Themes in Sir Gareth

In: English and Literature

Submitted By TamoVonBalf
Words 1078
Pages 5
Sir Thomas Malory wrote Le Morte d’Arthur in the middle of the fifteenth century and it has now

become a paradigmatic representation of Middle English Literature. In this essay I am going to look

closely at a section of The Tale of Sir Gareth of Orkney; paying close attention to style, theme and

lexis used as well as looking at how this passage fits into the society of the fifteenth century. The

extract I am going to examine is situated close to the start of the narrative; hence it provides key

introductions to characters.

Unquestionably one of the main themes of this narrative is chivalry. Chivalry was a concept well

known in the fifteenth century and it was seen as the absolute ideal way to conduct oneself by the

upper class. Central concepts within chivalry are honour, generosity, loyalty, courage and physical

prowess. I believe that Molory is attempting to use Le Morte d’Arthur to exemplify how to act

chivalrously. The genre of Romance was often utilised in this period to provide a template of action

and I believe the characters of Arthur and Gareth do so in this text.

The times Malory wrote Le Morte d’Arthur were extremely turbulent for the English people. There

was barely two years of peace between The Hundred Years’ War and The War of the Roses so the

English throne was at an incredibly unstable point and people were uncertain who was going to rule.

I believe this historical context had an effect on Malory’s depiction of Arthur – he is represented as

the ideal king possessing great chivalry, perhaps as a template for future kings or to show the people

how a king should act. I see many examples of Arthur embodying the chivalrous ideal within this

text, some of which I will explore now. Firstly Arthur addresses Gareth as ‘ye’; this second person

pronoun shows more respect than the…...

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