The Alliterative Morte Arthure

Tragedy in the Alliterative Morte Arthure and Le Morte Darthur College

As one of the most important figures of bravery, goodness and heroism in British legend, the idea that, as a tragic hero, Arthur Pendragon might have deserved his fate, is an uncomfortable one. However according to Aristotle’s Poetics, there can be no escaping the fact that the protagonist’s tragic flaw is the sole cause for their downfall. While the Alliterative Morte Arthure’s Arthur is certainly a flawed man, and elements of the reversal and recognition we might expect are present, the poet’s introduction of the wheel of fortune suggests that there are more factors at work. Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur, whilst certainly tragic in tone, similarly subverts the readers’ expectations of the genre, creating less of a personal tragedy than a tragedy of the whole realm, using this to comment on the failures of chivalry.

In the Alliterative Morte Arthure it is not difficult to determine a tragic flaw in Arthur, as his pride almost overwhelms the reader at times. Although his campaign against Lucius is initially just in nature, his military success soon causes him to become arrogant and corrupt, fighting instead ‘for raunson of red gold’.[1] This is perhaps best demonstrated through the parallels between Arthur and the giant...

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