Identity in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur Essay

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Identity in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur

It can be difficult to define the unifying themes of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur ; it can seem a tangle of random adventures mired with magic and religion, love and fate. What is the purpose behind all the seemingly similar adventures of so many similar knights? And what is the place that the books of Sir Trystram hold? These books make up the longest section of the work, yet Trystram plays no role in the search for the Holy Grail or the downfall of Arthur. There are many parallels drawn between Trystram and Launcelot: they are both the greatest knights of their time, both the greatest lovers, both become mad for a short time, etc. What distinguishes Trystram from Launcelot;
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The “Sir Froll episode” begins when Sir Lamerok sees four knights fighting against one and he determines to rescue the sole knight (Malory, 337-341). The end is when Sir Bellyaunce, Sir Froll’s brother, reconciles with Lamerok after they fight to exhaustion. Mann, looking at this episode solely in terms of distance and wholeness (leaving a fellowship to follow a quest creates distance and the formality of identifying oneself creates wholeness by uniting the two jousting knights), finds that the meaning of the episode becomes confused:

Yet if Bellyaunce’s revelation discloses their linkage as a chronological sequence, it also disrupts their coherence at the level of meaning: the knight whom Lamorak had so recently been at pains to rescue from death is the very same one that he himself turns out to have killed—for no very compelling reason as it seems to us—a few days later. Lamorak’s second tangential entry into a sequence of events negates the effect of his first; the pattern created by his adventures, when revealed, proves to be one with which he cannot identify himself in terms of motive or consistency with his own past actions (5).

However, if one looks at the Sir Froll episode as conflicts and resolutions of complicated identities, then there is consistency of meaning and the episodes
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