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Comparison Of Two Films About King Arthur

3987 words - 16 pages

Few works of literature or legend are as varied as that of King Arthur and his round table, forever retold by each generation. Without question, the defining work of Arthurian Literature is Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. Morte d'Arthur is a compilation of all the King Arthur legends that existed before Malory. Malory tried to bring all the stories together into one cohesive whole. Morte d'Arthur is a trove of stories about magical encounters and various quests that is loosely centered on the rise and fall of King Arthur.

Since it was written, there have been countless interpretations and adaptations. Today, we not only have countless Arthurian books, but many movies on the subject as well. In this paper I hope to compare and contrast two such Arthurian movies, Excalibur and King Arthur, and discuss what each film adds to the treasury of Arthurian lore. It is hard to believe that two completely opposite movies are based on the same literature. The movie Excalibur is like a modern day Morte d'Arthur, while the more recent King Arthur differs greatly from all former Arthurian works by attempting to be historically plausible.


Although Excalibur is based mostly on Malory, it also contains stories from Chrétien de Troyes and Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Idylls of the King. The film takes scenes straight from Malory, but it also changes Malory slightly by condensing some of his many details and mixing them with stories from other Arthurian writers. It smoothes over many of Malorys contradictions then manages to throw in some plot twists of its own.


The first scene of the film introduces the most important symbol of the film, Excalibur. Throughout the entire movie at every critical juncture, Excalibur appears. The film begins and ends with Excalibur. The sword is the heart of England, the charge of the Lady of the Lake, the spirit who represents England. Whoever wields the sword, wields England. It is a symbol of the King's union with the land, the main point of the film. L'etat c'est moi, Arthur and the land are one.

In the film, the sword is first given to Uther, who then becomes King. Besides for this, the story of Uther and Igraine is straight out of Malory. Uther starts a war with the Duke of Cornwall because Uther so openly desires Cornwall's wife, Igraine. Merlin agrees to give Uther the semblance of Cornwall so Uther can sleep with Igraine. In exchange for this service, the baby that will come from the adulterous union will be given to Merlin. An addition of the film is that before Uther walks into the castle as Cornwall, little Morganna has a vision that her father has died. When Uther comes into the room where Morganna and Igraine are, Morganna knows who he really is. Later on in the story, little Morganna watches as Merlin takes baby Arthur away. These scenes work to develop the character of Morganna and explain why she becomes such a hateful creature

When Uther dies, he thrusts the sword into...

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