Le Morte d'Arthur of Sir Thomas Malory and Its Sources

By Vida D. Scudder | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
THE "MORTE DARTHUR" AND THE PROSE "LANCELOT"

MALORY'S handling of the material derived from the Merlin and the Tristram romances would be a fruitful subject for close study. Space however does not allow us to pursue that study further here, and we must now concentrate our minds on a further comparison of the Morte Darthur with the prose Lancelot.

The English Morte uses a very small proportion of the material in this French romance. The adventures in Malory's sixth book, which opens with Lancelot sleeping under an apple tree and visited by three queens, occur when the French Lancelot is two thirds over. They are there immediately followed by the visit to Carbonek and the begetting of Galahad. Malory on the other hand gives a sense of long elapsing time between the two series of events; for after the miscellaneous incidents in Book VI., which serve mainly to define the eminence of his hero, he inserts the Gareth story and all the Tristram interests. During the many years implied in these sections of the romance, the figure of Lancelot flits across the scene, rather shadowy but more and more exalted; till the inception of the Grail story finds the reader eager to know more of the protagonist and prepared to appreciate him to the full.

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