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Le Morte D'Arthur

Le Morte D'Arthur

by Sir Thomas Malory

Analysis: Genre

Tragedy; Adventure; Quest

This book has it all: romance, death, harrowing journeys, miraculous feats. If you're not quite sure which genre best fits Le Morte D'Arthur, then the title, which means "The Death of Arthur," should give you a clue. A story about how feuding, adultery, and a king's bastard son bring down the kingdom he's worked so long and hard to build? That sure sounds like a tragedy to us.

Yet Le Morte isn't just the story of how the kingdom falls; it's also the tale of how it's built. A big part of that story are the tales of Arthur's knights, who journey all over the land risking life and limb to rescue damsels from dragons, win more subjects for Arthur, evade wicked sorcerers, settle legal disputes, kill ogres, win glory in jousts… the list goes on and on, and that makes this story an adventure.

Sometimes, Arthur's knights embark on adventures with a specific goal in mind, like when Gareth sets out to rescue the lands of the Lady Lyonet from an evil knight who's besieging them, or when all of Arthur's knights embark on a journey to catch a glimpse of the Holy Grail. In the course of these adventures, the knights learn some stuff about themselves. Gareth proves that he's got what it takes to be a knight worthy of his family name; Launcelot realizes that all the time he's spent thinking about Gwenyvere makes him unfit for an adventure during which he should be devoting himself to God instead. We call these goal-oriented adventures involving self-discovery quests, and they make up a huge part of Le Morte D'Arthur as well.

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