Malory's Lancelot: the Conflicts of Chivalry Based on a Source Study of Malory's Morte D'Arthur

Date of Graduation

Summer 1991


Master of Arts in English



Committee Chair

Mary Baumlin


The person of Sir Thomas Malory, author of Morte Darthur, has drawn much scholarly attention since the publication of William Caxton's first edition in 1485. Because Caxton was not specific about the author, scholars have speculated on Malory's true identity. Since the nineteenth century most scholars have accepted his candidate from Newbold Revel. With the discovery of the Winchester manuscript in 1934 and Vinaver's subsequent edition of that manuscript in 1947, new information was revealed concerning Sir Thomas Malory. Contained in the Winchester manuscript were explicits indicating that Sir Thomas Malory was a knight and a prisoner at the time of his writing. These two seemingly contradictory positions require investigation. What were the conditions that would cause a knight to become a prisoner and to write the Morte Darthur while imprisoned? By examing the historical predicaments of the fifteenth century and the sources Malory used to compile his tales, we may gain insight into Malory through his recreation of his central character, the tragic hero Lancelot. Given an unusual situation over which a victim has no control, this victim Lancelot embodies Malory's own frustrations. By examining the character of Lancelot and Malory's adaptations and additions to his sources we may know more of Malory as he lived and wrote in fifteenth century England.

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


© Jane L Renner