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

By Vida D. Scudder | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
SOME PHASES OF MALORY'S ART

A STUDY of almost any other passage from the Morte Darthur would have the same result. It would show the author working with a free hand, modifying, suppressing, enhancing, nearly always with heightened effect. But it is not only in this intimate structural work that the Morte Darthur marks a great artistic advance on its sources. Rightly to appreciate Malory's art, one must consider other phases of it, -- notably his use of varying tempo, his handling of conversation, his production of romantic effects, and his inimitable style.

Nowise has modern narrative made greater artistic gains than in the matter of acceleration and retard. In a well-told story as in real life, the breath comes quickly as emotion rises to a climax, but settles into slow rhythmic ease in times of calm. Thackeray's habitual manner, for instance, is garrulous and confidential; leisurely analysis, description, and comment occupy the greater portion of his books. But this manner alternates with such brevity at the dramatic nodes that each word seems to do the work of ten, so that a paragraph may present and leave behind what long chapters have led toward. The great Russians, the French, do the same thing when the

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