Portal:King Arthur

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Arthur was a legendary British leader who, according to medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the late 5th and early 6th centuries AD. . He appears as the ideal of kingship both in war and peace; even in modern times he has been ranked as one of the 100 Greatest Britons of all times. Over time, the popularity of the stories of King Arthur has captured interest far beyond his being the legendary hero of one nation. Countless new legends, stories, revisions, books, and films have been produced in Europe and the United States of America that unabashedly enlarge on and expand the fictional stories of King Arthur.

The scarce historical background to Arthur is found in the works of Nennius and Gildas and in the Annales Cambriae. The legendary Arthur developed initially through the pseudo-history of Geoffrey of Monmouth and the Welsh collection of anonymous tales known as the Mabinogion. Chretien de Troyes began the literary tradition of Arthurian romance, which subsequently became the Matter of Britain and one of the principal themes of medieval literature. Medieval Arthurian writing reached its conclusion in Thomas Mallory's comprehensive Morte D'Arthur, published in 1485. Modern interest in Arthur was revived by Tennyson in Idylls of the King, and in the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites. Key modern reworkings of the Arthurian legends include Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, T.H. White's The Once and Future King, and Richard Wagner's opera Parsifal.

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Knights of the Round Table were those men awarded the highest order of Chivalry at the Court of King Arthur in the literary cycle the Matter of Britain. The table at which they met was created to have no head or foot, representing the equality of all the members. Different stories had different numbers of knights, ranging from only 12 to 150 or more. The Winchester Round Table, which dates from the 1270s, lists 25 names of knights.

Sir Thomas Malory describes the Knights' code of chivalry as:

  • To never do outrage nor murder
  • Always to flee treason
  • To by no means be cruel but to give mercy unto him who asks for mercy
  • To always do ladies, gentlewomen and widows succor
  • To never force ladies, gentlewomen or widows
  • Not to take up battles in wrongful quarrels for love or worldly goods

The first writer to describe the Round Table was Wace, whose Roman de Brut was an elaboration of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae. The actual table itself was round in order to represent that each knight was of equal value to the king and thus there was no 'head' of the table, although one understood that Arthur's place was 'the head.' In later writings, the table was said to be a gift to King Arthur from his father-in-law, King Leodogran of Cameliard, as a wedding gift upon the marriage of Arthur to Guinevere. The company was used by many subsequent authors. However, even the earliest writers ascribe to Arthur a following of extraordinary warriors; in Geoffrey, Arthur's court attracts the greatest heroes from all of Europe. In the Welsh Arthurian material, much of which is included in the Mabinogion, Arthur's men are attributed with superhuman abilities. Some of the characters from the Welsh material even appear under altered names as Knights of the Round Table in the continental romances, the most notable of which are Cai (Sir Kay), Bedwyr (Sir Bedivere), and Gwalchmai (Sir Gawain). (read more . . . )

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Sir Ywain (also called Owain, Yvain, Ewain or Uwain) is a Knight of the Round Table and the son of King Urien in Arthurian legend. The historical Owain mab Urien, on whom the literary character is based, was the king of Rheged in Great Britain during the late 6th century. Ywain was one of the earliest characters associated with King Arthur, being mentioned in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae. He was also one of the most popular, starring in Chrétien de Troyes' Yvain, the Knight of the Lion and appearing prominently in many later accounts.

He is somewhat unusual in that he remains as Urien's son in virtually all literature he appears in; other characters based on figures from Welsh Arthurian legend lost their original familial connections in continental literature, for instance Sir Kay. Ywain's mother is often said to be Arthur's half-sister, making him Arthur's nephew. This sister is Morgan le Fay in the Post-Vulgate Cycle and Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, but other works name another sibling. He is the nephew of Morgause and King Lot, and cousin to Gawain, Agravain, Gaheris, Gareth and Mordred. He has a half-brother (with whom he is often confused) named Ywain the Bastard, son of Urien and his seneschal's wife, and Welsh texts give him a twin sister named Morvydd. The character Calogrenant or Colgrevance from Knight of the Lion is another important cousin. (read more . . . )

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