Le Morte d’Arthur

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Themes and Colors
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Le Morte d’Arthur, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Every year, at the Christian feast of Pentecost, the Knights of the Round Table renew their oaths to follow the code of chivalry as proclaimed by King Arthur. Chivalry includes showing mercy, fighting for good, and protecting ladies whenever they may be in harm. This is a code that is meant to govern the knights’ actions throughout Le morte d’Arthur—however, Malory also takes care to show just how difficult, if not impossible, this…

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The book largely supports and defends the ideals of honor and chivalry, but these ideals are then often contrasted with the actions of many knights who fail to live up to them. As part of the requirement of maintaining their honor, the Knights of the Round Table must either defend a woman—or one’s “ownership” of a woman—or else defend their land and property from rivals. Malory gives us an unflinching view of the petty jealousy…

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Le Morte d’Arthur begins with a search for an unknown king, one who, by the workings of fate, will be the only one able to pull the enchanted sword Excalibur from the stone. In this case, enchantment ensures that the true king will be properly identified, but as is often the case in Le Morte d’Arthur, trickery—magical and otherwise—also disrupts social norms and confuses more than it reveals.

Like Arthur, Sir Gareth

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The most obvious journey in the book is the quest for the Holy Grail, a holy cup with powers to grant eternal food, youth, and happiness. For most of the characters in the book, the Grail is no more than a seductive, distant goal, as they lack the spiritual purity and chivalric perfection necessary to attain it. Sir Galahad is the only one of the knights who manages to truly attain the Holy Grail…

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In many ways, women are left out of the exciting adventures that the knights of the Round Table embark upon throughout Malory’s tale. While their husbands, lovers, and brothers seek glory and honor in combat, they are more likely to stay at home—indeed, when we encounter women it’s most often inside, in domestic settings, and if they are out in the world, it tends to be because they’re in need of rescuing by some errant…

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