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Thomas Malory

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Sir Thomas Malory (c.1405March 14, 1471) was the author or compiler of Le Morte d'Arthur. The antiquary John Leland believed him to be Welsh, but most modern scholarship and this article assumes that he was Sir Thomas Malory of Newbold Revel in Warwickshire. The surname appears in various spellings, including Maillorie and Maleore. The name comes from the Old French adjective maleüré (from Latin male auguratus) meaning ill-omened or unfortunate.

Few facts are certain in Malory's history. From his own words he is known to have been a knight and prisoner, and his description of himself as "a servant of Jesu both day and night" has led to the inference that he might have been a priest. It is believed that he was knighted in 1442 and entered the British Parliament representing Warwickshire in 1445.

In 1450, it appears that he turned towards a life of crime, being accused of murder, robbery, stealing, poaching, and rape. However, the validity of these charges are the subject of much controversy given Malory's unclear political affiliations. False charges were common amidst the political strife of the War of the Roses. Supposedly while imprisoned for most of the 1450s (mostly in London's Newgate Prison), he began writing an Arthurian legend that he called The Book of King Arthur and His Noble Knights of the Round Table. Little else is known of Malory's life, but he is believed to have been a Lancastrian during the Wars of the Roses, or perhaps a retainer of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick who openly defected to the Lancastrian camp from that of the Yorkists in 1469. His work was first published posthumously by William Caxton as Le Morte d'Arthur in 1485.

Malory is believed to have obtained the material for his work from many French sources in addition to earlier English Arthurian Romances, most notably the stanzaic Morte Arthur and the alliterative Morte Arthure. In the preface to the first edition of the Le Morte D'Arthur, William Caxton speaks of the work as printed by himself "after a copy unto me delivered, which copy Sir Thomas Malory did take out of certain books of French, and reduced it into English." Malory himself tells us that he finished the book in the ninth year of King Edward IV of England (about 1470). Le Morte D'Arthur brought together the various strands of the legend in a prose romance which many critics reckon the best of its kind. Some claim it to have the status of "the first recognisable novel", although this claim is disputed.

Le Morte D'Arthur was used by T.H. White as the basis for his work The Once and Future King, and as such, included a cameo appearance of Malory near the end – as a young boy, he is knighted by Arthur, who orders him to come home and spread the stories and ideals of Camelot to all who will listen. His cameo appearance was included in the Broadway musical Camelot, which was based on White's book.

Le Morte D'Arthur was also the substantial basis for John Boorman's 1981 movie, Excalibur, including in it all the elements of the book.

Bibliography

  • Eugene Vinaver, "Sir Thomas Malory" in Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages, Roger S. Loomis (ed.). Clarendon Press: Oxford University. 1959. ISBN 0198115881

External links

Part of this text originated from the 9th edition (1880s) of an unnameable encyclopedia.

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