Le Morte d’Arthur

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte Darthur”, the epic tale of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table. Sir Thomas Malory was a knight from Warwickshire, a respectable country gentleman and MP in the 1440s who later turned to a life of crime and spent various spells in prison. It was during Malory’s final incarceration that he wrote “Le Morte Darthur”, an epic work which was based primarily on French, but also some English, sources.

Malory died shortly after his release in 1470 and it was to be another fifteen years before “Le Morte Darthur” was published by William Caxton, to immediate popular acclaim. Although the book fell from favour in the seventeenth century, it was revived again in Victorian times and became an inspiration for the Pre-Raphaelite movement who were entranced by the chivalric and romantic world that Malory portrayed.

The Arthurian legend is one of the most enduring and popular in western literature and its characters - Sir Lancelot, Guinevere, Merlin and King Arthur himself, are as well-known today as they were then; and the book’s themes - chivalry, betrayal, love and honour - remain as compelling.

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  • Helen Cooper 3 episodes
    Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English at the University of Cambridge
  • Helen Fulton 3 episodes
    Professor of Medieval Literature and Head of Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York
  • Laura Ashe 11 episodes
    CUF Lecturer and Tutorial Fellow at Worcester College at the University of Oxford

Reading list

  • The Cambridge Companion to the Arthurian Legend
    Elizabeth Archibald (ed.) (Cambridge University Press, 2009) Google Books →
  • A Companion to Malory
    Elizabeth Archibald and A. S. G. Edwards (eds) (Boydell and Brewer, 1996) Google Books →
  • Legends of Arthur
    Richard Barber (Boydell Press, 2001) Google Books →
  • The Arthur of the English: the Arthurian legend in medieval English life and literature
    W. R. J. Barron (Cardiff, 2001) Google Books →
  • Malory's Morte Darthur: Remaking Arthurian Traditions
    Catherine Batt (Palgrave, 2001) Google Books →
  • Malory's Morte Darthur
    Larry D. Benson (Harvard University Press, 1976) Google Books →
  • Malory, Le Morte Darthur
    Helen Cooper (ed.) (Oxford University Press, 2008)
  • The Life and Times of Sir Thomas Malory
    P. J. C. Field (Boydell and Brewer, 1999) Google Books →
  • King Arthur and the Myth of History
    Laurie Finke and Martin Shichtman (eds) (University Press of Florida, 2004) Google Books →
  • A Companion to Arthurian Literature
    Helen Fulton (ed.) (Wiley Blackwell, 2009) Google Books →
  • Malory: The Knight Who Became King Arthur's Chronicler
    Christina Hardyment (Harper Perennial, 2007) Google Books →
  • King Arthur: A Casebook
    E.D. Kennedy (Routledge, 2002) Google Books →
  • Oxford Guide to Arthurian Literature and Legend
    Alan Lupack (Oxford University Press, 2007) Google Books →
  • Le Morte D'Arthur
    Sir Thomas Malory (ed. Janet Cowen) (Penguin Classics, 1970) Google Books →
  • Arthurian Romance: A Short Introduction
    Derek Pearsall (Blackwell, 2003) Google Books →
  • Culture and the King: The Social Implications of the Arthurian Legend
    Martin Shichtman and James Carley (eds) (State University of New York Press, 1994) Google Books →
  • Malory: Works
    Eugene Vinaver (ed.) (Oxford University Press, 1977) Google Books →

Related episodes

Programme ID: b01pp989

Episode page: bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01pp989

Auto-category: 800 (Literature)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. It was an age of chivalry and romance, a time when knights fought dragons and saved damsels in distress, or so it went in the romances of the day.