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Le Morte D'Arthur Volume 1
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Arthurian > Le Morte D'Arthur (Caxton) General comments

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message 1: by Lia (new) - added it

Lia | 522 comments Mod
From the introduction by John Lawlor:
“there is ground for believing in the existence of a victorious commander, a Briton of the later fifth century, leading a series of successful encounters with invaders (and, possibly, traitorous Britons)1 – a glorious career which later generations thought of as ended not by external defeat but by dissension within the war-band. This is the Arthur who is first reflected in the pages of Geoffrey of Monmouth (1136): and it is this Arthur who continued to appeal to medieval English writers – a leader whose triumphant course ends in the lamentable division of his kingdom”
Why do heroic Kings like to provoke civil wars (Odysseus? Zeus?)

message 2: by Lia (last edited Jun 04, 2018 12:52PM) (new) - added it

Lia | 522 comments Mod
Why can’t Caxton write a normal TOC like everybody else?

The First Book shall treat how Uther Pendragon gat the noble conqueror King Arthur, and containeth xxviii chapters. The Second Book treateth of Balin the noble knight, and containeth xix chapters. The Third Book treateth of the marriage of King Arthur to Queen Guenever, with other matters, and containeth xv chapters. The Fourth Book, how Merlin was assotted, and of war made to King Arthur, and containeth xxix chapters. The Fifth Book treateth of the conquest of Lucius the emperor, and containeth xii chapters.
The Sixth Book treateth of Sir Launcelot and Sir Lionel, and marvellous adventures, and containeth xviii chapters. The Seventh Book treateth of a noble knight called Sir Gareth, and named by Sir Kay Beaumains, and containeth xxxvi chapters. The Eighth Book treateth of the birth of Sir Tristram the noble knight, and of his acts, and containeth xli chapters. The Ninth Book treateth of a knight named by Sir Kay Le Cote Male Taille, and also of Sir Tristram, and containeth xliv chapters. The Tenth Book treateth of Sir Tristram, and other marvellous adventures, and containeth lxxxviii chapters. The Eleventh Book treateth of Sir Launcelot and Sir Galahad, and containeth xiv chapters. The Twelfth Book treateth of Sir Launcelot and his madness, and containeth xiv chapters. The Thirteenth Book treateth how Galahad came first to king Arthur's court, and the quest how the Sangreal was begun, and containeth xx chapters.
The Fourteenth Book treateth of the quest of the Sangreal, and containeth x chapters. The Fifteenth Book treateth of Sir Launcelot, and containeth vi chapters. The Sixteenth Book treateth of Sir Bors and Sir Lionel his brother, and containeth xvii chapters. The Seventeenth Book treateth of the Sangreal, and containeth xxiii chapters. The Eighteenth Book treateth of Sir Launcelot and the queen, and containeth xxv chapters. The Nineteenth Book treateth of Queen Guenever and Launcelot, and containeth xiii chapters. The Twentieth Book treateth of the piteous death of Arthur, and containeth xxii chapters. The Twenty-first Book treateth of his last departing, and how Sir Launcelot came to revenge his death, and containeth xiii chapters

message 3: by Lia (new) - added it

Lia | 522 comments Mod
“Sir, go to your meat,”


I’ll never finish this if I can’t stop laughing at every juvenile sounding thing.

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Lia | 522 comments Mod
This comment
Shrouded in the Avalon mists, the doubt that surrounds Arthur’s death in Malory’s Morte Darthur contributes to the mystique surrounding Arthur and gives his end the quality of a beginning.

Makes me think about Odysseus’ return — the return that’s doubtful and shrouded in the “mist” of Tiresias’ prophecy. On one level, it’s dreadful, you don’t know if he gets to stay home.

OTOH: the end is the beginning, it’s cyclical, the end of a journey is the beginning of his next. It seems nothing more than the participation in a very common theme, it’s in sycn with nature, it’s hardly tragic.

message 5: by Lia (new) - added it

Lia | 522 comments Mod
Ulfius sounds so much like Orpheus, I wonder if they are relatives.

message 6: by Ian (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 103 comments Lia wrote: "Why can’t Caxton write a normal TOC like everybody else?..."

I don't have access to a facsimile edition of Caxton's version to check (unlike the digitalized Winchester Manscript). However, according to the line-division indicators (slashes /) in Oskar Sommer's diplomatic (exact) edition of Caxton (1889), each book description should get a line to itself. Many editions ignore this information (or the editors didn't have it available in their base text), and just print it as a block of text. This may have been the case of the source of the digital version you are using: or whoever compiled it couldn't be bothered.

Caxton's list gives only the number of chapters in each book. Some editions also list the chapter numbers and headings, in the standard, modern, tabular form, although a number of good ones don't. One of the reasons I suggested the Delphi edition is that it has a "Detailed Table of Contents" for the Caxton text, hyperlinked to the individual chapters. This is very helpful in navigating the lengthy text.

message 7: by Lia (new) - added it

Lia | 522 comments Mod
Ah, so that’s what I get for being a cheapskate and deferring my purchase of the Delphi! (I mean, they sometimes have discounts around X’mas...)

It was actually Caxton’s own prologue or introduction, I used OCR from my iphone to capture the page in a library book. The book itself has a TOC, but by a modern editor. I just thought Caxton’s introduction looks more like a TOC, I was hoping to get some interesting editorial commentary from Caxton himself, instead I just get an index.

message 8: by Ian (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 103 comments In Caxton's edition, the list of contents is the conclusion of a Prologue that otherwise runs to three pages (in Shepherd's Norton Critical Edition, where it appears as an appendix, since the book is based on the Winchester Manuscript).

You may have to go looking for an edition that includes it. The Prologue, when included, is usually in the front-matter. When you find it, you will probably be better off with a lightly modernized, and well-punctuated, rendering: besides the trouble with Olde Spellyng in general, Caxton's prose often seems less natural, or is harder to follow, than Malory's. (After all, Malory had a lot of practice while writing out the "Morte," while Caxton seems to have restricted himself to publisher's "blurbs" and, presumably, business letters.)

The prologue does give Caxton's approach to the "Arthurian Problem" as it existed in the late fifteenth century, even with some critiques of Malory, e.g., his identification of Arthurian places with "modern" English cities.

There should also be an Epilogue, or Colophon, giving Caxton's identification (where to go to get your own copy!), and his closing thoughts, concerning his choice of the title Le Morte Darthur.

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