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Le Morte D'Arthur Volume Two (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Thomas Malory , John Lawlor
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

27 May 2004 English Library
Volume two of Le Morte D'Arthur, Sir Thomas Malory's powerful and elegaic version of the Arthurian legend, recounts the adventures of Sir Tristram de Liones and the treachery of Sir Mordred, and follows Sir Launcelot's quest for The Holy Grail, his fatally divided loyalties, and his great, forbidden love for the beautiful Queen Guenever. Culminating in an account of Arthur's final battle against the scheming, deceitful Mordred, this is the definitive re-telling of the Arthurian myth, weaving a story of adultery, treachery and ultimately - in its tragic finale - death. Edited and published by William Caxton in 1485, Malory's moving prose romance looks back to an idealised Medieval age of chivalry, drawing on French and English verse sources to create an epic masterpiece of passion, enchantment, war and betrayal.

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Le Morte D'Arthur  Volume Two (Penguin Classics) + Le Morte D'Arthur Vol. I: v. 1 + Arthurian Romances (Penguin Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; 2 edition (27 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014043044X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140430448
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 13.1 x 2.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 111,249 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

The greatest English version of the stories of King Arthur, the Morte Darthur was completed in 1469-70 by Sir Thomas Malory, 'knight prisoner'. His identity is uncertain, but he is likely to have been the lord of the manor of Newbold Revel, in Warwickshire. Malory's text collects, combines, and abbreviates the key French thirteenth-century prose romances of Arthur, many of which were themselves based on earlier verse originals, and supplements them with English Arthurian material. The Morte channels all the important Arthurian legends into a single source that itself stands at the head of the whole later Arthurian tradition in English. After initially leading the life of a responsible member of the gentry, this Sir Thomas Malory turned to a career of spectacular lawlessness; he spent a number of years in prison, was excluded from two general pardons and died in 1471.

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About the Author

No one knows for sure who the author of Le Morte D'Arthur was, but the generally accepted theory is that of American scholar G.L. Kitteredge, who argued it was Sir Thomas Malory, born in the first quarter of the fifteenth century, and who spent the greatest part of his last twenty years in prison. Another possibility is a Thomas Malory of Studley and Hutton in Yorkshire, or an author living north of Warwickshire. It is generally accepted that the author was a member of the gentry and a Lancastrain.

John Lawlor was Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Keele. He is the author of The Tragic Sense in Shakespeare, Piers Plowman: An Essay in Criticism and Chaucer. Janet Cowen is a senior lecturer in English at King's College, University of London.


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Review for the Penguin edition (ed.) Lawlor & Cowen, vols 1 & 2

Amazon have rather irritatingly conflated the reviews for the various editions of Malory's Morte D'Arthur regardless of whether they are abridged or in full. This review is for the two-volume Penguin edition which is the complete text.

We don't really know who 'Malory' was, but this is a wonderful English compilation of the myths and legends surrounding Arthur, Camelot and the knights of the Round Table, drawn primarily from the French (Breton and Celtic). Volume 1 feels slightly fragmented as it jumps around between the knights and inserts the Lady of the Lake and her maidens such as Nimue with no explanation. So you certainly shouldn't approach this expecting something like a novel with backstory and extensive exposition: here we're thrust into a chivalric world replete with magic and just need to accept the values of that world.

Volume 2 is perhaps more integrated as it tightens the focus especially on knights such as Lancelot, Galahad and Gawain. It is here that we get the quest for the Holy Grail (Sangreal) and a tight focus on Galahad. We also have the sexual triangle between Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere which becomes marvellously fraught with emotion and tension. The break-up of the Round Table and the final death of Arthur is movingly conveyed with a sense of the elegiac passing of a lost world.

So the first volume is a scene-setter, in some ways, for what has come to epitomise the central story of Arthur, with a much tighter and more integrated volume two. I love Malory's re-telling, nevertheless, and am very happy to lose myself in this dark and, ultimately, tragic chivalric romance.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Worth Buying 10 Jun 2013
By tiger65
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Well worth getting hold of a copy especially those interested in the history of King Arthur. There are many versions to look at but this is the one that took my fancy.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
163 of 175 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ian Myles Slater on: Caxton's Malory, Penguin and Others 6 Aug 2004
By Ian M. Slater - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Since reviews of entirely different editions seem doomed to appear together: This is a review of the two-volume edition of Sir Thomas Malory's "Le Morte D'Arthur" published by Penguin Books, edited by Janet Cowan, with an Introduction by John Lawlor. Originally part of the Penguin English Library (1969), it was later (1986) included in the Penguin Classics, in both the older, smaller (mass-market) Penguin format and the current, somewhat larger format; they all appear to be identical in contents. However, I will discuss other versions, notably the Modern Library, the Wordsworth Classics, and the old Everyman's Library editions.

The Penguin edition is based primarily on the 1485 text printed by William Caxton. It is modernized in spelling, but not in grammar. Each volume has a glossary of proper names, and another of archaic words; the most difficult words are generally noted and translated at the foot of the page on which they appear. A small section of notes in each volume deal with some confusing passages, and identify places where Caxton's text has been emended -- usually from the "Winchester Manuscript," now in the British Library, discovered in a safe at Winchester College in 1934, after being mistakenly catalogued under the title of a 1634 printed edition. The manuscript differs from Caxton's text in thousands of places, mostly minor, but some very important.

(There is now another set of editions, based primarily on the longer Winchester text; unfortunately, modernizations of that version are either abridged, or, in my opinion, more or less open rewritings, or both, like Keith Baines' "rendition" -- not to mention John Steinbeck's unfinished "Acts of King Arthur ...," which is a retelling as a modern novel. Two complete old-spelling editions of this second, longer, version, are in paperback, the Oxford Standard Authors original-spelling edition, as "Malory: Complete Works," followed by a recent Norton Critical Edition, as "Le Morte D'Arthur," on somewhat different lines. I have reviewed them together, under the "Complete Works" title; both are worthwhile, for readers willing and able to deal with them.)

Among the readily available editions of the Caxton "Morte," the Penguin edition is my favorite; a judicious balance of modern, or regularized, spellings, clarifying punctuation, and short explanations, without distortion of the not-yet-quite-Modern English of the sentences. Although Lawlor's introduction is beginning to show its age (Malory's French and English sources are treated as evidence in a then-current critical debate), Janet Cowan's text remains exceptionally attractive. The two-volume format is easy to handle, but can be a bit of a nuisance; if you want the whole story, be sure to order both!

It was Caxton, the pioneer of English printing, who assigned the title "The Death of Arthur" to a work which begins with Arthur's conception and birth, for reasons which he rather laboriously explained in a final colophon. (For those of you who know enough French to see that the title should begin "La Mort" -- the spelling is, as elsewhere in the text, based on medieval *Norman* standards, and the Parisian certainty of Death's feminine gender did not dictate English scribal -- or printing-house -- practices in the fifteenth century.) Until the publication of the Winchester text in 1947, all editions of this famous late Middle English compilation of stories of King Arthur and his Knights had to be based, more or less (and often less) directly, on the 1485 printing by William Caxton, of which two copies have survived, one missing fifteen leaves.

Unhappily, most nineteenth-century printings (the first two both in 1816) were based on the very corrupt ("improved") 1634 Stansby printing, sometimes sporadically compared to the Caxton text, or were in some other way "corrected" for (mainly) Victorian readers. In 1817, the poet Robert Southey tried to rely on Caxton, but had to replace the missing pages in the copy he was using with those in one of the reprintings, in 1498 and 1528, by Caxton's apprentice and successor, the self-named Wynkyn "de Worde." (The first is the original "illustrated Malory," the second is the first intentionally "modernized" Malory, customers having apparently complained that a book written in the 1460s was sounding a bit old-fashioned.) In addition, Southey's publisher seems to have used Stansby as a printing-house copy, directly or through the competing reprintings of 1816. Uncertainty as to proper editorial principles, reflecting uncertainty as to Malory's literary worth, and concern over the "immoral" contents of a book thought likely to appeal to boys, continued through the nineteenth century. (And into our time, as well.)

The three-volume edition (with extensive apparatus) by H. Oskar Sommers of 1889-1891 finally used the surviving copies of the 1485 edition as the sole authority. (I have not seen a reported reprinting of the full version, but the Sommers "Morte" text, without the introduction, notes, glossary, etc., is available in a hypertext format). It was presumably used by F.J. Simmons, who edited the ornate J.M. Dent edition of 1893-1894, illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley (reprinted a few years ago by Crown; Dover has issued an illustrations-only volume as well). Sommers' text was certainly used by Israel Gollancz for another Dent edition, the modernized four-volume Temple Classics version of 1897. This text appears to have been reset for a two-volume edition in 1906, in Dent's Everyman's Library series, with normalized (modern) spellings. There are some peculiarities in this version; for example, the spelling of names often changes between volumes one and two. For most purposes it was reliable enough, and was widely read during much of the twentieth century, appearing in the US in hardcover in Dutton reprints of the Everyman's Library, with a paperback edition in the 1970s. It seems to be out of print, but used copies show up regularly.

The Dent editions of the "Morte" had competition from other modernized texts, based on the Sommers edition, which included a revision by Sir Edward Strachey of his somewhat expurgated ("for boys") 1868 Globe edition for Macmillan. This version was replaced by a new Macmillan edition in 1903, edited by the distinguished bibliographer, and able editor of popular editions, A.W. Pollard. Pollard's text has been reprinted by a number of American publishers, and was at one time a Book Club offering, advertised as "unexpurgated" -- which it was, compared to some Victorian editions, and most especially to Sidney Lanier's "The Boy's King Arthur." The Pollard text is available on-line. It has been reprinted yet again, in the current Modern Library hardcover and paperback editions, with a fine new introduction, by Elizabeth J. Bryan, describing briefly the Arthurian Legend, and the problem of the two texts of the "Morte." The Pollard text also appears to underlie the Wordsworth Classics paperback, which has a helpful new Introduction, by Helen Cooper, and includes an index of characters (by Book and Chapter, not page number), but lacks notes. It is a relatively inexpensive, if not overwhelmingly attractive, alternative to the other editions.

Since the appearance of the Penguin "Morte," there have been two major technical publications of the Caxton text: a facsimile, edited by Paul Needham (1976), and a critical edition, edited by James Spisak (1983). I am not aware of a popular edition which has taken advantage of these resources.
5.0 out of 5 stars Go Ahead and Challenge Yourself 25 Feb 2014
By Thomas G. Hood - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It is fun and a wee tedious at times to read something written in 1469. Learn words that mean absolutely nothing to us today. From this perspective it is the definitive work on King Arthur and a must read for any Arthur Pendragon fan.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent edition of this book. 11 Oct 2013
By Aungrl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is the ideal edition of this book, in my view. I searched long and hard to find a translation that was true to the original, without being too "old English" to be enjoyable. This version strikes the ideal balance. Highly recommend.
5.0 out of 5 stars The classic rendition of King Arthur 16 Jun 2013
By L. Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Although the style is old fashioned and dense by today's standards, this is a must read for anyone seriously interested in Arthurian legend. There are older sources for true geeks; Mallory's version is the bridge between them and modern readers.
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic 21 April 2013
By Kristi K Curtsinger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is where the legend of King Arthur got really developed in print. Love the old stories and legends of heros
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