Le Morte d'Arthur

Violence in Malory

By focusing on sex and violence, Malory's rendering of the Arthurian legend becomes something quite distinct from the French originals. Malory unveils a complex cast of characters including Arthur, who is both Christ-like and Herod-like by turns. Sex and violence, while certainly sensational, lends a poignant, yet gritty realism to the Arthurian legend. It is through this violent, and jarring realism that Malory unveils a distinctly political and worldly agenda. Malory focuses on Camelot as a worldly ideal. His reign is linked to the coming of the Christian church. Sanctioned by God, the sword test is the means by which Arthur is able to rise from obscurity and eventually rule England. Arthur, as the chosen one, is anticipated and proclaimed at the onset of the Works and a new form of political society may be expected. From its inception, however, his order is shown to be steeped in sin and violence. He is marred, personally, by the sins of lechery, incest and pride, while his political tactics invariably involve some form of terror. Arthur's rise to rule is intertwined with Christ imagery, but it is also contradicted by markedly Herodic overtones.

After committing state wide infanticide, Arthur escapes public derision...

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