The fortunes of Arthur: Malory to Milton

Maley, W. and Swann, A. (2014) The fortunes of Arthur: Malory to Milton. In: DeMaria, R., Chang, H. and Zacher, S. (eds.) The Blackwell Companion to British Literature: Early Modern Literature 1450-1660. Series: Blackwell companions to literature, 2. John Wiley & Sons Ltd.: Chichester, pp. 16-28. ISBN 9780470656044 (doi: 10.1002/9781118827338.ch28)

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This chapter follows the fortunes of Arthur as a figure contested and celebrated in equal measure between Malory's Morte Darthur (1485), and Milton's History of Britain (1670). Malory depicted the French wars under the guise of Arthur's sixth-century campaign against Rome, and Arthur was key to medieval and Renaissance representations of sovereignty and resistance. One critical view suggests that by the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Arthur became an inconvenient myth, retaining poetic and propagandistic potential but scoffed at by serious scholars. The Reformation and the rise of antiquarianism engendered suspicion of medieval sources, and Arthur and Brutus were undone by the rise of Anglo-Saxon studies. Yet Arthur maintained momentum even as myth morphed from history to poetry, and writers such as Sidney, Spenser, and Shakespeare still found purchase in the legend. Looked at closely, Milton's disparaging of Arthur appears less absolute, refashioning as it does Malory's Arthurian political allegory.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Swann, Dr Adam and Maley, Professor Willy
Authors: Maley, W., and Swann, A.
Subjects:P Language and Literature > PR English literature
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Publisher:John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Publisher Policy:Reproduced with the permission of the publisher

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