Nikki 's Reviews > King Arthur's Death

King Arthur's Death by Unknown
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's review
Mar 08, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: myth-legend-saga-etc, arthurian, classics, medieval-literature
Read from September 30 to October 09, 2010

(Third book in the readathon!)

Morte Arthure -- The translation of this alliterative poem seems okay. It tries to keep the alliterative nature of the original poem, which works in some places and feels overwrought in others. The introduction to the poem is pretty good, anyway, and helpful in understanding it.

The story of the poem focuses for the most part on Arthur's battles with Rome, when they demand tribute for him, but it contains several other episodes, including Arthur's battle with the giant of Mont St Michel (not handed off to another knight, as that kind of episode often is in Arthurian literature, but undertaken by Arthur alone) and the fight against the treacherous Mordred. At this point, you can almost still relate to Mordred, treacherous and cowardly as he is -- or I can, anyway, perhaps influenced by his sincere lament for the fallen Gawain.

The fall of Gawain, and Arthur's reaction, remind me a lot of The Song of Roland, re: Roland's death and Charlemagne's reaction.

Le Morte Arthur -- The translation of the stanzaic poem is actually better than that of the alliterative poem, I think. I found it easier to read. Something about it keeps it lively, even though the subject matter is largely tragic. Again, the introduction is pretty good and explains what's going on pretty well.

The alliterative poem doesn't deal much with Lancelot, but this poem is based on a French version which focuses on Lancelot and Guinevere's adultery. Arthur is much less important here, and instead it's his knights and his wife that hold centre stage: Lancelot, Gawain, Guinevere. Although Mordred and Arthur are important too, they're not what lives for me in the narrative.

I do love Sir Gawain: his portrayal in this version is one I can get behind.

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Reading Progress

09/30/2010 page 33
10.0% "Pretty good intro. Now I have some things to look up re: early Welsh Arthurian texts."
10/03/2010 page 70
22.0% "King Arthur is surprisingly central in the alliterative poem. Haven't seen that much! No Gawain (yet?)..."
10/09/2010 page 168
53.0% "Finished the alliterative poem -- I'll review that now."

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa Reading Arthurian Romances (very good notes and intro) just now and pondering what's next.
Is this worth a look? If so, which trans would you advise?
I keep meaning to stop reading the medieval stuff and get onto the modern retellings, but then I notice something else that's in print and say "OK, maybe one more".
Will have to read Don Quixote again after my last medieval Arthur, might help me re-boot.

Nikki I haven't looked at any different translations of this. It's nothing particularly new in terms of interpretation, but I find it pretty interesting as a source for Malory.

message 3: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Oct 01, 2010 08:53AM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa With your wide reading on the subject have you found any Arthurian stuff that Arthur plays more than a supporting role in? Even in Morte he seems to be the nail the other knights tales are hung on, in all the tales that I've read he seems to spend more time being generous and gracious than getting his hands dirty...that's if he's lucky enough to get more than a passing mention.

Nikki So far, in this, he's pretty central. I can let you know when I'm done, though.

message 5: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa Thanks.

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