Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d’Arthur. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
Le Morte d’Arthur: Introduction
Le Morte d’Arthur: Plot Summary
Le Morte d’Arthur: Detailed Summary & Analysis
Le Morte d’Arthur: Themes
Le Morte d’Arthur: Quotes
Le Morte d’Arthur: Characters
Le Morte d’Arthur: Symbols
Le Morte d’Arthur: Theme Wheel
Brief Biography of Sir Thomas Malory
Historical Context of Le Morte d’Arthur
Other Books Related to Le Morte d’Arthur
- Full Title: Le Morte d’Arthur
- When Written: 1469-1470
- Where Written: Newgate Prison, London
- When Published: 1485
- Literary Period: Medieval English
- Genre: Arthurian romance
- Setting: England (“Logris”) and France
- Climax: Arthur’s illegitimate son, Mordred, prepares to usurp the throne while Arthur is away fighting his formerly loyal knight, Launcelot.
- Antagonist: Arthur and his knights face various antagonists throughout the collected stories. They are often foreign kings, especially King Claudas and the King of Northgalis, but the very rules of knighthood make for constantly shifting alliances and enemies, as one battle triggers a cycle of revenge and retribution. Ultimately, it is two Knights of the Round Table that cause the kingdom’s downfall: Mordred—Arthur’s illegitimate son, and the product of sleeping with his own sister—and Launcelot, through his affair with Queen Guenever.
- Point of View: A first-person narrator, apparently the author, relates a number of events to which he has only second-hand or third-hand knowledge.
Extra Credit for Le Morte d’Arthur
Creative Editing. Although Malory adapted his work from many different sources, some of the most striking scenes—including the longest speech in the work, in which Launcelot defends Guenever’s honor—are his own.
New Findings. While most editions of Le Morte d’Arthur rely on Caxton’s edits, in 1934 a manuscript was discovered in the library of Winchester College—now known as the Winchester Manuscript—which had an entirely different structure, leading to debates about Malory’s intentions for the work.