King Arthur Essay

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King Arthur

Character Analysis

The character of King Arthur is unique in literature. Most characters are known through their actions and words as described by the author of a story. Arthur, however, is a conglomerate of characters described by many different authors over a fifteen hundred year span. There is no single depiction of him, and one cannot trace his origin to a single author for the "definitive" description. As such, the character of Arthur is different depending on the era, culture, and the particular writer who is relating his version of the Arthurian legend.

Three Kinds of Arthur

There is much debate whether Arthur was an actual historical person. There is no absolute evidence, but it is possible that Arthur
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Here we see Arthur as a kind of Beowulf: a fearless leader of men, capable of legendary feats of strength and battle. This Arthur is practically a god; in fact, there is reason to believe that the figures of the Arthurian romances were originally Welsh gods (Americana).

Arthur as symbol of the virtues of Camelot

A second image of Arthur is that of a "peripheral figure whose presence is felt mainly as a social force or arbiter of chivalric excellence (Americana)." Epitomized by the story Sir Gawain & the Green Knight, Arthur is not the main character or source of action. He is the symbol of a wide abstraction: that of the courage, honor, honesty, and chivalry of Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, we still see Arthur as fearless warrior; he is the first to accept the Green Knight’s challenge and lay his life on the line to defend the honor of his court. But, in addition to his positive virtues, Arthur is also representative of the affluence and decadence of his court. There is perhaps a sense that Arthur and his court are too successful and have become enamored of fine food, drink, and women. It is this hubris, with Arthur as its highest symbol, that the Green Knight challenges. In this story, we also see the first indications that Arthur, through questionable descision-making, is capable of causing strife among the Knights of

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