A report on Le Morte d'Arthur

Illustration by Aubrey Beardsley
A 14th-century Polish fresco at Siedlęcin Tower depicting Lancelot fighting the evil knight Turquine in a scene from the French Vulgate Cycle
A 14th-century "Round Table" at Winchester Castle, Malory's Camelot
The holy island of Mont-Saint-Michel where Arthur slays an evil giant in one of the only few supernatural elements of the Roman War story
"How Arthur by the mean of Merlin gat Excalibur his sword of the Lady of the Lake", illustration for Le Morte Darthur, J. M. Dent & Co., London (1893–1894), by Aubrey Beardsley
"How Sir Launcelot slew the knight Sir Peris de Forest Savage that did distress ladies, damosels, and gentlewomen." The Romance of King Arthur (1917), abridged from Malory's Morte d'Arthur by Alfred W. Pollard and illustrated by Arthur Rackham
"'Lady,' replied Sir Beaumains, 'a knight is little worth who may not bear with a damsel.'" Lancelot Speed's illustration for James Thomas Knowles' The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights (1912)
"The Holy Grail, covered with white silk, came into the hall." The Grail's miraculous sighting at the Round Table in William Henry Margetson's illustration for Legends of King Arthur and His Knights (1914)
Arthur's final voyage to Avalon in a 1912 illustration by Florence Harrison
Arthur being taken to Avalon in Alberto Sangorski's 1912 illustration for Tennyson's poem "Morte d'Arthur"
N. C. Wyeth's title page illustration for Sidney Lanier's The Boy's King Arthur (1917)
The two volumes of illustrated edition of Le Morte Darthur published by J. M. Dent in 1893, with vellucent binding by Cedric Chivers.

15th-century Middle English prose reworking by Sir Thomas Malory of tales about the legendary King Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table, along with their respective folklore.

- Le Morte d'Arthur
Illustration by Aubrey Beardsley

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Lancelot

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Character in some versions of Arthurian legend, where he is typically depicted as King Arthur's close companion and one of the greatest Knights of the Round Table.

Character in some versions of Arthurian legend, where he is typically depicted as King Arthur's close companion and one of the greatest Knights of the Round Table.

Lancelot slays the dragon of Corbenic in Arthur Rackham's illustration for Tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, abridged from Le Morte d'Arthur by Alfred W. Pollard (1917)
James Archer's Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere (1864)
Lancelot fighting the two dragons guarding the entrance to Morgan's Val Without Return in an illumination of a 15th-century French Lancelot-Grail manuscript. The arms attributed to him: argent with three bendlets gules
The Earthly Paradise (Sir Lancelot at the Chapel of the Holy Grail) by Edward Burne-Jones (1890s)
Howard Pyle's illustration for The Story of the Champions of the Round Table (1905): "The Lady Nymue beareth away Launcelot into the Lakes."
An illustration for Tales of the Round Table, abridged from Le Morte d'Arthur by Andrew Lang (1908): "Sir Lancelot did not stop, and the archers shot his horse with many arrows, but he jumped from its back and ran past them deeper into the wood."
N. C. Wyeth's illustration for The Boy's King Arthur, abridged from Le Morte d'Arthur by Sidney Lanier (1922): "He rode his way with the Queen unto Joyous Gard."
Lancelot Brings Guenevere to Arthur, an illustration for Andrew Lang's The Book of Romance (1902)
Morgan, Sebile and two other witch-queens find Lancelot sleeping in William Henry Margetson's illustration for Legends of King Arthur and His Knights, abridged from Le Morte d'Arthur by Janet MacDonald Clark (1914)
Seduction of Lancelot in the Livre de Lancelot du Lac (c. 1401–1425)
Lancelot's rescue of Guinevere from the stake in Henry Justice Ford's illustration for Andrew Lang's Tales of the Round Table (1908)
A 1962 publicity photo of Robert Goulet as Lancelot and Janet Pavek as Guenevere in the musical Camelot
"How Lancelot fought the six knights of Chastel d'Uter to save the knight of the badly-cut coat." (Tristan en prose c. 1479–1480)
Lancelot, dressed in brown, living with his companions in a hermit hut at the end of his life (Tristan en prose c. 1450–1460)
Facing Turquine: "I am Sir Launcelot du Lake, King Ban's son of Benwick."
"Sir Mador's spear broke all to pieces, but his spear held."
"[Lancelot] ever ran wild wood from place to place"
"Launcelot saw her visage, he wept not greatly, but sighed."

Later, his character was expanded upon in other works of Arthurian romance, especially the vast Lancelot-Grail prose cycle that presented the now-familiar version of his legend following its retelling in Le Morte d'Arthur.

Piety: The Knights of the Round Table about to Depart in Quest of the Holy Grail by William Dyce (1849)

Knights of the Round Table

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The Knights of the Round Table (Marchogion y Ford Gron, Marghekyon an Moos Krenn, Marc'hegien an Daol Grenn) are the knights of the fellowship of King Arthur in the literary cycle of the Matter of Britain.

The Knights of the Round Table (Marchogion y Ford Gron, Marghekyon an Moos Krenn, Marc'hegien an Daol Grenn) are the knights of the fellowship of King Arthur in the literary cycle of the Matter of Britain.

Piety: The Knights of the Round Table about to Depart in Quest of the Holy Grail by William Dyce (1849)
The attributed arms of Agloval de Galles
"Queen Guenever's Peril." Alfred Kappes' illustration for The Boy's King Arthur (1880)
The arms of Arthur le Petit
Shared attributed arms of Blamor and Blioberis
Brandelis' attributed arms
The attributed arms of Calogrenant
Calogrenant at the fountain in the BN MS fr.1433 manuscript of Yvain ou le chevalier au lion (c. 1325)
The attributed arms of "Dodinet le Sauvaige"
The arms of Helain le Blanc
The attributed arms of "Herec le fils Lac"
The attributed arms of "Exclabor ly Viescovtiens"
The attributed arms of the Duc de Clerence
Girflet's attributed arms
Giflet throwing Excalibur into the lake in a 1470 illustration for the 13th-century romance La Mort du roi Arthur
The attributed arms of Hector des Mares
Lancelot stops his half-brother Hector from killing Arthur defeated in battle, as depicted by William Dyce in King Arthur Unhorsed, Spared by Sir Launcelot (1852)
The attributed arms of "Lucam le Bouteillier"
Mador's attributed arms
"At last the strange knight smote him to the earth, and gave him such a bugget on the helm as well-night killed him." Lancelot Speed's illustration for The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights, abridged from Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur by James Knowles (1912)
The attributed arms of "Mellienderis"
The attributed arms of Morholt d'Irlande
Saphar's attributed arms
The attributed arms of "Securades"
"Sir Segwarides rides after Sir Tristram." F. A. Fraser's illustration for Henry Frith's King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table (1912)
The attributed arms of Tor
The attributed arms of Yvain the Bastard
His attributed arms
Le Morte d'Arthur scene of Guinevere with some of her unarmed knights before they are ambushed by Maleagant, as depicted in Queen Guinevere's Maying by John Collier
The attributed arms of Seguran le Brun

By the end of Arthurian prose cycles (including the seminal Le Morte d'Arthur), the knights split up into groups of warring factions following the revelation of Lancelot's adultery with King Arthur's wife, Queen Guinevere.

Guinevere watching the mortally wounded Arthur being sailed off to Avalon in Queen Guinevere by James Archer (c. 1860)

Guinevere

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Early-medieval queen of Great Britain and the wife of King Arthur.

Early-medieval queen of Great Britain and the wife of King Arthur.

Guinevere watching the mortally wounded Arthur being sailed off to Avalon in Queen Guinevere by James Archer (c. 1860)
Guinevere by Henry Justice Ford (c. 1910)
Lady Guinevere, Howard Pyle's illustration for The Story of King Arthur and His Knights (1903)
Guinevere Takes Refuge in a Convent, Edmund H. Garrett's illustration for Legends of King Arthur and His Court (1911)
Guinevere with Enid and Vivien by George and Louis Rhead (1898)
Guinevere and Iseult by William Morris (1862)
Ritter und Dame (Sir Lancelot und Guinevere) by Wilhelm List (c. 1902)
Meigle stone detail
A scene preceding the kidnapping by Maleagant: "How Queen Guenever rode a maying into the woods and fields beside Westminster."
Arthur Rackham's illustration from The Romance of King Arthur (1917), abridged from Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur by Alfred W. Pollard
Ellen Terry as Guinevere in the play King Arthur by J. Comyns Carr in the Lyceum Theatre production, designed by Edward Burne-Jones, in an American postcard mailed 12 January 1895
A 1961 photo of Robert Goulet as Lancelot and Julie Andrews as Guenevere in the musical Camelot

From there, it went to make up much of the narrative core of Thomas Malory's seminal English compilation Le Morte d'Arthur.

Sir Gawaine the Son of Lot, King of Orkney, by Howard Pyle from The Story of King Arthur and His Knights (1903)

Gawain

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Character in Arthurian legend, in which he is King Arthur's nephew and a Knight of the Round Table.

Character in Arthurian legend, in which he is King Arthur's nephew and a Knight of the Round Table.

Sir Gawaine the Son of Lot, King of Orkney, by Howard Pyle from The Story of King Arthur and His Knights (1903)
"Gavvain's" attributed arms
"Galvagin" depicted in the Italian Modena Archivolt (c. 1135)
Gawain unwittingly fights Yvain in the Garrett MS. No. 125 manuscript of Chrétien's Knight of the Lion (c. 1295)
"Walewein" follows a flying checkboard in a 14th-century Dutch manuscript Roman van Walewein (en het schaakspel)
"Sir Gawain seized his lance and bade them farewell", Frank T. Merrill's illustration for A Knight of Arthur's Court or the Tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1910)
"The Passing of Sir Gawaine", Howard Pyle's illustration from The Story of the Grail and the Passing of King Arthur (1910)
Parzival's Gawain in a capital relief at the Church of Saint-Pierre, Caen
"Sir Gawaine finds the beautiful Lady", Howard Pyle's illustration from The Story of King Arthur and His Knights (1903)
John Tenniel's illustration for "The Song of Courtesy", George Meredith's take on Gawain and the Loathly Lady published in Once a Week magazine in 1859
The Vigil by John Pettie (1884)
"Nevertheless You, O Sir Gauwaine, Lie." Florence Harrison's illustration for Early Poems of William Morris (1914)
"In the morning one of these ladies came to Gawaine." William Henry Margetson's illustration for Legends of King Arthur and His Knights (1914)
"Now you have released me from the spell completely." William Henry Margetson's illustration for Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race (1910)
Sir Gawain bends over the exhausted Maid Avoraine in concern after she has proved her love by running after his horse for two days. John Everett Millais' and Joseph Swain's wood engraving illustration for Robert Williams Buchanan's poem "Maid Avoraine" published in Once a Week magazine in 1862

His character turns markedly ignoble in the Post-Vulgate Cycle, and even outright villainous in the Prose Tristan, resulting in his conflicting characterization in Le Morte d'Arthur.

Thomas Malory

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Sir Thomas Malory (c.

Sir Thomas Malory (c.

1415 – 14 March 1471) was an English writer, who was the author or compiler of Le Morte d'Arthur, the classic English-language chronicle of the Arthurian legend, published by William Caxton in 1485.

Tapestry showing Arthur as one of the Nine Worthies, wearing a coat of arms often attributed to him

King Arthur

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Legendary British leader who, according to medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the late 5th and early 6th centuries.

Legendary British leader who, according to medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the late 5th and early 6th centuries.

Tapestry showing Arthur as one of the Nine Worthies, wearing a coat of arms often attributed to him
Arthur defeats the Saxons in a 19th-century picture by John Cassell
"Arturus rex" (King Arthur), a 1493 illustration from the Nuremberg Chronicle
A facsimile page of Y Gododdin, one of the most famous early Welsh texts featuring Arthur
Culhwch entering Arthur's court in the Welsh tale Culhwch and Olwen. An illustration by Alfred Fredericks for a 1881 edition of the Mabinogion
King Arthur in a crude illustration from a 15th-century Welsh version of Historia Regum Britanniae
The Death of Arthur by John Garrick (1862), depicting a boat arriving to take the dying Arthur to Avalon after the Battle of Camlann
During the 12th century, Arthur's character began to be marginalised by the accretion of "Arthurian" side-stories such as that of Tristan and Iseult, here pictured in a painting by John William Waterhouse (1916)
The story of Arthur drawing the sword from a stone appeared in Robert de Boron's 13th-century Merlin. By Howard Pyle (1903)
The Round Table experiences a vision of the Holy Grail, an illumination by Évrard d'Espinques
Arthur receiving the later tradition's sword Excalibur in N. C. Wyeth's illustration for The Boy's King Arthur (1922), a modern edition of Thomas Malory's 1485 Le Morte d'Arthur
Merlin and Viviane in Gustave Doré's 1868 illustration for Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Idylls of the King
King Arthur (holding Excalibur) and Patsy in Spamalot, a stage musical adaptation of the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail

The development of the medieval Arthurian cycle and the character of the "Arthur of romance" culminated in Le Morte d'Arthur, Thomas Malory's retelling of the entire legend in a single work in English in the late 15th century.

Lancelot-Grail

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Early 13th-century French Arthurian literary cycle consisting of interconnected prose episodes of chivalric romance in Old French.

Early 13th-century French Arthurian literary cycle consisting of interconnected prose episodes of chivalric romance in Old French.

"Gautier" purportedly recounting the tales of Lancelot to Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine in a 14th-century manuscript of the Lancelot-Grail (BnF Français 123)
Yvain helping a lion fight a dragon in a 14th-century Italian illumination (BNF fr. 343 Queste del Saint Graal)

They constituted a highly influential and most widespread form of Arthurian romance literature during their time and also contributed the most to the later English compilation Le Morte d'Arthur that formed the basis for Arthuriana's modern canon.

Sir Mordred by H. J. Ford (1902)

Mordred

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Figure who is variously portrayed in the legend of King Arthur.

Figure who is variously portrayed in the legend of King Arthur.

Sir Mordred by H. J. Ford (1902)
The Death of Arthur, George Housman Thomas's illustration for Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur in an 1862 edition by James Thomas Knowles
Mordred's attributed arms featuring the symbol of the Orkney clan according to chivalric romance heraldry
Lancelot fighting Mordred and Agravain in Guinevere's chambers, Walter Crane's illustration for Henry Gilbert's King Arthur's Knights (1911)
N. C. Wyeth illustration for Sidney Lanier's The Boy's King Arthur (1922) "Then the king ran towards Sir Mordred, crying, 'Traitor, now is thy death day come.'"
Roddy McDowall as Mordred in the Broadway musical Camelot (1960)

In a popular telling originating from the French chivalric romances of the 13th century, and made prominent today through its inclusion in Le Morte d'Arthur, Mordred is knighted by Arthur and joins the fellowship of the Round Table.

Morgan le Fay by Frederick Sandys, 1864. "Here she stands in front of a loom on which she has woven an enchanted robe, designed to consume the body of King Arthur by fire. Her appearance with her loose hair, abandoned gestures and draped leopard skin suggests a dangerous and bestial female sexuality. The green robe that Morgan is depicted wearing is actually a kimono."

Morgan le Fay

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Spyrys), is a powerful and ambiguous enchantress from the legend of King Arthur, in which most often she and he are siblings.

Spyrys), is a powerful and ambiguous enchantress from the legend of King Arthur, in which most often she and he are siblings.

Morgan le Fay by Frederick Sandys, 1864. "Here she stands in front of a loom on which she has woven an enchanted robe, designed to consume the body of King Arthur by fire. Her appearance with her loose hair, abandoned gestures and draped leopard skin suggests a dangerous and bestial female sexuality. The green robe that Morgan is depicted wearing is actually a kimono."
Morgan le Fay by Frederick Sandys, 1864
Fata Morgana (Italian for "Morgan the Fairy" ) by Giambologna (c. 1574)
Morgan with Lancelot under an apple tree in a Siedlęcin Tower fresco (early 14th century)
Morgan le Fay by Edward Burne-Jones (1862)
Henry Fuseli's Prince Arthur and the Fairy Queen (c. 1788)
Frank William Warwick's Voyage of King Arthur and Morgan le Fay to the Isle of Avalon (1888)
Morgan Le Fay by John R. Spencer Stanhope (1880)
Morgan discovers her unfaithful lover with another lady within the Vale of No Return, an illustration for the Vulgate Lancelot du Lac (c. 1480)
William Henry Margetson's illustration for The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights (1908)
"She was known to have studied magic while she was being brought up in the nunnery."
Queen Morgan le Fay, Beatrice Clay's illustration from Stories of King Arthur and the Round Table (1905)
"There was a time when great was her enmity towards King Arthur, so that she plotted his ruin not once only nor twice; and that is a strange thing, for it is said that she herself was the kinswoman of the King."
Morgan le Fay Casts Away Excalibur's Scabbard, H. J. Ford's illustration for Andrew Lang's Tales of King Arthur and the Round Table (1902)
Howard Pyle's illustration from The Story of the Champions of the Round Table (1905)
"She was clad in all the glory at her command, and her appearance was so shining and radiant that when she came into that room Sir Launcelot knew not whether it was a vision his eyes beheld or whether she was a creature of flesh and blood."
"How Morgain granted Lancelot a leave from her prison to conquer Dolereuse Gard." (Lancelot en prose c. 1494 or later)
How Morgan le Fay Gave a Shield to Sir Tristram by Aubrey Beardsley (1870)
A detail of La Mort d'Arthur (The Death of Arthur) by James Archer (1860)
Morgan and Accolon in Eric Pape's illustration for Madison Cawein's poem "Accolon of Gaul" (1907).
"With haughty, wicked eyes and lovely face, Studied him steadily a little space."
Howard Pyle's illustration from The Story of the Grail and the Passing of King Arthur (1909)
"And Sir Bedivere stood upon the shore and looked upon the face of King Arthur as it lay within the lap of Queen Morgana, and he beheld that the face of King Arthur was white like to the ashes of wood, wherefore he wist that he was dead."
Morte D'Arthur by Daniel Maclise (1857)
Howard Pyle's illustration from The Story of King Arthur and His Knights (1903)
How the Fairies Came to See Ogier the Dane by H.J. Ford (1921)
"And, in tones more musical than mortals often hear, she sang a sweet lullaby, a song of fairyland and of the island of Avalon, where the souls of heroes dwell."
Beatrice Clay, Morgan le Fay with Excalibur (1905)
Fata Morgana; Nude Study by John Macallan Swan (1905)
Morgana and Orlando as painted by George Frederic Watts (1865)

In the early 13th-century, Robert de Boron-derived Arthurian prose cycles — and the later works based on them in turn, including among them Thomas Malory's influential Le Morte d'Arthur — Morgan is usually described as the youngest daughter of Arthur's mother, Igraine, and of her first husband, Gorlois.

The Lady of the Lake in Lancelot Speed's illustration for James Thomas Knowles' The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights (1912)

Lady of the Lake

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Name or a title used by several fairy-like enchantresses in the Matter of Britain, the body of medieval literature and mythology associated with the legend of King Arthur.

Name or a title used by several fairy-like enchantresses in the Matter of Britain, the body of medieval literature and mythology associated with the legend of King Arthur.

The Lady of the Lake in Lancelot Speed's illustration for James Thomas Knowles' The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights (1912)
The Lady of the Lake in Lancelot Speed's illustration for James Thomas Knowles' The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights (1912)
Nimue in Howard Pyle's illustration for The Story of King Arthur and His Knights (1903)
Viviane with Merlin in Witches' Tree by Edward Burne-Jones (1905)
The Lady of the Lake finds Lancelot at Tintagel Castle to cure his madness caused by Morgan in a dream vision of Guinevere's infidelity to him. Evrard d'Espinques' illumination of the Vulgate Lancelot (BNF fr. 114 f. 352, c. 1475)
The gift of the sword Excalibur in an illustration for George Melville Baker's Ballads of Bravery (1877)
George Housman Thomas' illustration for The Story of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, adapted from Le Morte d'Arthur by James Thomas Knowles (1862)
"'Look!', said the Lady Nimue, 'Ye ought to be sore ashamed to be the death of such a knight!'" William Henry Margetson's illustration for Janet MacDonald Clark's Legends of King Arthur and His Knights (1914)
The Passing of Arthur in Andrew Lang's Stories of King Arthur and His Knights (1904)
Llyn Ogwen as seen from the slopes of Pen yr Ole Wen in 2008

Different sorceresses known as the Lady of the Lake appear concurrently as separate characters in some versions of the legend since at least the Post-Vulgate Cycle and consequently the seminal Le Morte d'Arthur, with the latter describing them as a hierarchical group, while some texts also give this title to either Morgan or her sister.