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Le Morte D'arthur
by Thomas Malory, Ed. By Alfred W. Pollard
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According to tradition, a rogue knight of the fifteenth century collated all the legends and songs surrounding the pre-Christian Welsh chieftain Arthur into a fascinating, rambling prose narrative. Since then it has inspired numerous artists while becoming the principal source for today's notions of chivalry and the Knights of the Round Table. Yet, for modern Americans, it's as difficult to hear as to read, despite all efforts by the brilliant Derek Jacobi in this judicious abridgment. The diction, somewhere between the English of Chaucer and Shakespeare, has been tastefully edited for comprehension, but the values and literary conventions have not. If anyone can bring such fare to life, Jacobi can--and does! Through him, we hear what once inspired the fantasies of young boys. All the psychological and moral complexities that are the author's chief concern are present, as well as the vigor and sonority of the writing. Further, Jacobi's beautiful oral expression smooths out the unevenness of the original and gives more life to the characters than Malory did. Jacobi brings out the full tragedy of Arthur's death and the dissolution of the Camelot ideal. Malory as interpreted by Jacobi is well worth the listen. Y.R. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine
Daily Express, London Newspaper, September 9, 2000
"....a beautifully illustrated edition....Anna-Marie Ferguson's pictures convey the mythic element superbly"
"Le Morte d'Arthur remains an enchanted sea for the reader to swim about in, delighting at the random beauties of fifteenth-century prose."
The text is unabridged, with original spelling and extensive, easy-to-use marginal glosses and footnotes. No other edition accurately represents the actual (and likely authorial) divisions of the text as attested to by its two surviving witnessesCaxton's 1485 print and, especially, the famous Winchester Manuscript. The Winchester Manuscript is now generally agreed to be the more authentic of the two surviving manuscripts. The Norton Critical Edition is the first edition of Malory to recover important elements of this manuscript: paragraphing, marginal annotations, hierarchies of narrative division as signaled by size and decorative intricacy of initial capitals and font changes. The Norton Critical Edition also represents, in black-letter font, the striking rubrication of proper names in the Winchester Manuscript, reconstructing for readers something of an authentic medieval reading experience, one which gives visual support to Malory's extraordinary representation, in character and setting, of a chivalric ideal. No other student edition of Malory contains such extensive contextual and critical support.
About the series: No other series of classic texts equals the caliber of the Norton Critical Editions. Each volume combines the most authoritative text available with the comprehensive pedagogical apparatus necessary to appreciate the work fully. Careful editing, first-rate translation, and thorough explanatory annotations allow each text to meet the highest literary standards while remaining accessible to students. Each edition is printed on acid-free paper and every text in the series remains in print. Norton Critical Editions are the choice for excellence in scholarship for students at more than 2,000 universities worldwide.
The legends of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table have inspired some of the greatest works of literature--from Cervantes's Don Quixote to Tennyson's Idylls of the King. Although many versions exist, Malory's stands as the classic rendition. Malory wrote the book while in Newgate Prison during the last three years of his life; it was published some fourteen years later, in 1485, by William Caxton. The tales, steeped in the magic of Merlin, the powerful cords of the chivalric code, and the age-old dramas of love and death, resound across the centuries.
Elizabeth J. Bryan is associate professor of English at Brown University. She is the author of Collaborative Meaning in Medieval Scribal Culture: The Otho LaZamon.
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