Swords and Sorceresses: Creating a Chivalric Community

  • Kenneth Hodges
Part of the Studies in Arthurian and Courtly Cultures book series (SACC)


The first part of Le Morte Darthur contains rapid, violent changes of chivalry. Uther seems to be primarily a warlord, and Arthur must prove himself first in battle. Then greater restraints on violence are established, helping Arthur to put an end to the civil wars and to build a civil society. Major transitions in chivalric ideals are marked by Arthur’s receipts of Excalibur. The first sword (from the stone) symbolizes might-makes-right chivalry; the second sword (from the Lady of the Lake) marks “blood-feud” chivalry, in which one advances one’s friends and revenges oneself on one’s enemies; and the restoration of Excalibur to Arthur in the fight with Accolon makes it a symbol of the ethical chivalry announced in the Round Table oath. These changes in chivalry affect not just the knights; they have profound effects on knightly communities. They define how former enemies are to be treated and whether they can join the court; they define who must be counted as an enemy.


Round Table Personal Loyalty Reciprocal Obligation Good Woman Happy Marriage 
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© Kenneth Hodges 2005

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  • Kenneth Hodges

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