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60 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A GREAT WORK PRUNED A BIT TOO HARD FOR COMFORT, 18 Jan 2007
By 
Klingsor Tristan (Suffolk) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Of all the works of Early English literature from the Gawain and Pearl poets through Gower and Langland to Chaucer and on to Spenser, Sir Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur is probably the best known and possibly the least read. Unlike all those, it is a prose work. It was written by a knight who seems to have been a rather dubious character and who was apparently not too concerned about the laws of chivalry he upholds in his book. Indeed, it seems likely that his masterwork was written while he was in prison and there is certainly a distinct note of sympathy whenever he describes the conditions of various knights and damsels who are themselves imprisoned.

One of the chief reasons for the book's early success was that it was taken up and printed by William Caxton within 15 years of being written and proved one of the earliest bestsellers of the print era. Its continuing influence on literature and the arts in the succeeding centuries is surely down to Malory's invigorating prose style and his superb narrative thrust. Without it there would be no Idylls of the King, no Once and Future King, no Camelot, never mind no Monty Python and the Holy Grail or Spamalot.

Malory plundered a multitude of sources from across mainland Europe as well as Britain as the basis for his book. But he was probably the first to draw together the many varied strands and traditions of Arthurian legend into one work. It is in some ways still a loose collection of different stories - The Tale of Gareth, the Tale of Lancelot, the Book of Sir Tristram, the Tale of Arthur and Lucius (which sets it historically in the latter days of the Roman Empire) and so on. But particularly towards the end of the book where we find the greatest of the stories - the divided loyalties and the moral and ethical dilemmas of The Book of Sir Lancelot and Gwynevere, the spiritual highs but also the dispiriting breakup of the Round Table in the Quest for the Grail and the final betrayal and death of Arthur himself in the Morte d'Arthur - there is a superb cumulative sense of tragedy driving to its inevitable end that is overwhelming.

This Oxford edition scores by using a sensible conflation of the Winchester manuscript and Caxton's printed version. The modernisation is, on the whole, accurate and readable, preserving the rhythms and tone of Malory's virile prose. However, it loses points for a somewhat excessive abridgement. Yes, I know there are a multitude of tourneys and fights that become repetitive and include `too much information' about the details and intricacies of fighting that were clearly fascinating to Malory but are not that interesting to modern tastes. These and other fairly savage cuts do disrupt the rhythms and pacing of Malory's writing that are more relaxed than contemporary concentration spans demand and should be accepted on their own terms.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly interesting read, 5 May 2003
By A Customer
It is often hard to find literature which fully incorporates multiple parts of the Arthurian legends. Often only the very basics are present and much of the brilliant detail is omitted. This version is one of those few works that actually bring many of the legends to light; incorporating many of the lesser known, and very interesting aspects of the legend into the commonly known main plot.
It proves interesting to read about much of what is normally passed on anecdotally through families in England about one of the greatest English legends still told today. Most English people usually know the gist of the stories, but it is always interesting to find out and see people's reactions when they discover the extra details that they were unaware of previously.
This edition is one of the most comprehensive you will find, other than going out there and researching much of the hard going literature on the subject.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, 3 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Le Morte Darthur: The Winchester Manuscript (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
Although I have still not read the entirety of this large tome, which I am aware is an injustice, as only part of it was necessary for my course, the book is of good quality and has been preserved well, and a great buy.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, 27 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Le Morte Darthur: The Winchester Manuscript (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
Great, book needed for uni studies, good for those who are interested in English Literature as I need this for my English degree.
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