Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Joseph of Arimathea
Joseph of Arimathea (er-ih-muh-THEE-uh), a disciple of Jesus who was present at the Crucifixion and asked Pontius Pilate for permission to bury Jesus. He, along with Nicodemus, cleansed Christ’s wounds prior to wrapping him in a shroud. While doing so, Joseph opened a wound, causing it to bleed. To prevent spilling of blood, he collected the drops in a chalice, believed to be the cup from which Christ drank during the Last Supper. For this, he was imprisoned by the Jews. While imprisoned, he was visited by the Holy Ghost. It is then that he was told of the secrets of the Grail and of its power. At this point, the quest of the Holy Grail begins.
Merlin, the illegitimate son of the devil, though he is certainly not evil. The devil, angry at the victory of Jesus, takes his revenge by raping a virgin, who, in turn, bears a son, Merlin, destined to be the wisest of all men and to oppose the teachings of Christ. He grows up to become a sorcerer in the court of Uther Pendragon, for whom he builds the Round Table. He controls the events that ultimately lead to the rise of King Arthur, son of Uther, and helps to guide the events that lead to Perceval’s quest for the Holy Grail.
Perceval, a knight of the Round Table, the hero. He begins his life not knowing of his destiny to seek the Grail. At first, he is prompted by his niece...
(The entire section is 570 words.)
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Nutt, Alfred. Studies on the Legend of the Holy Grail. New York: Cooper Square, 1965. Focuses on the Celtic origins of the tale. A good starting text for the serious student.
Waite, Arthur Edward. The Holy Grail: The Galahad Quest in the Arthurian Literature. New York: University Books, 1961. Approaches the mystical side of the tale, providing new insight.
Weston, Jessie L. The Quest of the Holy Grail. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1964. This classic on the subject of the Grail was first published in 1913, but remains one of the clearest descriptions of the Grail cycle.
Wilhelm, James J., ed. The Romance of Arthur: An Anthology of Medieval Texts in Translation. New York: Garland, 1994. Critical edition of some of the best translations of early Arthurian literature.