Even though the Arthur legend is hundreds of years old, our culture today is still fascinated with the idea of the Round Table and the love triangle between Arthur, Lancelot, and Guinevere. There are movies and books galore to read about the different takes on the legend of Arthur. However, it makes one wonder if our culture really understands the Arthurian legend. Especially in the movies the central idea of a literary work can be lost. Compared to Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur have movies lost sight of what the Arthurian legend tries to teach?
Le Morte d’Arthur has several different themes working within in for Hollywood to choose from. An easy one for moviemakers is the glorification of the hero. In Malory’s work it appears that he is glorifying Arthur but really his work is being very critical. Arthur is an interesting man, and Malory constructs his character to stand out. But he also gives Arthur flaws that inevitably bring about his demise.
Malory also makes Merlin an intriguing character. However, Merlin is very ominous. He tries to steer Arthur in the right direction but he is not entirely a positive character. His magic and his ability to see the future make Merlin someone to be wary of. Merlin may not be represented in the movies so mysteriously.
Another large part of the Arthurian legend is the theme of betrayal. Many movies do not cover how Arthur was conceived but in Le Morte d’Arthur, Malory discloses Arthur was conceived through betrayal. The betrayal theme continues when Lancelot and Guenevere start their romance. It is Lancelot and Guenvere’s betrayal that brings the downfall of the Round Table and Camelot.
The Round Table and the idea of unity are two more major themes. In much of the medieval literature unity among men is stressed and Le Morte d’Arthur is no exception. Malory imitates the same idea from Beowulf, that all men are brothers and should be united instead of divided. Unfortunately, the Round Table is destroyed by the above mentioned betrayal.
Another theme that is also borrowed from Beowulf is the idea of the sword representing destruction. The sword in the stone is what starts a great deal of the trouble. The sword is what continues to start such trouble. Merlin warns Arthur that the sword is better off in its sheath but Arthur does not listen. Instead, the sword is used to try to solve problems and ends up creating many more.
The last major theme was a common one during the time Malory was writing: courtly love. This theme is definitely something our culture has dwelled on. The idea of two lovers who cannot be together because of marriage is all too interesting for the culture that is also obsessed with soap operas. One could say that many more movies that do not even mention Arthur could be based on the Arthurian legend if they imitate courtly love. Any movie with a love triangle could be game. However, the key element of courtly love is that there must be a third party. If...