The legends of King Arthur have shaped Anglo-Saxon culture throughout the centuries.
The illustration on the right shows a detail of a magnificent byfoot tapestry of King Arthur woven about The tapestry comes from a set of the "Nine Worthies," who were regarded in the late Middle Ages as the greatest military leaders of all times. The very absence of historical fact to underpin the legends about Arthur left writers of history and romance free to exploit those stories in the service of personal, political, and social agendas.
The man who inspired the Arthurian legend would have been a Briton, a leader of the Celtic people who had been part of the Roman Empire and had converted to Christianity after it became the official religion of Rome.
At the time, the Britons were making a temporarily successful stand against the Anglo-Saxon invaders who had already occupied the southeastern corner of Britain. The Roman Empire was crumbling before the incursions of Germanic tribes, and by the late fifth century the Britons were cut off from Rome and forced to rely for protection on their own strength instead of on the Roman legions NAEL 8, 1.
Arthur was never a "king"; he may well have been commander-in-chief of British resistance to the Anglo-Saxons. In the Welsh elegiac poem Gododdin, composed ca. According to a Latin History of the Britons around the yearascribed to Nennius, "Arthur fought against the Saxons in those days together with the kings of Britain, but he was himself the leader of battles.
The Latin Annals of Wales ca. At the same time, Arthur was flourishing in Welsh tales as a fairy-tale king, attended by courtiers named Kei KayBedwyn Bedivereand Gwalchmain Gawain. It was in the French literature of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries that Arthur and his knights came to embody the rise, and eventual decline, of a court exemplifying an aristocratic ideal of chivalry.
The new genre of romance focused not only on the exploits of knights fighting in wars and tournaments or battling against monstrous foes but also on the trials and fortunes of love, and romances addressed mixed audiences of men and women.
In the thirteenth century, a group of French writers produced what modern scholars refer to as the Vulgate Cycle, in prose. This consists of a huge network of interlocking tales, featuring hundreds of characters.
The Vulgate Cycle presents a darker side to Arthur and to the Round Table as a center of courtesy and culture. In the chronicle histories, as a Christian king, Arthur had borne the cross and fought valiantly against barbarian enemies and an evil giant.
The very idea of Arthurian chivalry as a secular ideal undergoes a critique, especially in the Vulgate Cycle. In courtly romances at least there is an exception in popular romanceGawain never acquires a wife or even a permanent mistress like Lancelot, although there are covert and, occasionally, overt affairs with different ladies.
In one late tale, Gawain agrees to woo a cruel lady on behalf of another knight, who then discovers Gawain in bed with that lady. The poet of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight may well be referring to such episodes when in the first of the three titillating bedroom scenes, he has the lady of the castle reproach Gawain for his lack of courtesy: The Gauvain of French romances, however, contrasts with his English counterpart.
Caxton valiantly, and perhaps somewhat disingenuously, seeks to refute the notion, "that there was no such Arthur and that all such books as been made of him been but feigned and fables. The following chronology provides a selected overview of historical events and Arthurian texts:Live it, love it, learn it.
is a super important date for English history, because it was when the Norman Conquest happened which completely changed life in England. Not to mention language in England. The Norman Conquest is what made today's English more Frenchified, and less Old Englishy.
Major Themes of Arthurian Legend Introduction Arthurian legend is a collection of texts written in the Middle Ages around the King Arthur, his entourage and the quest for the Grail, which is a strong theme of the area of Britain. King Arthur is perhaps the most legendary icon of medieval Britain.
His popularity has lasted centuries, mostly thanks to the numerous incarnations of his story that pop up time and time again. The legend of King Arthur is embedded in British and American culture.
Contemporary America, in particular, is a rich breeding ground for the Arthurian mythos, not only in films, novels, short stories, and fantasy and science fiction, but in other areas of popular and mass culture as well.
The English Gawain does get married in The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle, which is one of eleven popular Gawain romances surviving in English in all of which Sir Gawain is the best of Arthur's knights.
King Arthur in Medieval English Literature.
BACK You know you're important when you get your own brand of baking flour named after you. Seriously, though, Arthurian literature has been popular for basically forever. No that's over 1, years of Arthur. It's likely that the legend of A-Man got rolling with a real-life war leader of the.