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Sir Thomas Malory

Sir Thomas Malory

[mal-uh-ree]
Malory, Sir Thomas, d. 1471, English author of Morte d'Arthur. It is almost certain that he was Sir Thomas Malory of Newbold Revell, Warwickshire. Knighted in 1442, he served in the parliament of 1445. He was evidently a violent, lawless individual who committed a series of crimes, including poaching, extortion, robbery, rape, and attempted murder. Most of his life from 1451 on was spent in prison, and he probably did most of his writing there. Malory's original book was called The Book of King Arthur and His Noble Knights of the Round Table and was made up of eight romances that were more or less separate. William Caxton printed it in 1485 and gave it the misleading title of Morte d'Arthur. This work is generally regarded as the most significant accomplishment in English literature in the two centuries between the works of Chaucer and those of such masters as Spenser and Shakespeare. The last medieval English work of the Arthurian legend, Malory's tales are supposedly based on an assortment of French prose romances. The Morte d'Arthur is noted for its excellent dramatic narrative and the beauty of its rhythmic and simple language. It remains the standard source for later versions of the legend.

See The Works of Sir Thomas Malory, ed. by E. Vinaver (3 vol., 2d ed. 1967); biographies by P. J. C. Field (1993) and C. Hardyment (2006); studies by W. Matthews (1966), P. J. C. Field (1971), M. Lambert (1975), B. Dillon, ed. (1978), T. Takamiya and D. Brewer (rev. ed. 1986), M. J. Parins, ed. (1988), T. McCarthy (1991), E. Archibald and A. S. G. Edwards, ed. (1996), D. T. Hanks, Jr. (1992 and 2000), M. D. Svogun (2000), E. Edwards (2001), C. Batt (2002), D. Armstrong (2003), N. Dentzien (2004), and K. S. Whetter and R. L. Radulescu, ed. (2005).

Sir Thomas Malory (c. 1405 – 14 March 1471) was an English writer, the author or compiler of Le Morte d'Arthur. The antiquary John Leland (1506–1552) believed him to be Welsh, but most modern scholarship assumes that he was Sir Thomas Malory of Newbold Revel in Warwickshire. The surname appears in various spellings, including Maillorie, Mallory, Mallery, and Maleore. The name comes from the Old French adjective maleüré (from Latin male auguratus) meaning ill-omened or unfortunate.

All facts are certain in Malory's history. He was born in 1405 . He died in March of 1471, less than two years after completing his lengthy book. Twice elected to a seat in Parliament, he also accrued a long list of criminal charges during the 1450s, including burglary, rape, sheep stealing, and attempting to ambush the Duke of Buckingham. He escaped from jail on two occasions, once by fighting his way out with a variety of weapons and by swimming a moat. Malory was imprisoned at several locations in London, but he was occasionally out on bail. He was never brought to trial for the charges that had been levelled against him. In the 1460s he was at least once pardoned by King Henry VI, but more often, he was specifically excluded from pardon by both Henry VI and his rival and successor, Edward IV. It can be construed from comments Malory makes at the ends of sections of his narrative that he composed at least part of his work while in prison. William Oldys speculates that he may have been a priest, based on Malory's description of himself in the colophon to Le Morte d'Arthur:

I pray you all, gentlemen and gentlewomen that readeth this book of Arthur and his knights, from the beginning to the ending, pray for me while I am alive, that God send me good deliverance, and when I am dead, I pray you all pray for my soul. For this book was ended the ninth year of the reign of King Edward the Fourth, by Sir Thomas Maleore, knight, as Jesu help him for His great might, as he is the servant of Jesu both day and night. (Malory p. 531)

A young Malory appears as a character at the end of T.H. White's book The Once and Future King, which was based on Le Morte d'Arthur; this cameo is included in the Broadway musical Camelot. Many modern takes on the Arthurian legend have their roots in Malory, including John Boorman's 1981 movie Excalibur, which includes selected elements of the book.

Notes

References

  • Malory, Thomas, Janet Cowen, and John Lawlor. Le Morte D'Arthur. Volume II. London: Penguin Books, 1969. googlebooks Retrieved December 2, 2007
  • Eugène Vinaver, "Sir Thomas Malory" in Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages, Roger S. Loomis (ed.). Clarendon Press: Oxford University. 1959. ISBN 0-19-811588-1
  • P.J.C. Field, The Life and Times of Sir Thomas Malory, Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1993. ISBN 0261-9814''
  • Sheila V. Mallory Smith, A History of the Mallory Family, Phillimore, 1985, ISBN 0850335760
  • Christina Hardyment, Malory: The Life and Times of King Arthur's Chronicler, Harper Collins, 2005, ISBN 0066209811

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