Introduction: Places of Romance
In the Winchester Manuscript of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur, names are rubricated. The red ink makes knights’ names leap off the page. Some place names are rubricated, too, so as one turns the pages the names of the Arthurian world shine forth. They are an invitation to consider the play of places (not just the people) of Le Morte Darthur. The frequency of toponyms constantly reminds readers that the characters are from somewhere: Lamorak de Galys, Pellinore of the Isles, Gawain of Orkney, Tristram de Lyonesse. Yet the plentitude of names—some imaginary, some obscured by time and spelling, some bursting with unexpected familiarity—has too often lulled readers instead of rousing them. They may seem irrelevant, no more meaningful than the made-up names of a vaguely medievalist modern fantasy novel. Mark Twain has his Yankee complain, “Sir Marhaus the king’s son of Ireland talks like all the rest; you ought to give him a brogue, or at least a characteristic expletive … It is a common literary device with the great authors” and Sandy responds by having Sir Marhaus add an occasional “bejabbers.”1 In addition to the missing dialects, the lack of description, either of natural wilderness or of urban landmarks, allows readers of Malory, if they choose, to overlook places, to consider only people and action.
KeywordsFifteenth Century Neighboring Territory British History Medieval Study Cooper Note
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