Advertisement

Abstract

Malory provocatively follows the Grail quest with a story connected to another spiritual tale of Christian knighthood, but one that focuses on a woman. While Malory’s version of the “Poisoned Apple” comes from the French La Mort le Roi Artu and the stanzaic Le Morte Arthur, which are fairly secular, there is an allegorical version in the Book of the Knight of the Tour Landry. A rejected suitor gives a woman a poisoned apple, which she then gives to her lord’s son. She is accused of murdering him, but a champion named Patrides arrives to defend her. He wins the trial by combat, but dies of five mortal wounds in his hands, feet, and sides.1 While there is no evidence that Malory knew this version of the story, Caxton printed it in 1484, a year before he printed Le Morte Darthur. It is clearly a simple allegory of the fall and the redemption, but with Eve rendered remarkably innocent, and with Christ the model for championing ladies. This reminder that the Grail quest is not the only version of religious knighthood suggests a possible way the religious values of the Grail quest can be reconciled with the political values necessary to keep the country functioning.

Keywords

Round Table Political Problem Factual Question Modern Reader Unspecified Period 
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.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    William Caxton, The Book of the Knight of La Tour-Landry, ed. Thomas Wright, EETS 33 (London: N. Trübner & Co., 1868), pp. 142–43.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Terence McCarthy, Reading the Morte Darthur (Cambridge, U.K.: D.S. Brewer, 1988), p. 122.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Hill, “Recovering Malory’s Guinevere,” Proceedings of the Medieval Association of the Midwest 1 (1991): 131–48, reprinted in Lancelot and Guinevere, A Casebook, ed. Lori Walters (New York: Garland, 1996), pp. 267–77; Holichek,“Malory’s Gwenevere: After Long Silence,” Annuale Mediaevale 22 (1982): 112–26.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    In the Winchester manuscript, the passage on the true love concludes the “Ascolat” episode, even though Vinaver placed it at the beginning of the “Knight of the Cart” episode, and the very different contexts color the meaning of the speech. At the end of Ascolat, it seems a confirmation of Guinevere and Launcelot’s love; at the start of the “Knight of the Cart,” it may suggest that the two, by having a sexual encounter, fall short of the ideals of virtuous love. See Helen Cooper, “Opening Up the Malory Manuscript,” The Malory Debate: Essays on the Texts of Le Morte Darthur, ed. Bonnie Wheeler, Robert L. Kindrick, and Michael N. Salda (Cambridge, U.K.: D.S. Brewer, 2000), pp. 262–63.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    While later German lists of the Nine Worthy Women divide them into triads based on religion and emphasize traditionally feminine virtues such as chastity, the earlier lists that continued to circulate in England and France focused on military and political worthiness and did not divide the women based on religion. See Horst Schroeder, Der Topos der Nine Worthies in Literatur und bildender Kunst (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1971), pp. 168–203.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    For discussion of how medieval queens were expected to act as mediators, see Paul Strohm, “Queens As Intercessors,” Hochon’s Arrow:The Social Imagination of Fourteenth-Century Texts (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), pp. 95–119;Google Scholar
  7. Lois Huneycutt, “Intercession and the High-Medieval Queen: The Esther Topos,” Power of The Weak: Studies on Medieval Women, ed. Jennifer Carpenter and Sally-Beth MacLean (Urbana: University of Chicago Press, 1995), pp. 126–46;Google Scholar
  8. John Parsons, “The Queen’s Intercession in Thirteenth-Century England,” Power of The Weak: Studies on Medieval Women, ed. Jennifer Carpenter and Sally-Beth MacLean (Urbana: University of Chicago Press, 1995), pp. 147–77;Google Scholar
  9. Helen Maurer, Margaret of Anjou: Queenship and Power in Late Medieval England (Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 2003), esp. pp. 10–13, 52–66;Google Scholar
  10. Gordon Kipling, Enter the King: Theatre, Liturgy, and Ritual in the Medieval Civic Ttriumph (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), pp. 289–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Women besides queens were involved in the affinities. Because women were often left to manage their husbands’ estates, they often were in charge of the day-to-day business of administering significant holdings, and this included managing the network of regional contacts that made up much of the lower-level structure of affinities. See Rowena Archer,“‘How ladies … who live on their manors ought to manage their households and estates’:Women as Landholders and Administrators in the Later Middle Ages,” Woman is a Worthy Wight: Women in English Society c. 1200–1500, ed. P.J.P. Goldberg (Stroud, Gloucestershire; Alan Sutton Publishing, 1992), pp. 149–81.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    For a recent study of fifteenth-century queenship, see J.L. Laynesmith, The Last Medieval Queens: English Queenship, 1445–1503 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). For Elizabeth as good lady, seeGoogle Scholar
  13. David Baldwin, Elizabeth Woodville: Mother of the Princes in the Tower (Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing, 2002), pp. 76–79; for Margaret, see Maurer, pp. 51–74;Google Scholar
  14. John Watts, Henry VI and the Politics of Kingship (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1996), esp. pp. 294, 335–42;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. R.A. Griffiths, The Reign of King Henry VI 2nd ed. (Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing, 1988), esp. pp. 254–62;Google Scholar
  16. Diana Dunn, “Margaret of Anjou, Queen Consort of Henry VI: A Reassessment of her Role, 1445–53,” Crown, Government, and People in the Fifteenth Century, ed. Rowena Archer (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995), pp. 107–43; andGoogle Scholar
  17. Patricia-Ann Lee, “Reflections of Power: Margaret of Anjou and the Dark Side of Queenship,” Renaissance Quarterly 39 (1986), p. 186 [183–217].The comparison to Queen Margaret may be particularly apt because P.J.C. Field detects in the description of Guinevere’s “Queen’s Knights” a possible reference to Queen Margaret’s “Queen’s Gallants” who fought for her at Blore Heath. SeeGoogle Scholar
  18. P.J.C. Field, “Fifteenth-Century History in Malory’s Morte Darthur,” Malory: Texts and Sources (Cambridge, U.K.: D.S. Brewer, 1998), pp. 62–65.Google Scholar
  19. 13.
    “The Place of Women in Le Morte Darthur,” A Companion to Malory, ed. Elizabeth Archibald and A.S.G. Edwards (Cambridge, U.K.: D.S. Brewer, 1996), p. 45 [37–54].Google Scholar
  20. 14.
    For instance, the English Chronicle claims that “The quene with suche as were of her affynyte rewled the reame as her lyked.” See An English Chronicle, 1377–1461, ed. William Marx (Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 2003), p. 78.Google Scholar
  21. 16.
    Anne P. Longley, “Guinevere as Lord,” Arthuriana 12.3 (Fall 2002): 49–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 17.
    “A Political Retrospect,” Political Poems and Songs Relating to English History Composed during the Period from the Accession of Edw. III to that of Ric. III, 2 v., ed. Thomas Wright (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1861), 2:268–69.Google Scholar
  23. 18.
    Horrox, Richard III: A Study of Service (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 80–81.Google Scholar
  24. 20.
    Letter 418, to John Paston III (Nov. 4, 1481?). Paston Letters and Papers of the Fifteenth Century, 2 v., ed. Norman Davies (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), p. 1: 665.Google Scholar
  25. 21.
    It can be hard to distinguish personal letters from political ones in the structure of an affinity. For a discussion of the networks created by letters, see Francoise La Saux, “Pryvayly and Secretely: Personal Letters in Malory’s ‘Book of Sir Tristram de Lyones,’ Études de lettres,” 3 (July–September 1993), pp. 21–33.Google Scholar
  26. 24.
    Kennedy’s argument that this passage does not directly assert adultery is convincing; her further claim that adultery is not implied is not. See Beverly Kennedy, “Malory’s Guenevere: A ‘Trew Lover’,” On Arthurian Women: Essays in Memory of Maureen Fries, ed. Bonnie Wheeler and Fiona Tolhurst (Dallas: Scriptorium Press, 2001), p. 22 [11–34]; The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, s.v.“draught,” (London: Oxford University Press, 1971).Google Scholar
  27. 28.
    Robert Sturges argues that the question of what Launcelot and Guinevere actually did physically is crucial to understanding their moral status, and that Malory’s gentlemanly refusal to provide details tantalizes readers with a question that cannot be answered. While for some readers the titillation of unknowable details may focus even more attention on the sexuality, for others the absence of details about the affair invited attention for the political aspects that are visible to readers and to other members of the court. See Sturges, “Epistemology of the Bedchamber: Textuality Knowledge, and the Representation of Adultery in Malory and the Prose LancelotArthuriana 7.4 (1997): 41–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 29.
    Brewer, The Morte Darthur: Parts Seven and Eight (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1968), p. 29; McCarthy, Reading the Morte Darthur (Cambridge, U.K.: D.S. Brewer, 1988); Mark Lambert, Malory: Style and Vision in Le Morte Darthur (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975), pp. 176–78.Google Scholar
  29. 31.
    For Gawain: Aggravayne, Gaheris, Gareth (?) and Mordred. For Launcelot: Bors, Blamour, Bleoberis, Galihud, Eliodin, Ector, Lionel, Gareth (?). For Trystram: Palomides, Safir. For Lameroke: Pyonell. For Arthur: Kay, Braundiles. Other knights also have ties, especially to Launcelot and Gareth. For further analysis of which knights belong to which affinities, see Hyonjin Kim, The Knight Without the Sword: A Social Landscape of Malorian Chivalry (Cambridge, U.K.: D.S. Brewer, 2000), pp. 84–93.Google Scholar
  30. 32.
    This emphasis on Guinevere’s good ladyship is Malory’s: he created the dialogue between Launcelot and Bors, and it is he who gives the purpose and names the guests at the feast. See P.J.C. Field, The Works of Sir Thomas Malory, 3rd ed., 3 v. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), pp. 1596–97 nn. 1045,1048.Google Scholar
  31. 34.
    Mary Lynn Saul interprets Bors’s rebuke as criticizing Guinevere for not being a good courtly lover, but Bors does not focus on the romantic issues but on the larger political consequences for Launcelot’s kin, who make up a large part of Launcelot’s affinity. Guinevere is being judged as one of the leaders of an affinity, not simply as a courtly lover. See Saul, “Courtly Love and Patriarchal Marriage in Malory’s Le Morte DarthurFifteenth-Century Studies 24 (1998), p. 53 [50–62]. See also Holichek, “After Long Silence,” p. 116.Google Scholar
  32. 36.
    For a full discussion of Launcelot’s wearing borrowed arms, see Elizabeth Scala, “Disarming Lancelot,” Studies in Philology 99 (2002): 380–403.Google Scholar
  33. 37.
    Andrew Lynch has analyzed blood in Le Morte Darthur as proof of worthiness, both the metaphorical blood of kinship and the literal blood of combat. Here, Launcelot’s blood is divided against itself (his blood-kin spill his courageous blood). See Malory’s Book of Arms: the Narrative of Combat in Le Morte Darthur (Cambridge, U.K.: D.S. Brewer, 1997), pp. 60–78.Google Scholar
  34. 38.
    Felicia Ackerman, “‘Every Man of Worshyp’: Emotion and Characterization in Malory’s Le Morte DarthurArthuriana 11.2 (2001): 33–35.Google Scholar
  35. 40.
    R.M. Lumiansky following Vida Scudder, champions this idea in “‘The Tale of Launcelot and Guenevere’: Suspense,” Malory’s Originality, ed. R.M. Lumiansky (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1964), p. 226 [205–32].Google Scholar
  36. 42.
    Kenneth Hodges, “Swords and Sorceresses: The Chivalry of Malory’s Nyneve,” Arthuriana 12.2 (2002): 78–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 44.
    John Michael Walsh argues otherwise, suggesting that “general jubilation” marks the queen’s first acquittal and a “subdued tone” the second, but I see little textual support for this. If anything, the need for Nyneve finally to resolve the issue and Mador’s very light punishment (in judicial duels, a defeated accuser could suffer the same death as the defendant faced) mark not general jubilation but a strong degree of support for Mador and uncertainty about the queen. See Walsh, “Malory’s ‘Very mater of La Cheualer du Charyot’: Characterization and Structure,” Studies in Malory, ed. James Spisak (Kalamazoo, Mich.: Medieval Institute Publications, 1985), pp. 213–14 [199–226].Google Scholar
  38. 45.
    Batt, “Malory and Rape,” Arthuriana 7.3 (1997): 78–99; Armstrong, “Gender and the Chivalric Community: The Pentecostal Oath in Malory’s ‘Tale of King Arthur,’” Bulletin Bibliographique de la Société Internationale Arthurienne 51 (1999): 293–312.Google Scholar
  39. 47.
    Benson, “The Ending of the Morte Darthur” A Companion to Malory, ed. Elizabeth Archibald and A.S.G. Edwards (Cambridge, U.K.: D.S. Brewer, 1996), p. 226 [221–38]; Armstrong, Gender and the Chivalric Community in Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, pp. 183–84.Google Scholar
  40. 51.
    Thomas, Duke of Gloucester, says that before judicial duels “noon of hem schall do hevinesse, ille, harme, awaite, assaute, nor non other grevaunce, nor ennye bi them, nor bi non of ther frendes welwillinge, nor bi non other who soo ever it be” [my punctuation]. Reproduced by R. Coltman Clephan, The Medieval Tournament (New York: Dover, 1995, originally printed as The Tournament: Its Periods and Phases (London: Methuen, 1919), p. 184. His treatise is also printed inGoogle Scholar
  41. The Black Book of the Admiralty, ed. Sir Travers Twiss, Rerum Brittanicarum Medii Aevi Scriptores 55 (London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1871; Reprinted Kraus Reprint, 1965), pp. 300–29.Google Scholar
  42. 53.
    Thomas, Duke of Gloucester, p. 187. See also Beverly Kennedy’s discussion of the fight in Knighthood in the Morte Darthur, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, U.K.: D.S. Brewer, 1992), p. 299.Google Scholar
  43. 54.
    For discussion of what this speech reveals about his attitude toward Guinevere, see for instance Kim, The Knight without the Sword, p. 62; Armstrong, Gender and Community in Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, p. 75; Sheila Fisher, “Women and Men in Late Medieval Romance,” The Cambridge Companion of Medieval Romance, ed. Roberta Krueger (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 159 [150–64]; C. David Benson,“The Ending of the Morte Darthur,” p. 230.Google Scholar
  44. 55.
    E. Kay Harris, “Evidence against Lancelot and Guinevere in Malory’s Morte DarthurExemplaria 7.1 (1995): 180–205; see also Edwards, The Genesis of Narrative in Malory’s Morte Darthur, pp. 160–62; McCarthy, Reading the Morte Darthur, pp. 100–03.Google Scholar
  45. 58.
    Robert Kelly argues that Malory portrays an England dependent on a French alliance, making the French wars disastrous. See “Malory’s Argument against War with France: The Political Geography of France and the Anglo-French Alliance in the Morte Darthur,” The Social and Literary Contexts of Malory’s Morte Darthur, ed. D. Thomas Hanks, Jr. and Jessica Brogdon (Cambridge, U.K.: D.S. Brewer, 2000), pp. 111–33.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kenneth Hodges 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth Hodges

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations