The arthurian legend

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Background

King Arthur is the figure at the heart of the Arthurian legends. He is said to be the son of Uther Pendragon and Ygraine of Cornwall. Arthur is a near mythic figure in Celtic stories such as Culhwch and Olwen. In early Latin chronicles he is presented as a military leader, the dux bellorum. In later romance he is presented as a king and emperor. One of the questions that hasoccupied those interested in King Arthur is whether or not he is a historical figure. The debate has raged since the Renaissance when Arthur's historicity was vigorously defended, partly because the Tudor monarchs traced their lineage to Arthur and used that connection as a justification for their reign. Modern scholarship has generally assumed that there was some actual person at the heart of thelegends, though not of course a king with a band of knights in shining armor--though O.J. Padel in "The Nature of Arthur" argues that "historical attributes of just the kind that we find attached to Arthur can be associated with a figure who was not historical to start with." If there is a historical basis to the character, it is clear that he would have gained fame as a warrior battling the Germanicinvaders of the late fifth and early sixth centuries. Since there is no conclusive evidence for or against Arthur's historicity, the debate will continue. But what cannot be denied is the influence of the figure of Arthur on literature, art, music, and society from the Middle Ages to the present. Though there have been numerous historical novels that try to put Arthur into a sixth-century setting,it is the legendary figure of the late Middle Ages who has most captured the imagination. It is such a figure, the designer of an order of the best knights in the world, that figures in the major versions of the legend from Malory to Tennyson to T. H. White. Central to the myth is the downfall of Arthur's kingdom. It is undermined in the chronicle tradition by the treachery of Mordred. In theromance tradition that treachery is made possible because of the love of Lancelot and Guinevere.

Medieval Texts:

Alliterative Morte Arthure

Annales Cambriae (Annals of Wales), Arthurian References in (c. 960-80)

The Avowyng of Arthur

The Awntyrs off Arthur

Culwch and Olwen

Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1100-1155), Arthurian Passages from The History of the Kings of Britain (completedc. 1138)

Gerald of Wales (1146-1223), Gerald of Wales on the Finding of King Arthur's Tomb, translated by John William Sutton

Layamon (early 13th century), "The Death of Arthur" from Layamon's Brut (c. 1205)

Nennius, From: The History of the Britons (Historia Brittonum) (c. 800)

The Spoils of Annwn (Preiddeu Annwn), edited and translated by Sarah Higley

Stanzaic Morte Arthur (©TEAMS)

Wace (c.1115-c.1183), "The Death of Arthur" from the Roman de Brut (c. 1155)

Modern Texts:
• Akhurst, W. M. (1822-1878), Arthur the King, or, The Knights of the Round Table and Other Funny-ture (1871)
• Akhurst, W. M. (1822-1878), King Arthur: or, Launcelot the Loose, Gin-Ever the Square and the Knights of the Round Table, and Other Furniture (1868)
• (Anonymous), "TheTemptation of Arthur" (1870)
• Axon, William (1846-1913), "The Wizard of Alderley Edge" (1884)
• Aytoun, William Edmonstoune (1813-1865), "La Morte d'Arthur: Not by Alfred Tennyson" (1843)
• Babcock, William H. (1849-1922), Cian of the Chariots (1898)
• Baring, Maurice (1874-1945), "The Camelot Jousts" (1910)
• Betham-Edwards, Matilda (1836-1919), "An Autumn in Western France"(1876)
• Blackmore, Richard (1654-1729), King Arthur: An Heroick Poem in Twelve Books: Part I (Preface and Books 1-6); Part II (Books 7-12); Index (1697)
• Blackmore, Richard (1654-1729), Prince Arthur: An Heroick Poem in Ten Books: Part I (Preface and Books 1-5); Part II (Books 6-10) (1695)
• Blaikie, J. Arthur, "Arthur in Avalon" (1884)
• Bridges, Sally, "Excalibur" (1864)...
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