Le Morte d'Arthur

by Thomas Malory

Start Free Trial

Discussion Topic

King Arthur in Le Morte d'Arthur


In Le Morte d'Arthur, King Arthur is portrayed as the legendary British leader who leads the Knights of the Round Table. He is depicted as a noble and just ruler, embodying the chivalric ideals of bravery, honor, and courtesy. His story includes the magical sword Excalibur, his queen Guinevere, and his trusted advisor Merlin, culminating in his tragic downfall.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Where did King Arthur die in Le Morte D'Arthur?

Le Morte D’Arthur tells the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable from the time of Arthur’s conception to death. Near the end of his life, Arthur was away at battle, and his son, Mordred, makes himself the King of England and attacks Arthur’s army after taking Guinevere as his wife. During the battle, which is known as the Battle of Camlann, Gawain is mortally wounded, and although he warns Arthur not to continue, there is a misunderstanding. The battle continues, and Arthur kills Mordred, but he is also mortally wounded in the process. Arthur’s body is moved to Avalon, but it is not known where the Battle of Camlann was fought, so the exact location of Arthur’s death is unknown.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Who is King Arthur in Le Morte d'Arthur?

The legend of King Arthur forms the basis of what must be the most famous and influential stories in all of English literature. But the story of Arthur first appeared as a work of literature in the French medieval romances by Chretien de Troyes. It has been generally acknowledged by historians that Arthur was not an actual king but a literary figure of mythic status. He is possibly based in part upon a warlord named Arthur first written about by a Welsh monk in the eighth century. Four hundred years later, Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote about Arthur in a book of English history that is now accepted to be an embellished work with many fictional components. In the 15th century Thomas Malory, a man born into wealth but who became a rebellious outlaw in his twenties, wrote what would later become Le Morte D'Arthur while he was in prison.

In this book, Arthur is imagined as a king who is of the son of King Uther and Lady Igraine, who conceive Arthur when the wizard Merlin casts a spell that allows Uther to persuade Igraine he is actually her husband, the Duke Gorlois. In return for this act of deception, Merlin demands he be allowed to raise Arthur in the forest, and later gives him to the knight Sir Ector as a fosterling. Arthur learns to be a squire to his brother Sir Kay, but because he is believed to be on humble birth he is not allowed to be a knight. Upon his death Uther plunges the magical sword Excalibur into a stone, and Merlin decrees only the true king of England will be able to free the sword. When Arthur does this, he is celebrated as the greatest king England has ever seen. Despite his reign being frought with personal difficulties, there is also peace and prosperity. The magical context of Merlin's influence has been a major part of the story of Arthur since Malory's work was published, and many literary and film versions since have embraced this conceit.

Not long ago an archeological discovery was made of burial remains that suggested a resting place of a Christian knight and king, and a new theory about Arthur's possible employment as a knight of the Crusades was born (this theory was developed into a screenplay of the film King Arthur starring Clive Owen). 

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Who was the king in Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory?

Sir Thomas Malory wrote the book Le Morte d' Arthur in 1470.  It is considered to be the first novel written in the English language. The author told the story of a great king who lived toward the end of the fifth or sixth centuries who became a king as a boy.  His name was Arthur.  This is the great legend of the English people.

Historians believe there may have been an Arturus who was king of the Saxons toward the end of the medieval period.  Nothing definitive has been proven. 

This version of the story is based on Geoffrey of Monmouth's thirteenth century account of a great Saxon  King named Arthur.  Malory added many interesting details to the story: the sword Excalibur, The Round Table, the adulterous affair between Lancelot and Guenevere and the search for the Holy Grail.  Malory wrote his story in the form of eight books or tales.

Arthur lived as all men should live.  He worked for God, his realm, his people, and his family.  He taught his knights to be chivalrous and to treat others as they would want to be treated.  His round table spoke to the idea that no one was better than the other and no one should sit above another. 

The elements of the supernatural played a role in the legends.  From Arthur's birth, to his guardian Merlin, the wizard, and then to his death--Arthur's life was wrapped in mystery.  Merlin taught Arthur many lessons, including one that stands today: Might does not make Right.  Just because a person or a country has the power, does not make it okay to use it.

King Arthur fought many battles but was ultimately betrayed by those closest to him: his sister, son, wife, and friend, all caused his inevitable downfall at his last great battle. In addition, an interesting tale was spun that Arthur was taken after his great wound in battle to an Island called Avalon.  There he awaits the time when England needs him;  then, he will return to bring back the glory to his country.

In the midst of the lake, Arthur was ware of an arm clothed in white samite, that held a fair sword in that hand. ”
Thomas Malory, Le Morte D' Arthur

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on