Le Morte D'Arthur, Chapter IV (1485)

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Le Morte D'Arthur, Chapter IV (1485)


Then Arthur made great dole when he understood that Sir Ector was not his father. Sir, said Ector unto Arthur, will ye be my good and gracious lord when ye are king? Else were I to blame, said Arthur, for ye are the man in the world that I am most beholden to, and my good lady and mother your wife, that as well as her own hath fostered me and kept. And if ever it be God's will that I be king as ye say, ye shall desire of me what I may do, and I shall not fail you; God forbid I should fail you Sir, said Sir Ector, I will ask no more of you, but that ye will make my son, your foster brother, Sir Kay, seneschal of all your lands. That shall be done, said Arthur, and more, by the faith of my body, that never man shall have that office but he, while he and I live Therewithal they went unto the Archbishop, and told him how the sword was achieved, and by whom; and on Twelfth-day all the barons came thither, and to assay to take the sword, who that would assay. But there afore them all, there might none take it out but Arthur; wherefore there were many lords wroth, and said it was great shame unto them all and the realm, to be overgoverned with a boy of no high blood born. And so they fell out at that time that it was put off till Candlemas and then all the barons should meet there again; but always the ten knights were ordained to watch the sword day and night, and so they set a pavilion over the stone and the sword, and five always watched. So at Candlemas many more great lords came thither for to have won the sword, but there might none prevail. And right as Arthur did at Christmas, he did at Candlemas, and pulled out the sword easily, whereof the barons were sore aggrieved and put it off in delay till the high feast of Easter. And as Arthur sped before, so did he at Easter; yet there were some of the great lords had indignation that Arthur should be king, and put it off in a delay till the feast of Pentecost.



This excerpt comes from chapter IV of book I of Le Morte D’Arthur written by Thomas Malory in 1485. Malory drew from previous Arthurian romances as a way to link the various legends of King Arthur together. The work spans from the circumstances of Arthur’s conception until his death at the hands of Mordred. Before this chapter, Arthur had pulled the sword, Excalibur, from the stone and presented it to his family. This is astounding because Uther placed the sword in the stone and only his heir can pull it. Arthur is a common boy who nobody would think to be the heir to the throne. His father tells Arthur the truth that he is adopted and is of a noble birth (Malory, 30). This excerpt focuses on Arthur dealing with the fallout of this discovery. The knights and lords try to fight it, but they cannot pull the sword from the stone because they are not the true heirs (Malory, 31).

This excerpt that Excaliburi s based on gives a glimpse into the mindset of the knights who were witness to Arthur pulling the sword from the stone. Though everyone in this excerpt has spent years waiting for a king to come forward, once they have their king they are dissatisfied (Malory, 31). Each one of the Barons and lords know that there is a need for unification yet they all have their own lofty ideals about who should unify or rule them. In the next chapter of Le Morte D’Arthur, Arthur, through being chosen by God, is able to influence the same Barons and lords into accepting him as their king (Malory, 31). These story elements appear in the film, though less drawn out. In Excalibur, Arthur appears to walk away from his destiny for a short while to return and save Leodegrance’s castle. After he saves the castle the knights finally accept Arthur as their rightful king. While shortening Arthur’s progression found in the original story, the film maintains the same sentiment.  


Sir Thomas Malory (1405 - March 14, 1471)


Thomas Malory, “Le Morte D’Arthur, Volume I (of II) King Arthur and of his Noble Knights of the Round Table,” https://www.gutenberg.org/files/1251/1251-h/1251-h.htm (accessed May 3, 2018), pp. 30-31.


Project Gutenberg (public domain)




Brian Brown



Middle English


Primary Source Text



Sir Thomas Malory (1405 - March 14, 1471), “Le Morte D'Arthur, Chapter IV (1485),” Medieval Hollywood, accessed April 19, 2024, https://medievalhollywood.ace.fordham.edu/items/show/28.

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