A brief disclaimer: As I discuss my thoughts about Le Morte d’Arthur, I will be using the orthography that the book uses, which in some cases, may differ from more well-known spellings.
The legacy of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is ubiquitous in Western culture, from popular culture to symbols of national identity. Most people have heard some form of the stories, and the names Gwynevere, Sir Launcelot, Merlin and King Arthur are cognizant by young school children and scholars alike.
Due to its omnipotence, it is difficult to pinpoint where the version of the Arthurian legends I was familiar with (prior to reading Le Morte d’Arthur) came from. The stories are so entrenched in our consciousness that I feel as if we know them, as we know words we understand, but don’t remember learning. We know the greatness of Sir Launcelot and his passion for Queen Gwynevere, and their betrayal of King Arthur, which led to King Arthur’s downfall, and the collapse of the kingdom. Perhaps less of us know the roles Sir Gawain, Sir Percivale or Sir Gareth played in the stories, but their names are familiar and we associate them with a time of quests and chivalry, long past.
Le Morte d’Arthur is only one version of numerous retellings of the legends, but it is possibly the most well-known. It contains the familiar tales of Tristram and Iseult, the quest for the Sangreale, Gwynevere and Launcelot, the death of King Arthur (as you may have known from the title) and other stories about various Knights of the Round Table and their adventures.