Le Morte d'Arthur

a Guide in 8 Literary Elements

 written by a student

  1. title
  2. sources
  3. genre
  4. structure
  5. plot
  6. narrative techniques
  7. characters
  8. themes


Thomas Malory


The title of this work can be divided into three parts:

LE: which is the male determiner for a compound;

MORTE: this word comes from the French word "mort" that means death;

ARTHUR: it recalls legends of ancient times.
The title of this work already existed, so Malory borrowed it and used it for his work.

Thomas Malory was born in 1400 in Warwickshire and died in 1471. He was a knight. For most of his life he was a respectable citizen, although in 1450, he was sent to prison for a series of violent crimes.

The main sources that inspired the work are:
-The Vulgate Cycle: romances written in the 12th century. It is a part of a French collection;
-Morte Arthure: an alliterative, heroic poem. In the story Lancelot and Guinevere are barely mentioned;
-Le Morte D'Arthur: a poem about the romance between Lancelot and Guinevere.

Malory used sources both from the French tales, from which he took the ideas of chivalry and courtly love, while from the poems in English, he took the idea of the national hero.

The genre of this work is Romance.
A romance is a narrative, in prose or poetry, and it describes the heroic deeds of a knight. It is often set in a supernatural, fairy-tale setting.

Malory's romance revolves around Arthur's youth, life and death.
It is an adventure story mixed with supernatural events. It tells how Arthur became a king by pulling a magical sword from a stone. It is also about the dispersion of the Knights of the Round Table.

The structure of this work is a sequence of events, it starts with the birth and rise of Arthur and King Arthur's war against the Romans. Then there's the book of Lancelot and the book of Gareth (brother of Gawain). The story of Tristan and Isolde, the quest of the Holy Grail, the affair between Lancelot and Guinevere and last but not least the breaking of the Knights of the Round Table and Arthur's death.

This work has come down to us thanks to William Caxton, the first English printer, who printed the first version of the work.

There are different narrative techniques: the plot appears quite episodic with a mixture of dialogues inside the narrative. There is vagueness between reality and fantasy.
The sentences are really long, the language is simple and there is not much attention to grammar. The setting in time and in place are both vague.

The characters are not well delineated, for instance Arthur is described as having "grey eyes", Lancelot and Tristan are "big men" and all the ladies are all "fair ladies".

The main themes are:


-Love (in various forms);

-Role of women.

The information to write this text have been taken from the website https://www.literature-no-trouble.com.

V.B. (3 LSA)