Le Morte D'Arthur
by Sir Thomas Malory
Le Morte D'Arthur Tradition and Customs Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Page.Line) [from Malory, Thomas. Le Morte D'Arthur. Stephen H. A. Shepherd, ed. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2004. Print.]
They dud nothynge but the olde custom of thys castell; and tolde hym that hir lady was syke and had leyne many yeres, and she myght nat be hole but yf she had bloode in a sylver dysshe full, of a clene mayde and a kynges doughter – "and therefore the custom of thys castell ys that there shall no damesell passe thys way but she shall blede of hir bloode a sylver dysshe full." (54.20-26)
This reminds us of a much later episode during the Grail Quest when Percivale's sister volunteers to be bled for the same reason – to save the lady of the castle – and then dies. In this earlier incident, however, we're not quite in the same world of Christian sacrifice of the Grail quest, and Balyn's damsel has to be forced.
Thenne the chyef lady of the castel said, "Knyghte with the Two Suerdys, ye must have adoo and juste with a knyght hereby that kepeth an iland, for ther may no man passe this way but he must juste or he passe." "That is an unhappy customme," said Balyn, "that a knyght may not passe this wey but yf he juste." (58.35-39)
Balyn's calls this gruesome custom "unhappy," or ill-fated. That seems like an understatement to Shmoop, especially when you think about the fact that this custom him to kill and be killed by his own brother the process. Unhappy indeed.
"The hyghe and myghty Emperour Lucyus sendeth to the Kynge of Bretayne gretyng, commaundyng the to knouleche hym for they lord and to sende hym the truage due of this royamme unto th'Empyre, which thy fader and other tofore, thy precessours, have paid – as is of record – and thou, as rebelle, not knowynge hym as thy soverayne, withholdest and reteynest, contrary to the statutes and decrees maade by the noble and worthy Julius Cesar, conqueror of the royame and fyrst Emperour of Rome." (113.17-114.4)
One way in which tradition rears its head in Le Morte D'Arthur is when kings like Arthur or Mark have to pay tribute to another lord only because their forefathers have always done so. Sometimes the only reason a character does something is simply because everyone else has been doing the same thing for ages.