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Le Morte Darthur and Courtly Love and the 15 th Century Obviously the usual other things, too, like sex, love, incest, patricide, magic, murder, rape,

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Presentation on theme: "Le Morte Darthur and Courtly Love and the 15 th Century Obviously the usual other things, too, like sex, love, incest, patricide, magic, murder, rape,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Le Morte Darthur and Courtly Love and the 15 th Century Obviously the usual other things, too, like sex, love, incest, patricide, magic, murder, rape, religion, and plain old stubbornness

2 What sort of world do Lancelot, Guinevere, and Arthur inhabit? The World of Arthur The World of Courtly Love

3 Where did Courtly Love arise? In France first, particularly Provence. But there are 3 possibilities for its origin: A. The Arabic poetry of the Crusades which was so beautiful and so centered on love that the French tried to model their poetry and ideas on it. B. In a half-secular, half-religious world, Courtly Love is the secular form of Mariolatry, drawing many ideas from the worship of Mary. C. During the Crusades, women were left in charge of the castles of Europe, and they developed these ideas when the men were off being knights in the Holy Land.

4 Rules of Courtly Love The Ruler of the Court is no longer the Lord, but the Lady. The poetry is written to the Lady. Courtly Love is ALWAYS extramarital love and it always seems to involve one level of betrayal. The Knight is loyal to his Lord. However, in courtly love, the Knight is in LOVE with the Lady (platonic, usually). Therefore, his love is a sort of betrayal. The longing of the Knight will improve him through yearning and suffering pain. Love is an excess – it carries you outside of yourself. The Lady is always on a Pedestal. She may be semi-divine in the poetry, but she has no freedom. Shes an angel or saint.

5 Lays of Marie de France Love is achieved through years of suffering and pain There are seldom swords, mostly beds Emphasis on the beauty of the bedroom Yet the Lady is essentially imprisoned in her bedroom, or garden in this case. Focus on physical, sensual spaces Plot becomes secondary to description

6 For men, and for Sir Thomas Malory, this is a century of war

7 Battle of Agincourt Probably English dead. French losses are better known; the French themselves estimated these at between 8,000 and 11,000 of whom 1,200-1,800 were slaughtered prisoners. A generation of French nobles had been destroyed: there was hardly a French noble family who did not lose someone and countless family lines came to the end on the field of battle.

8 St. Crispins Day Speech Henry V encourages the soldiers And Crispin Crispian shall neer go by, From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remembered- We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he neer so vile, This day shall gentle his condition; And gentlemen in England now-a-bed Shall think themselves accursd they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispins day.

9 War of the Roses – Lancasters (red roses) Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI vs. Yorks (white roses) Edward IV, Edward V (child), and Richard III. Not ended until Henry VII (father of Henry VIII), the first Tudor. Malory himself switched back and forth and was caught out Essentially a huge civil war (see Stevensons The Black Arrow) Le Morte Darthur was written by Malory in prison and published in 1485 by Caxton (first English press).

10 Le Morte Darthur in prose? Partly in prose because Malory was translating French prose sources, as well as poetic ones. It has the EFFECT of truth because all the histories (chronicles) were in prose, so one feels that one is reading a true history. Prose brought different expectations of the writer and the reader. (Molieres joke about prose in Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme )

11 Close reading of the bedroom scene? For Lancelot, his social identity is his real identity. He doesnt seem to care about whether he and Guinevere have betrayed the King, but instead, whether, if charged with treason, Guinevere would be found guilty. He seems to have committed adultery, but believes that if he fights hard enough, his fighting will disprove that charge. God defend me from such a shame! But, Jesu Christ, be Thou my shield and mine armor! For I promise you by my knighthood and ye will depart and make no more noise.

12 Close reading of the Mordred-Arthur battle.

13 What about Excalibur? Arthur thinks the magic is in the sword. Merlin tells him the magic is in the sheath. Why must it be given back to the Lady of the Lake? What does this say about Arthurs values at the end of his life?


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