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Malory’s Lancelot and the Politics of Worship

  • Ruth Lexton
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Part of the Arthurian and Courtly Cultures book series (SACC)

Abstract

Malory’s opening to A Noble Tale of Sir Launcelot du Lake, the third tale in Vinaver’s edition of the Morte Darthur, reinforces the picture of successful kingship created by the victories of the Roman War by plac- ing Arthur at the heart of a court focused on knightly activity:

Sone aftir that kynge Arthure was com from Rome into Ingelonde, than all the knyghtys of the Rounde Table resorted unto the kynge and made many joustys and turnementes.

(Works, 253.1–4)

Keywords

Round Table Local Society Fifteenth Century Legal Dispute Final Book 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Further discussion of the tale’s opening can be found in the following: R. M. Lumiansky, “‘The Tale of Lancelot’: Prelude to Adultery,” in Malory’s Originality: A Critical Study of “Le Morte Darthur” ed. R. M. Lumiansky (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1964), 93; Kenneth Hodges, Forging Chivalric Communities in Malory’s “Le Morte Darthur”(New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 72–73; D. S. Brewer, “Malory’s ‘Proving’ of Sir Launcelot,” in The Changing Face of Arthurian Romance: Essays on Arthurian Prose Romance in Memory of Cedric E. Pickford, Arthurian Studies 16, ed. Alison Adams, Armel H. Diverres, Karen Stern, and Kenneth Varty (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1986), 124–25.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Andrew Lynch, Malory’s Book of Arms: The Narrative of Combat in “Le Morte Darthur.” Arthurian Studies 39 (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1997), 80–82; Larry D. Benson, Malory’s “Morte Darthur” (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976), 109–10, 116–28.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Christopher McBride, “A Collocational Approach to Semantic Change: The Case of Worship and Honour in Malory and Spenser,” Language and Literature 7, no. 1 (1998): 9–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 6.
    Vinaver, introduction to Works, xxxii-xxxiii. Vinaver discusses Malory’s view of chivalry as a practical one, but suggests Arthur is responsible for making it a “useful discipline.” On honor as a social ideal and practical chivalry see also Brewer, introduction to The Morte Darthur: Parts Seven and Eight, 25; D. S. Brewer, “The Compulsions of Honour,” in From Arabye to Engelond: Medieval Studies in Honour of Mahmoud Manzalaoui on His 75th Birthday, ed. A. E. Christa Canitz and Gernot R. Wieland (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1999), 86–89; L. D. Benson, Malory’s “Morte” 151–52, 191–97; P. E. Tucker, “Chivalry in the Morte, ” in Essays on Malory, ed. J. A. W. Bennett (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963), 68–69; Beverly Kennedy, Knighthood in the “Morte Darthur” Arthurian Studies 11 (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1985), 148; Lynch, Malory’s Book of Arms, 32–33.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Raluca L. Radulescu, The Gentry Context for Malory’s “Morte Darthur” Arthurian Studies 55 (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2003), especially 2–14, 39–45, specifically on worship 17–23, 83–96; Hyonjin Kim, The Knight without the Sword: A Social Landscape of Malorian Chivalry, Arthurian Studies 45 (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2000), 100–34. See also Thomas H. Crofts, Malory’s Contemporary Audience: The Social Reading of Romance in Late Medieval England, Arthurian Studies 66 (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2006), 1–4, 50–51.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Karen Cherewatuk, “‘Gentyl’ Audiences and ‘Grete Bookes’: Chivalric Manuals and the Morte Darthur,” Arthurian Literature 15 (1997): 205–16; Karen Cherewatuk, “Sir Thomas Malory’s ‘Grete Booke,’” in The Social and Literary Contexts of Malory’sMorte Darthur” Arthurian Studies 42, ed. D. Thomas Hanks Jr. (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2000), 42–67.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    There is no need to go over the well-covered ground of Malory’s identity in detail here. P. J. C. Field, “The Malory Life-Records,” in A Companion to Malory, Arthurian Studies 37, ed. Elizabeth Archibald and A. S. G. Edwards (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1996), 118–28 lists all known references to Malory. For the argument that the author of the Morte is Sir Thomas Malory of Newbold Revel see P. J. C. Field, The Life and Times of Sir Thomas Malory, Arthurian Studies 29 (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1993), 1–24, 35; Christine Carpenter, “Sir Thomas Malory and Fifteenth-century Local Politics,” Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 53 (1980): 36–43; Christine Carpenter, Locality and Polity: A Study of Warwickshire Landed Society, 1401–1499 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 452–64. For alternative views see William Matthews, The Ill-Framed Knight: A Skeptical Inquiry into the Identity of Sir Thomas Malory (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966). Richard R. Griffith, “The Authorship Question Reconsidered: A Case for Thomas Malory of Papworth St Agnes, Cambridgeshire,” in Aspects of Malory, Arthurian Studies 1, ed. Toshiyuki Takamiya and Derek Brewer (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1981), 159–77. Anne F. Sutton, “Malory in Newgate: A New Document,” The Library 7th ser., 1, no. 3 (2000): 246–48 establishes Malory’s presence in prison around the time of the writing of the Morte. Colin Richmond, “Thomas Malory and the Pastons,” in Readings in Medieval English Romance, ed. Carol M. Meale (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1994), 195–208. For a link between Malory’s father and one of the gentry families whose letter collections I will discuss here see Christine Carpenter, ed., introduction to The Armburgh Papers: The Brokholes Inheritance in Warwickshire, Hertfordshire and Essex, c.1417-c.1453 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1998), 14, 18–19 and Armburgh Papers, 142. John Malory is also mentioned, 139. Citation by page number, henceforth referred to as AP.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    Benson, Malory’s “Morte” 200. Quoted by Kim, Knight without the Sword, 17. Richmond, “Thomas Malory and the Pastons,” 195; Felicity Riddy, Sir Thomas Malory (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1987), 71–72, 113, 163–64.Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    Christine Carpenter, “Gentry and Community in Medieval England,” Journal of British Studies 33, no. 4 (October 1994): 353–55, 360–67; Elizabeth Noble, The World of the Stonors: A Gentry Society (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2009), 17–18; Roger Virgoe, “Aspects of the County Community in the Fifteenth Century,” in Profit, Piety and the Professions in Later Medieval England, ed. Michael Hicks (Gloucester: Alan Sutton, 1990), 2–3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 12.
    Philippa Maddern, “Gentility,” in Gentry Culture in Late Medieval England, ed. Raluca Radulescu and Alison Truelove (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005), 26–30; Philippa Maddern, “Honour among the Pastons: Gender and Integrity in Fifteenth Century English Provincial Society,” Journal of Medieval History 14 (1988): 359.Google Scholar
  11. 27.
    G. A. Lester, Sir John Paston’s “Grete Boke”: A Descriptive Catalogue with an Introduction of British Library MS Lansdowne 285 (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1984), 31–34. On the relationship between Paston’s “Grete Boke” (Lansdowne 285) and Astley’s manuscript (Pierpont Morgan 775).Google Scholar
  12. 35.
    D. Armstrong, Gender and the Chivalric Community, 70–83; Catherine Batt, Malory’s “Morte Darthur”: Remaking Arthurian Tradition (New York: Palgrave, 2002), 83–84; M. Martin, Vision and Gender, 51, 60.Google Scholar
  13. 39.
    P. R. Coss, “The Formation of the English Gentry,” Past and Present 147 (1995): 48–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 43.
    Rebecca Krug, Reading Families: Women’s Literate Practice in Late Medieval England, Ithaca and (London: Cornell University Press, 2002), 34–53.Google Scholar
  15. 51.
    Maurice Keen, Chivalry (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 1984), 16; John Watts, Henry VIand the Politics of Kingship (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 31.Google Scholar
  16. 61.
    Christine Carpenter, “The Stonor Circle in the Fifteenth Century,” in Rulers and Ruled in Late Medieval England: Essays Presented to Gerald Harriss, ed. Rowena Archer and Simon Walker (London: Hambledon Press, 1996), 179–90. Noble, World of the Stonors, 41–43; 109–10 for network in the early part of the fifteenth century, 169–78 for network under Thomas II and William Stonor. The Stonors’s achievement was especially remarkable considering the family suffered repeatedly from the early deaths of its heads and consequent instability during the minority of heirs.Google Scholar
  17. 75.
    Keen, Chivalry, 184–85; Richard W. Kaeuper, Chivalry and Violence in Medieval Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 109; Sydney Anglo, ed., The Great Tournament Roll of Westminster: A Collotype Reproduction of the Manuscript with an Historical Introduction by Sydney Anglo (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), 20–21. G. L. Harriss, Henry V: The Practice of Kingship (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), 19–22.Google Scholar
  18. 78.
    Robert H. Wilson, “Malory and Perlesvaus,” Modern Philology 30, no. 1 (August 1932): 13–22; Vinaver, Works, 1423, n. 279; P. J. C. Field, “Malory and Perlesvaus. ” Medium Aevum 62 (1993): 259–69. See William Nitze and T. Atkinson Jenkins, eds., Le Haut Livre du Graal Perlesvaus, vol. 1 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1932), 337–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 79.
    Maurice Keen, Origins of the English Gentleman: Heraldry, Chivalry and Gentility in Medieval England c. 1300—c. 1500 (Stroud: Tempus, 2002), 36. Sir Ralph Grey’s sentence for treason in the Court of Chivalry in 1464 included that his coat of arms (though not his shield) should be reversed.Google Scholar

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© Ruth Lexton 2014

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  • Ruth Lexton

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