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Conclusion

Malory’s Contested Language
  • Ruth Lexton
Chapter
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Part of the Arthurian and Courtly Cultures book series (SACC)

Abstract

After the battle on Salisbury field, the ending of the Morte Darthur seems littered with corpses, yet Arthur fades into the realm of Avalon, his body is lost to view, “the ermyte knew nat in sertayne that he was verily the body of kynge Arthur” (Works, 1242.19–20). Arthur’s royal body is hidden from our sight and Malory chooses instead to focus his final episode on the fate of Lancelot and Guinevere, a muted acknowl- edgment that these are his central characters.1 Shifting the attention away from the king, Malory also implies that Arthur’s dead body, with all the doubt that surrounds it, perhaps more successfully represents the upheav- als of national identity and political ideals in fifteenth-century England than his living incarnation. Much of Malory’s laudatory language around Arthur evinces the tension between the need to see him as the “most kynge” and the obvious failings of the Arthurian polity, between the requirement to be “hole togydirs” and the underlying rifts in the fellow- ship of knights. The struggle in the final books over desired bodies— Lamerok’s, Guinevere’s, the body of the Round Table fellowship—and the contested language that surrounds them is ultimately concentrated in the unfulfilled longing for the body of the king.

Keywords

National Identity Round Table Political Ideal Final Book Medieval Literature 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Lindsay E. Holichek, “Malory’s Gwenevere: After Long Silence,” Annuale Mediaeval 22 (1982): 124–26.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Helen Cooper, “Opening up the Malory Manuscript,” in The Malory Debate: Essays on the Texts of “Le Morte Darthur” Arthurian Studies 47, ed. Bonnie Wheeler, Robert L. Kindrick, and Michael N. Salda (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2000), 268–71. I follow Cooper in considering the marginalia in Winchester to be the scribes’ own rather than being copied from an exemplar. James Wade, “Malory’s Marginalia Reconsidered,” Arthuriana 21, no. 3 (2011): 70–86; Thomas H. Crofts, Malory’s Contemporary Audience: The Social Reading of Romance in Late Medieval England, Arthurian Studies 66 (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2006), 62–93 on the scribal responses. On their working practices see Orietta da Rold, “Materials,” in The Production of Books in England, 1350–1500, ed. Alexandra Gillespie and Daniel Wakelin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 27–33.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    David Wallace, “Imperium, Commerce and National Crusade: The Romance of Malory’s Morte,” New Medieval Literatures 8 (2006): 46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    William Kuskin, Symbolic Caxton: Literary Culture and Print Capitalism (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2008), 205; Yu-Chiao Wang, “Caxton’s Romances and Their Early Tudor Readers,” Huntington Library Quarterly 67, no. 2 (2004): 173–88.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Marilyn Jackson Parins, ed., Malory: The Critical Heritage (London and New York: Routledge, 1988), 53.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Roger Ascham, English Works: Toxophilus; Report of the Affaires and State of Germany; The Scolemaster, ed. William Aldis Wright (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), 231.Google Scholar

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© Ruth Lexton 2014

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  • Ruth Lexton

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