|“The Death of King Arthur” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
An important Middle English prose work was Malory's Morte D'Arthur which is based on the myth of King Arthur. This myth, with the myth of Robin Hood the Prince of thieves, who lived in the wood and stole from the rich to give the poor, are the two major myths in England. Generally, a myth means a body of belief, based on true happenings or true historical character, which change through the time to touch the imagination of a race or an age and to inspire its literature.
A far great hero in England is King Arthur. Historically, it is said that King Arthur was a half-Briton and half-Roman King during the eighth and ninth centuries. He left the Roman and belonged to the true Britons that Anglo-Saxons drove out of England. With the Knights of the Round Table, the defenders of the old Roman civilization, he fought brave deeds against the new barbarians of Anglo-Saxons, Danes and Vikings.
Mythologically, Arthur is a king working to establish a perfect city or utopia which he calls Camelot. His mission is to fight all the forces of injustice. Being young, King Arthur takes a sword placed in stone, called Excalibur which any one takes will be the king and have a glorious destiny. Another element of the Arthurian myth is the search for the Holy Grail which is the cup used by Jesus Christ at the last Supper. King Arthur and his knights are accustomed to set at the Round Table which is a symbol referring to equality; all his knights are equal to each other. Lancelot is the favourite Knight of King Arthur, and in some versions he betrays him with his wife, Guinevere.
Morte D'Arthur (Arthur's Death) was written by Thomas Malory. Even for the violent just before and during the War of Roses, Malory was a violent Chracter. He was several times in prison, and it has been suggested that he wrote at the least part of Morte D'Arthur there to pass time. Generall, Malory wrote eight separate tales of King Arthur and his knights. However, when Caxtonprinted the book in 1485 after Malory's death, he joined them into one long story. Caxton's was the only copy of Malory's work until a handwritten copy of it was found in 1933. Malory's fine prose can tell a direct story well, but can also express deep feelings in musical sentences. Anyway, the stories of Arthur and his knights have attracted many British and other writers. There is a renewed interest in the shadowy British king and his Knights of the Round Table, and we can see this in films and children's books.