is clear, has undergone major revisions at the hands of successive generations of editors.
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Do Not Combine: This is a "Norton Critical Edition", it is a unique work with significant added material, including essays and background materials. Do not combine with other editions of the work. Please maintain the phrase "Norton Critical Edition" in the Canonical Title and Publisher Series fields.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393974642, Paperback)

The text is unabridged, with original spelling and extensive, easy-to-use marginal glosses and footnotes.

No other edition accurately represents the actual (and likely authorial) divisions of the text as attested to by its two surviving witnesses—Caxton’s 1485 print and, especially, the famous Winchester Manuscript. The Winchester Manuscript is now generally agreed to be the more authentic of the two earlier texts. The Norton Critical Edition is the first edition of Malory to recover important elements of this manuscript: paragraphing marginal annotations hierarchies of narrative division as signaled by size and decorative intricacy of initial capitals and font changes The Norton Critical Edition also represents, in black-letter font, the striking rubrication of proper names in the Winchester Manuscript, reconstructing for readers something of an authentic medieval reading experience, one which gives visual support to Malory’s extraordinary representation, in character and setting, of a chivalric ideal. No other student edition of Malory contains such extensive contextual and critical support.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:56 -0400)

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