Talk:Le Morte d'Arthur

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Title: less or more obscure?[edit]

If you asked, "Which is the Wikipedia entry, " Le Morte Darthur" or "Le Morte d'Arthur,"' I could have told you it would be the more obscure one. This is consistent throughout Wikipedia. It's a little streak of affectation we seem to have. Wetman 08:08, 10 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I changed it back, after checking with Google. Seems that there is a slight proponderance for the apostrophe version in titling of modern editions and a very great proponderance in Google counts for citing the title with the apostrophe, probably because it feels better grammatically in modern English (which isn't a bad reason). I still slightly prefer the form "Le Morte Darthur", because it is the original and because it looks more wrong while being more pedantically correct and because it is used for the recent excellent Norton Critical Edition which blows away a lot of Vinaver's nonsense and inspired me to fiddle with the article, originally just to include a reference to that edition in the bibliography. Jallan 17:34, 10 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I agree that the original is the original. Besides, if we're in the business of correcting titles, the title should really be La Morte d'Arthur. Why correct the apostrophe but not the article? 49giantsharks (talk) 18:21, 11 June 2013 (UTC)

Is it really in Middle English?[edit]

Surely "Le Morte Darthur" as published by Caxton in 1485 is in Early Modern English, not Middle English? -Zac.

The hoole booke of kyng Arthur & of his noble knyghtes of the rounde table.
at least the title looks like Early English and not Middle English.. in Middle English they still used that runic which I dont know how to write in this stupid japanese keyboard instead of th right? I talk from my reading of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. And another thing
"Many modern editions update the spelling and some of the pronouns from Malory's original Middle English, repunctuate and reparagraph, but otherwise leave the text as it was written."
if they update spelling, pronouns, punctuation, and paragraphing.. what is that is "left as it was written"?--Lacrymology 03:14:58, 2005-08-04 (UTC)
 :-) Everything else. The story is still told in the same words without rephrasing anything.
I'm not sure that the use of the thorn character Þ (does Alt-0222 work on your keyboard?) determines the language - I think what counts is the content. If after getting used to the spelling, the typeface and the odd unfamiliar word you can read the book without any extra help, then it must be in your language. -Zac
which means nothing, really.. I could pretty much read Sir Gawain and english is not my language, actually =). Anyways, I heard that Tolkien has an unfinished translation of this book, so I take it it's not as "transparent" as Shakespeare --Lacrymology 05:09:38, 2005-08-05 (UTC)
I'm a bit puzzled by your response. According to the linguists I've spoken to, the definition of a common language is mutual intelligibility. If, after allowing yourself a short period of adjustment, you're able to read a text or understand a person without assistance, then by definition you must be using the same language as it or them. Even highly literate native English speakers are not usually able to properly understand Sir Gawain or Chaucer without assistance, therefore those texts are considered to be in a different language from ours, hence the need for translations, as you yourself mention. I'm suggesting that "Morte Darthur", by contrast, is just as comprehensible to the modern reader as Shakespeare or the King James Bible, and therefore belongs to the same language as them.
This all seems quite reasonable to me so I don't understand what it is that you find meaningless. As for English not being your language, according to your page it is one of your languages! -Zac
By "not my language" I meant not my mother language, and I could speak it even less when read Sir Gawain, althought I must accept that even if I understood the most general meaning of the story, I didn't get it in detail. I shouldn't be surprised if I tried to read it again and I didn't understand it, not because my english has got worse, but because my standards to consider that I understood a text have grown. Anyways, so hereby you're telling me that while Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is not generally understandable by the average english reader, La Morte Darthur is, and therefore, "Middle English" should be changed to "Early Modern English", and I say that since that was what you said to begin with and no one has come to say otherwise.. why haven't you changed that yet =). What I said was "meaningless" was the "same language" thing, because I didn't know Middle English was considered a different language. --Lacrymology 17:22, August 5, 2005 (UTC)
As I'm not an expert I thought I would post a question first and wait for someone more knowledgeable than me to come along and provide an answer. Since no such person has yet done so and since it has been a week or two perhaps I should go ahead and change the page myself. -Zac
I am not an expert either (yet), but I have never heard of a scholar who did not consider Malory Middle English. Bear in mind that modernized spelling and annotations will make this a somewhat easy text, but most people would not want to ponder the original. As for thorn, its use does not define Middle English but Malory did use my favorite letter - all modern editions have replaced þ with th (read the preface to the Norton Critical Edition). Middle English began its transition to Modern English with Caxton's printing press in 1476, seven years after Le Morte Darthur's completion. Most definitely Middle English.
On the contrary, Malory's writing is quite readable without annotations. Much more readable than Shakespeare's, for example, whose works are pretty universally classified as Modern English. In time frame, Le Morte Darthur is on the border between Middle and Modern English, and I don't think it matters one way or another which you call it (I'd go with Middle English, per the citation below). This does not mean Malory's writing is difficult, however. Standardized spelling and punctuation make any text more readable, whether printed 500 years ago by Caxton or typed 5 minutes ago in a chatroom, but it cannot conceal differences in syntax or vocabulary. No spelling updates will remake Chaucer into modern English, but Malory's short sentences and simple word choice make Le Morte Darthur remarkably comprehensible over half a millennium later.
Malory wrote in Middle English. Source: Oxford English Anthology of English Literature page 445.Cariel 23:05, 16 September 2007 (UTC)

Hello, I decided to be bold and made the change from Early Modern English to Middle English. Languages don't change overnight, but Malory completed the text in 1469, so it seems that to consider it Middle English is more accurate, and I haven't read any critical articles which suggest otherwise. Although it might be more understandable than Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to a modern reader, the difference is largely to do with the dialect the Gawain poet uses. If anyone can find anything contradicting this, feel free to change it back, or if there does turn out to be any controversy among experts concerning the language, that could be mentioned in the article. Amphy (talk) 18:51, 6 December 2007 (UTC)

Best known work of Arthurian literature - in English[edit]

Just added the words "English-language" to the introduction. Many would argue that the most prominent piece of Arthurian literature is that authored by Chretien de Troyes, which introduced much of the mythos used by Malory. BTW, would someone care to enlighten us about why Malory used (or tried to use) a French title for an English-language book ?

Because in 15th century England, French was still the language of "Shyvalerie" and the knights and lords descended from Breton, Norman, and Flemish immigrants of the 11th-12th centuries were expected to be conversant with it. Not too conversant, of course, or Malory's book would have been unnecessary; but as late as 1408 at least one English poet was still writing with equal ease in both English and Norman-French. Moreover, though French skills among the English upper classes seem to have diminished from about 1400 on, down to 1453 the English still held French lands and the soldiers who went over to France had an opportunity to pick up some French. One of those soldiers was Thomas Malory. He was obviously proud of his French skills and took the occasional opportunity to show them off.
Ditto to the above, except that so far as we know, the title isn't Malory's. Caxton's editions were published as Le Morte Darthur; the Winchester Manuscript doesn't have that title, which is one of the things that led Vinaver to think of this as the "collected works" of Malory.
Also, why "tried to use"? It's not as if he failed to use a French title. 13:08, 7 May 2006 (UTC)

Written in Prison[edit]

'Malory likely started work on it while he was in prison' I'd like to seem a citation for this. According to Kaeuper's Chivalry and Violence in Medieval Europe, the only thing one can mention about Malory without stirring up controversy is that he admired prowess. Unless I see substantial evidence about Malory's imprisonment, I opt for removing that line. Cariel 16:14, 26 April 2006 (UTC)

William Caxton is the one who said Malory was a prisoner in his introduction to the book. We shouldn't remove the line, as the prison thing shows up in every discussion of Malory, but maybe we should clarify why people think he started the book in prison.--Cúchullain t/c 19:10, 26 April 2006 (UTC)
There are several explicits in the Winchester manuscript that mention the author's being in prison. The debate over which Sir Thomas Malory wrote the work was cleared up AFAIK in the mid-ninties; recent scholarship (post 1996 or so) should be helpful in this. 13:11, 7 May 2006 (UTC)
Kaeuper's book was written in 2001, so that would be POST 1996 ;) I still opt for removing reference to him being in prison.Cariel 23:08, 16 September 2007 (UTC)

Where is discussion about the necessity of merging, Cuchullain?[edit]

What we're talking about here is two editions of the same book. The Whole Book was originally written by Malory. The Winchester Manuscript is likely the closest extant thing to Malory's original work. Then William Caxton got a hold of it, edited it, and printed it under the title Le Morte d'Arthur. And I don't know where you're getting the idea that Caxton severelly cut stories and characters from Malory's book; Caxton kept the many main characters and many various stories. The only major changes Caxton made that I can recall are dividing Le Morte into the 21 books and rewriting the section about the war with Emperor Lucius (but this might have been done by Malory himself!). At any rate, the differences between the two versions have never been resolved, and are best discussed in a single article.--Cúchullain t/c 21:04, 17 February 2007 (UTC)
Yes, I see no reason to keep the information in different articles. We're talking about different versions of the same book. As such, the articles should be merged into the most well known title, which is Le Morte d'Arthur. -Phoenixrod 19:27, 27 March 2007 (UTC)
I'll try to get on it.--Cúchullain t/c 21:46, 27 March 2007 (UTC)
Well looks like it didn't get done... So I went ahead and did it. --ShakataGaNai (talk) 06:34, 27 December 2007 (UTC)

Winchester v. Caxton[edit]

While I realize that there has been scholarship that suggests the Winchester manuscript is "more original" than the Caxton manuscript, should this article discriminate so thoroughly against the latter in its presentation of the storyline? I believe that it's fairly well established that Malory was not an author in the traditional sense (creating original work through his own imagination), but rather a compiler, principally of the French Vulgate tradition; thus, I would think that the argument about "originality" is purely academic and, while certainly meriting mention in the article, should not be sided on by the article. In a sense, Caxton and Malory did the same kind of work on this text (organizing the work of others, which may have been based on the work of still others ad infinitum, for publication in English). This leads me to my ultimate point, should more work be done to organize an article that is equally accessible to readers of both the Winchester and Caxton editions? For example, Elizabeth J. Bryan's edition of the work follows the pattern of the Caxton edition (complete with Caxton's chapter descriptions and 21 book/507 chapter divisions), and is fairly common in American universities (I know that it is used at several different schools, or has been in the recent past). Yet, despite this, this article does not provide an easily accessible point of entry for those better seeking information on a particular section of the Caxton edition, because the description of the book is described from the 8-book division of the Winchester Manuscript. Could we somehow combine this information? Indicate which sections of Caxton's edition correspond to those of the Winchester Manuscript? I would make these changes myself, but this is precisely the problem that I had upon trying to use this site to find a particular section in my Caxton-based edition. 21:07, 8 October 2007 (UTC)

Good inquiry - I am just sitting over a copy text of the Caxton edition I'll try to make available to my students [1] - if you had the chapter, I'd be happy to include it in this free-use edition... --Olaf Simons 08:11, 9 October 2007 (UTC)
Thanks Olaf, but I'd managed to find it (Tor's adventures with the dwarf, white hart, etc.) through the old-fashioned method of rereading the early sections. All the same, I think that it would be great if someone more comfortable with both editions of the text could work to combine them. (talk) 02:30, 28 November 2007 (UTC)

Middle English[edit]

First, Id like to say that sometimes I have trouble considering this to be Middle English - but I cannot consider it "Early Modern English" either. Morte d'Arthur is a transisionary piece anyhow (bridging late medieval and early Renaissance) so we should pretty much expect that its language will be as hard to categorize as the piece on the whole can be. I agree that the Corpus Christi Cycles, or the Morality plays ("Mankind" or "Everyman") are a slightly less intelligibale middle english. But having said that, here is why you are "less correct" to call this early modern english, and more correct to call the work middle english.

Here is an excerpt from a something Malory wrote which has not been modernized in spelling (and remember, it ought to be in beffuddling calligraphy):

"fo in many persones there ys no stabylite; for e may se all day, for a lytyll blaste of wyntres rasure, anone we shall deface and lay aparte trew love, for lytyll or nowght, that coste muche thynge. Thys ys no wysedome nother no stabylite, but hit ys fyeblenes of nature and grete disworshyp, whosomever usyth thys."

I think that most current english speakers may be able to come up with some working definition of the individual words, but would have great difficulty getting a coherent sentence out of that. Note that most Morte d'Arthur has updated spelling but not syntax, so the original text would appear similar to what ive recorded here.

Here are some random words which occur in Morte d'Arthur, and seem very much to be middle english, or at least incomprehensible to us: MALORY / (TODAY)

awke / (backhanded) abode / (withstood) cream / (chrism - damn, I dont know what the chrism means either!) cedle / (letter) handsel / (gift) medley / (conflict) loos / (renoun) sib / (related) shower / (misfortune)

There are a few hundred words like this. There is no congnative connection, and they are therefore unintelligible to the uninitiated. Enough to throw you a loop when they are key words surounded by words which are only half familiar. At any rate, it should be clear that this is not "early modern english" since we can prett ymuch undersantd all of that. Eric Forest (talk) 05:44, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

See the discussion in the "Is it Middle English" section above. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:29, 7 September 2008 (UTC)

the title D or d'[edit]

I just wonder, If the original publication used D, does anybody know why? The correct spelling - in French - is d apostrophe. We all know the title means "The Death of Arthur". I dont tihnk i need to explain this, but it may save me doing it later. The D is really "de", French for "of", but when it comes before a vowel (as in Arthur) you can use a contraction (d'). So it contracts from "Le Morte de Arthur" to "Le Morte d'Arthur" (If it was the death of, say Billy, it would have to remain "Le Mort de Billy).

Anyhow, as you an see, the correct (if not original) arrangment is d'. Anybody know why they used the wrong one? I thought that either Malory or Caxton's French was lacking, or maybe Caxton's early printing press just wasnt equipped? And a beter question still - regardless of why they printed it D, should we persist in their mistake? Eric Forest (talk) 05:44, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

The 1485 Caxton printing does not have a cover (so its title is missing), but "le Morte Darthur" is what appears in the colophon. E. K. Chambers, in his Malory essay (in Oxford History of English Literature [Vol. 2, part 2]), seems to think the fault doesn't lie with Malory. This seems to say that he's certain Malory would have correctly translated it into French from his sources and he's laying the blame with Caxton. However, since the original Malory manuscript cannot be consulted, then we must go with what we have (missing cover and all).
Jim Dunning | talk 18:49, 26 February 2008 (UTC)

Alfred Tennyson's - Morte D'Arthur[edit]

Why no ref to the Tennyson poem? I can't even see a footnote. Surely a external context, influences and impacts section is needed. Spanglej (talk) 21:39, 7 June 2009 (UTC)

There's no reference because it is an article still very much under construction. There should be one, of course - perhaps you would like to add it? Hadrian89 (talk) 21:47, 7 June 2009 (UTC)


Since Oakeshott now has his own entry the redirect here is inappropriate.--Felix Folio Secundus (talk) 06:31, 21 July 2009 (UTC)

The synopsis[edit]

is, quite frankly, crap. It is absolutely chock-full of "some say", "feminists say", "most literary criticism" without one damn source. Each assertion needs to be sourced or gutted. (talk) 07:15, 20 September 2009 (UTC)

I agree. This reads like the first draft of someone's term paper. It would probably be best to take all of those paragraphs out of the synopsis and write a "themes and interpretation" section.Hal 10000.0 (talk) 06:16, 21 June 2010 (UTC)
Are there any specific examples in the article? Hyacinth (talk) 21:51, 1 August 2010 (UTC)
It's a total mess. The summary is full of individual analysis, when the main purpose of a summary is to state the facts of what happens in the plot. There's no need for the author to be mentioned at all, but every other sentence is 'Malory does this' and 'Malory does that'.--ImizuCIR (talk) 01:33, 2 November 2011 (UTC)


What, where, and how does this article contain weasel words and how should it be cleaned up? Hyacinth (talk) 21:28, 1 August 2010 (UTC)

I don't know about weasel words, but the section about Book VIII: "The Death of Arthur" has been compromised by someone inserting inappropriate comments IN CAPITAL LETTERS contradicting a previous writer's statements. I've tagged that section accordingly.

Muzilon (talk) 08:58, 1 January 2011 (UTC)

Title spelling[edit]

It seems unlikely that the title is actually Middle French, as claimed in the lead. Although other words have changed their gender in French, as far as I can tell, mort has always been feminine (i.e., "la mort"; see the Trésor de la langue française). A discussion on WordReference brings up two theories: one, that Malory or Caxton made a mistake; two, that they were following a tradition in English of calling such books "le morte". If someone has one of the modern editions handy, it would be interesting to see if they address this. Lesgles (talk) 20:46, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

OK, I added a reference from a footnote in the Norton edition. Lesgles (talk) 18:40, 5 September 2010 (UTC)

Inexperienced editor?[edit]

It looked to me like an inexperienced Wikipedia editor had been at work here. The editor obviously disagreed with many statements in the article but instead of changing them, added the words "not the case" or "actually" in capital letters before saying why the text was wrong. This created an article that disagreed with itself several times.

I have left the "not the case" and "actually" comments in the source text but modified it so that they can only be seen during editing.

Although I read and enjoyed Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Idylls of the King and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and absolutely loved History of the Kings of Britain in the Penguin Classics translation, I never got beyond the first chapter of Le Morte d'Arthur, so, I don't know which statements are true. I'll leave it to other editors to sort it out. --Simon Peter Hughes (talk) 11:11, 19 January 2011 (UTC)

Edited opinion[edit]

The following seems to be unreferenced opinion. There are likely scholarly articles that back up some of these assertions, yet these are interpretive comments more akin to "Original Research" or personal opinion than a digest of the plot. I have removed them from the article, but kept them here for discussion.

Guinevere is portrayed as a scapegoat for violence without developing her perspective or motivation. Despite this unsympathetic portrayal, the growth of Morgan le Fay as a character through her reconciliation with Arthur on the barge could call these interpretations of misogyny into question. Malory’s portrayal of Lancelot is more sympathetic than that of Guinevere and tries to redeem him as the most honorable knight. The portrayals are equally unflattering because Guinevere is Lancelot’s impetus for action. Lancelot cannot satisfy Gawain by explaining that, in the tumult to save the queen, and with their helmets being on, he did not know that he had slain Gawain's brothers; nor did he know that they were unarmed. Lancelot later claims that due to his great love of Gareth, who he had made a knight, he would never have killed him intentionally. General interpretations find the Pope’s failure to settle Lancelot and Gawain’s feud as characteristic of the failure of the institution of religion to provide ethical guidance throughout the text, echoing “The Noble Tale of the Sankgreal.” However, in the book, the papal bull is actually accepted. But while Gawain respects the pope's bull, he also perhaps sees that there is a loophole in that while the bull stops the fighting for now, it does not prevent future warfare. Thus, Gawain tells Lancelot that within a period of time, the war will resume. With the failure of institutions and the collapse of the Round Table, the only hope Malory can offer the reader is in Arthur’s second coming to recover the throne, a hope fostered by the inscription on Arthur’s grave: HIC JACET ARTURUS REX QUONDAM REXQUE FUTURUS, or "Here lies Arthur, the Once and Future King"

I did keep a bit of the "Guinevere as scapegoat" commentary, but put it into the section regarding her retiring to a nunnery. --Petercorless (talk) 17:32, 27 March 2012 (UTC)

Remove tags at top of article?[edit]

I would like to suggest the four tags about quality standards, personal essay, tone and weasel words can all be removed. This article (as of March 5 2013) seems acceptable as is, although two of the tags were added three months ago. The article has many sources and it has an accurate description of the story and historiography. Other thoughts?Princetoniac (talk) 19:10, 5 March 2013 (UTC)

We could move the tags to the sections with the issues. Certainly there are tone issues, and the lack of inline sourcing does not help determine how to rewrite those. Since December 2012 only one citation was added, but nothing else was done. Also, the first section has a quote that is far too long and should be introduced and summarised to avoid surprising the reader. -84user (talk) 07:18, 6 March 2013 (UTC)

Style Problems[edit]

The Summary sections go beyond encyclopedia-style summary and into literary analysis. Take, for example, the following:

"The Pentecostal Oath (the Oath of the Round Table) counterbalances a lack of moral centre exemplified in the fratricide in "The Tale of Balyn and Balan". Also, once in power, Arthur becomes a king of dubious morals even while he is held up as a beacon of hope. Arthur's most immoral acts are the begetting of Mordred since Arthur had lain with a woman whom he did not know was his half-sister and to whom he was not married and the following mass infanticide, which only add to Arthur's shaky morality and cast Merlin in a negative light from which he never emerges. There is even the notion of being overly moral, in that Arthur on two occasions is prepared to burn Guinevere at the stake (reminiscent of King Saul's willingness to sacrifice even his son, Jonathan, if he had done wrong). Arthur's unique notion of morality plagues him for the whole of his reign. The attempt to kill off the infants harks to the tale of Herod seeking to kill the infant Jesus. Thus there is a mixture of splendid, David-like, kingship, and low, Herod-like royalty, that both find their place in Arthur.

In the end, the book still holds out for hope even while the questions of legitimacy and morality continue in the books to follow. Arthur and his knights continually try and fail to live up to their chivalric codes, yet remain figures invested with Malory’s desperate optimism."

While perhaps more interesting for a certain subset of readers, such commentary is not helpful in this context. Proposing trimming these sections. — Preceding unsigned comment added by St ethereal (talkcontribs) 20:40, 22 September 2013 (UTC)

Winchester Manuscript section[edit]

In March, an IP partially, then completely removed this entire section without explanation (their only edits, as far as I can tell), but no one in the past 7 months seems to have noticed this rather dramatic act of vandalism. Does anyone have this article watchlisted? Chuck Entz (talk) 02:36, 20 October 2014 (UTC)

Substantial Changes[edit]

We are a group of five students working on a project for Professor Cyrus Mulready's Introduction to British Literature class at Suny New Paltz. We are working on making significant improvements to this page and some things we would like to accomplish include: adding a section about the style and language of Le Morte D'Arthur, and another about the personal life of Mallory. We would also like to fact check a few problems addressed on talk page, and edit out some irrelevant information. We will be working on this for the next couple of weeks and if there any questions feel free to let me know Krissc89 (talk) 00:23, 15 November 2014 (UTC)