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ALLEGORICAL IMAGERY IN MALORY'S ″TALE OF THE NOBLE KING ARTHUR AND THE EMPEROR LUCIUS″

M. A. Whitaker
Neuphilologische Mitteilungen
Vol. 74, No. 3 (1973), pp. 496-509
Published by: Modern Language Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43342850
Page Count: 14
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ALLEGORICAL IMAGERY IN MALORY'S ″TALE OF THE NOBLE KING ARTHUR AND THE EMPEROR LUCIUS″
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Abstract

Though medieval tradition regarded King Arthur as a historical personage, Malory's King Arthur is an idealized hero who performs symbolic acts in a setting that is only intermittently realistic. No adventure more clearly reveals his heroic stature than the story of his Roman expedition. Structurally, it follows the quest pattern of departure from the familiar world of the court, movement into an unknown environment, episodic confrontations with a series of enemies whom the hero inevitably overcomes, climactic victory, recognition, and return to the familiar world. The cyclic movement of the quest is imposed on the linear movement towards a goal. Similarly, in the temporal sphere, the symbolic cycle of the seasons is imposed on the linear progress of history. Because of the struggle between good and evil implicit in Arthur's combats with the giant and with the Romans, it is possible to give the story an allegorical interpretation. The representation of Arthur as the type of Christianissimus rex, the symbolic significance given to his actions and those of his knights, and the use of allegorical imagery contribute to the ideality of the work. Malory's biography of Arthur is a dream of history rather than history itself.

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