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Le Morte d'Arthur (1485)

by Sir Thomas Malory

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6,143481,257 (3.87)146
Presents the epic story of King Arthur, the wizard Merlin, his Knights of the Round Table, the sword Excalibur, and his tragic and poetic death, in a prose translation of the classic legend, featuring an introduction by acclaimed poet Robert Graves.
  1. 40
    The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck (caflores)
  2. 20
    Tristan: With the surviving fragments of the 'Tristran' of Thomas by Gottfried von Strassburg (Shuffy2)
    Shuffy2: See the similarities between the two love triangles of King Arthur, Lancelot, and Guenevere AND King Mark, Isolde, and Tristan
  3. 00
    Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Read the two concurrently and got a good sense of the kind of chivalric literature that gave birth to Quixote's madness.

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The first English-language prose version of the Arthurian legend, completed by Sir Thomas Malory about 1470 and printed by William Caxton in 1485. The only extant manuscript that predates Caxton’s edition is in the British Library, London. It retells the adventures of the knights of the Round Table in chronological sequence from the birth of Arthur. Based on French romances, Malory’s account differs from his models in its emphasis on the brotherhood of the knights rather than on courtly love, and on the conflicts of loyalty (brought about by the adultery of Lancelot and Guinevere) that finally destroy the fellowship. ( )
  Marcos_Augusto | Oct 22, 2021 |
Full disclosure, I did not actually make it through reading this book - I only read to page 235 before I gave up and focused on enjoying Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations. Malory may have been the driving force behind expanding the Arthurian mythos to include more adventures about King Arthur’s knights and in romanticising the ideals of medieval chivalry, but unfortunately that doesn’t make up for the fact that his writing style is completely obtuse and unpleasant to read. It’s amazing what punctuation (especially punctuation and formatting that’s tied to dialogue) will do for readability, and how a lack-there-of presents a barriere which modern readers are not going to enjoy. Malory’s language itself isn’t exactly modernized, which is expected in a text coming to us from the 1400s, but in this specific edition which was published in the 1890s (mine is a modern facsimile republication of course) I expected at least a modicum of modernization.

Yet my goal in purchasing this specific edition wasn’t really to read the stories of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table, anyways. I’m pretty familiar with the majority of Arthurian lore already, and to a certain extent expected that the readability of this volume wasn’t going to be its shining glory; like most purchasers of this weighty book (I imagine), I got it because it reprinted in its entirety Aubrey Beardsley’s first major collection of literary artwork. Compared to some of Beardsley’s later work, the Arthurian collection does have a few downfalls: its scope is far too large for the young artist, and readers can tell that his creativity was taxed by the sheer number of titling pieces he had to produce. Yet the larger illustrations, even those which don’t depict specific scenes from the tales, are wonderful examples of Beardsley’s mastery of composition, linework, and balance of negative and positive space. Even though the smaller compositions quickly become repetitive and stray from depicting the chapters they’re assigned to that doesn’t stop them from being great examples of Beardsley’s unique style of art and a showcase of his artistic experimentation in book illustration. There’s something intrinsically attractive about books which include titling artwork, so I’m glad that the publisher chose to utilize this method to enhance his publication - even though it wasn’t particularly popular at the time or a guaranteed success when other methods of illustration were undoubtedly more popular. ( )
  JaimieRiella | Feb 25, 2021 |
King Arthur’s mythic Round Table – with Queen Gwynevere, Sir Launcelot, and the famous sword Excalibur – resounds through England’s history. They might be fable, or they might have a historical root. Either way, they make for a good telling and national myth. Sir Thomas Malory recorded these tales in book form in the late fifteenth century, and Keith Baines adapted these for modern languages in the mid-twentieth century. Their storytelling power remains full of intrigue and drama.

Be forewarned that these stories contain much conflict and fighting. They tell of a day where knights maintained the social order, and these knights maintained order amongst themselves by a code of honor. As abundantly repeated, Sir Launcelot was the most noble of these knights, second only in greatness to his son Galahad. The honor of knighthood achieved some level of eternality for these chaps and encourages the reader to aim for similar levels of greatness.

But this was no tranquil knighthood. These knights courageously entered into drama-filled situations and sought to resolve them honorably. Malory’s records delineate many of these dramas. In an era and country ruled by royalty, knighthood symbolized a nobility for the common man. (Unfortunately, in this era, women were excluded from such honors.) These tales form a founding myth of the English people, where in the absence of a democracy or a republic, the ambitious sought to serve the king – and by the king, the people.

Readers of this work should understand that this founding myth forms as much a part of British culture as the founding myth of the Revolutionary War does for the American people. Indeed, Great Britain still is subject to a heredity (though constitutional) monarchy which allegedly traces its origin back to Arthur. Hence this work provides many political, historical, and cultural insights in its contribution to literature.

Students of England or Western civilization will certainly benefit from studying this work. Also, generally educated readers will likely benefit from enhanced understanding of the unique British people. But philosophical understanding is not all there is. Readers will also find these stories entertaining as adapted by Baines into a fluent, modern tongue. They harken the human heart back to an era of chivalry and romance. This era may have never existed in history exactly as told, but it certainly dwells still in our hearts. Understanding that romance of honor will continue to benefit the modern reader if she/he chooses to spend their time seeking after Camelot. ( )
  scottjpearson | Dec 27, 2020 |
This is one of those books I'm glad I read, but it got old, fast. Its a classic for western literature, and its the inspiration for so many early modern fantasy writers. Unfortunately, I didn't like it. Between all the kings and knights, the countless jousting matches, and really unlikable characters, it I had a hard time reading this. Of course, the stories are drawn from oral tradition, the author, Malory, pretty much made up whatever he wanted and for late 15th century, nobody much cared about accuracy.

As for characters, the only one I really liked was Nyneve, who locked Merlin up in a caver for following her around (Merlin deserved it). ( )
  TheDivineOomba | Aug 22, 2020 |
Admittedly, I skimmed sections. I was reading for research, not for sheer fun. While lacking in much that a modern story requires, it's a fascinating look into the culture of the time, and of course required reading if one plans any mucking about with Arthurian legends. ( )
  RJ_Stevenson | Aug 19, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (57 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Malory, Sir Thomasprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Agrati, GabriellaEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baines, KeithTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beardsley, AubreyIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bryan, Elizabeth J.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Budin, Stephanie LynnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Caxton, WilliamEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cooper, HelenEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cowen, JanetEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dillon, DianeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dillon, LeoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ferguson, Anna-MarieIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Field, P. J. C.Editor.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gibbings, RobertIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Goodrich, Norma LorreEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Graves, RobertIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jacobi, DerekNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lumiansky, Robert M.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Magini, Maria LetiziaEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Matthews, JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pollard, Alfred W.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rhys, ErnestEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rhys, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Strachey, Sir EdwardEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vinaver, EugèneEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wright, ThomasEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Anna
To Frances Strachey
Her father inscribes this book
the introduction to which
could not have been now re-written
without her help
in making the ear familiar with words
which the eye can no longer read.
First words
King Uther Pendragon, ruler of all Britain, had been at war for many years with the Duke of Tintagil in Cornwall when he was told of the beauty of Lady Igraine, the duke's wife.
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This is the entry for the complete, unabridged text. Please don't combine with selections or retellings!
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Presents the epic story of King Arthur, the wizard Merlin, his Knights of the Round Table, the sword Excalibur, and his tragic and poetic death, in a prose translation of the classic legend, featuring an introduction by acclaimed poet Robert Graves.

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Book description
This historic book may have numerous typos, missing text, images, or index. Purchasers can download a free scanned copy of the original book (without typos) from the publisher. 1917. Not illustrated. Excerpt: ... SIR TRISTRAM THE BEST KNIGHT 259 tram, take your horse. And when Sir Launcelot heard him name Sir Tristram: Alas! said Launcelot, what have I done? I am dishonoured. Ah, my lord Sir Tristram, said Launcelot, why were ye disguised? ye have put yourself in great peril this day; but I pray you noble knight to pardon me, for an I had known you we had not done this battle. Sir, said Sir Tristram, this is not the first kindness ye showed me. So they were both horsed again. Then all the people on the one side gave Sir Launcelot the honour and the degree, and on the other side all the people gave to the noble knight Sir Tristram the honour and the degree; but Launcelot said nay thereto: For I am not worthy to have this honour, for I will report me unto all knights that Sir Tristram hath been longer in the field than I, and he hath smitten down many more knights this day than I have done. And therefore I will give Sir Tristram my voice and my name, and so I pray all my lords and fellows so to do. Then there was the whole voice of dukes and earls, barons and knights, that Sir Tristram this day is proved the best knight. HOW SIR TRISTRAM DEPARTED WITH LA BEALE ISOUD, AND HOW PALOMIDES FOLLOWED AND EXCUSED HIM, AND HOW KING ARTHUR AND SIR LAUNCELOT CAME UNTO THEIR PAVILIONS AS THEY SAT AT SUPPER, AND OF SIR PALOMIDES. Then they blew unto lodging, and Queen Isoud was led unto her pavilions. But wit you well she was wroth out of measure with Sir Palomides, for she saw all his treason from the beginning to the ending. And all this while neither Sir Tristram, neither Sir Gareth nor Dinadan, knew not of the treason of Sir Palomides; but afterward ye shall hear that there befell the greatest debate betwixt Sir Tristram and Sir Palomides that might be. So when the tournam...
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