Le Morte d'Arthur

by Thomas Malory

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What historical events and social issues of the time are connected to Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur?

Historical events and social issues connected to Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur include wars and political unrest in England. The political instability of the Wars of the Roses, fought between the York and Lancaster factions over the English throne, is connected to Le Morte d'Arthur's nostalgic look at Camelot. The poem's depiction of its ultimate fall after the dissolution of the Round Table is also linked to the instability.

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Le Morte d'Arthur was written during the fifteenth century, long after the age of chivalry had passed and was beginning to become enshrined in myth. England was transitioning from the late medieval period and into the early modern world. The fifteenth century was also a time of wars in England. First was the war over French territory, waged by Henry V, and then the War of the Roses, which dominated England for much of the latter part of the century. During the Wars of the Roses, the houses of York and Lancaster fought bitterly over who possessed the English throne. Family members turned against one another. The leadership of the country was unstable as factions struggled for dominance.

Malory's Arthurian epic was likely a reaction to the revival of interest in the Arthurian legend during the period of his writing. It could be interpreted as both nostalgic for a mythical past England and a reflection of the turmoil of then-contemporary England. It depicts the splendor and peace of Arthur's golden reign, hearkening back to medieval codes of honor and chivalry. Camelot's final descent into ruin after the dissolution of the Round Table reflected the contemporary reality of political instability.

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