Department of English and American Studies




Скачать 139.55 Kb.
НазваниеDepartment of English and American Studies
страница1/3
Дата30.10.2012
Размер139.55 Kb.
ТипДокументы
  1   2   3


Masaryk University

Faculty of Arts


Department of English
and American Studies



English Language and Literature


Katarína Mináriková


Legend versus History in the Film

King Arthur (2004)

Bachelor’s Diploma Thesis


Supervisor: doc. Mgr. Milada Franková, CSc., M.A.


2008


I declare that I have worked on this thesis independently,
using only the primary and secondary sources listed in the bibliography.



……………………………………………..

Author’s signature


Acknowledgement

I would like to thank my supervisor doc. Mgr. Milada Franková, CSc., M.A. for her patient guidance,

valuable advice and especially for her support with consultations at a distance.

Table of Contents


Introduction …………………………………………………………………………….. 5

  1. King Arthur in Literature ………………..……………………………………..... 7

1.1. Beginnings of Arthurian Legend ………………………………………… 8

1.2. From history to romance ……...………………………………………... 10

1.3. Malory’s King Arthur ……..……………………………………………. 11

2. Historical Arthur ……...………………………………………………………... 15

2.1. Name of Arthur in historical documents …………………………........... 15

2.2. Arthurian traces in archaeology ……...…………………………………. 19

2.3. Popular historical theories …………...……………………….………… 20

2.4. Innovatory approach in the publication From Scythia to Camelot …….…….25

3. Legend versus History in Contemporary Film Adaptation ………………………29

3.1. Film King Arthur (2004) ………………………………………………… 29

3.2. Interpretation of the legend in the film King Arthur ……….……....…….. 32

3.3. Historical inspirations ………………………………………………….. 38

3.4. Different attitudes to the film ………………………………………....... 43

Conclusion ………………………………………………………………………… 45

Bibliography ………...……………………………………………………………... 46

Introduction

The Arthurian romance is one of the best-known stories of the medieval literature of Great Britain. At the same time it is one of the major enigmas of British history. Literary historians may, although not without some obscurities, trace the evolution of the legend, which was changing and developing through the ages, but they still have not managed to answer the question of the historicity of Arthur. They have not discovered what exactly inspired the story of the noble king, his knights and their brave deeds. This problem is a subject of study of many scholars, whose opinions over the existence of real Arthur vary and thus give birth to numerous theories.

The mysterious background of the Arthurian story and various versions of the legend itself have always been very attractive not only for the British artists, but many works of art with this theme have been created worldwide. This story is a rich source of inspiration also for contemporary authors. Among the most popular motifs we can find the quest for the Holy Grail or a love story of Tristan and Isolt, but the other themes do not stay behind. Authors also sometimes concentrate on introducing some “true” theories about Arthur’s existence and they modify the legend considerably. This is the case of the latest Arthurian film called King Arthur (2004) that was directed by Antoine Fuqua and according to its subtitle it brings "the untold true story that inspired the legend".

The film King Arthur is an unusual mixture which combines components of the legend with historical observations and discoveries, and this melange is spiced with a dose of fantasy, producing inaccuracies of all kinds. The story does stick neither to the original literary content nor to historical theories and it makes its own way through the myth and its obscure points. It concentrates on one particular quest of Arthur and his “knights”, so the plot is quite simple and does not make use of many of the notoriously known elements associated with Arthurian tradition. At the same time it tries to preserve the motif of knighthood, honour and affection for the land and introduces some of the popular Arthurian characters, symbols and features - however, the result is often quite awkward. Which are thus the major faults and missteps that the film is denounced for and does it have any benefits at all? To answer these questions it is necessary to analyse the adaptation from the point of view of the legend as well as history, what is exactly the objective of my thesis.

The first chapter of the thesis deals with the Arthurian legend and its development in literature, from the first emergence of the name “Arthur” in written records to the era when the king and his companions gained worldwide popularity. The chapter focuses mainly on the work Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory, which is the most elaborate and detailed chronicle of King Arthur’s court. The following section is devoted to history and its treatment of the legend, with various theories and approaches that have appeared, trying to explain the origins of the myth. Finally, the last chapter focuses on the film – it analyses it from the perspective of the points considered in the previous sections and refers to its peculiarities and imperfections. It seeks to reveal the main problems of this adaptation and to bring out its merits.

1. King Arthur in Literature

Literature has a mighty power in history. For some historical periods it is one of the main sources of information about the life, people and events of those times. This case especially applies to the Early Middle Ages - the period when Arthur was supposed to live. The information about those times is so insufficient and so unclear that they earned the name the Dark Ages. Unfortunately, literature is also one of the least credible sources. As there is not much other evidence, reading any written records from those times, it can never be said with certitude to what degree they are true and to what degree they were modified and enhanced by the imagination of their author. And this is exactly the stumbling block to the research about King Arthur and his existence.

To follow an evolution of the character of Arthur in literature is a demanding and complex mission. Starting with some vague references, his name gradually gains importance and more and more stories about him appear - about his life and deeds, his companions and their quests. But as Arthur's story develops, we can notice also an increasing exaggeration and addition of some unrealistic and mythological elements. This causes that a warrior scarcely mentioned in the literature of his own times evolves step by step into what can be perceived as one of the most important national symbols of Great Britain.

The old Arthurian literature could be classified into two categories: a literature with a historical background and a mere fiction. Yet, it is sometimes difficult to draw a clear line between these two groups as it is not always possible to decide where the history ends and the fiction starts. What can be said with certainty is that reliable works of the first category are quite rare and this makes Arthur more a fictional hero than a historically credible personality. But before getting deeper involved into all the speculations about Arthur's authenticity and sources that offer some proofs about his existence, I would like to devote a few pages to that second category of literature, the content of which is definitely richer and which has brought to Arthur his fame – the Arthurian legend.

    1. Beginnings of Arthurian legend

Following the path back to the roots of the Arthurian legend, the very first milestones are not easy to trace. Besides the early historical works by Gildas, Bede and Nennius, where only the last one mentions Arthur's name directly, several references to this person appear in literary texts, predominantly of Welsh background. However, they are just some tiny fragments of what seems to be a more complex story and thus do not shed much light on Arthur's identity. Finally the person, who can be in these terms considered the father of the Arthurian tradition, is a cleric called Geoffrey of Monmouth. It is only when his work Historia regum Britanniae was completed in 1138 that Arthur’s story got its first consistent form, which would have a significant impact on the future of the legend.

Historia regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain) is a pseudo-historical manuscript that claims to draw inspiration from a “certain most ancient book in the British language” (Jones 62). Monmouth pretends to acquire this book from his friend, Archdeacon of Oxford, who asked him to translate it into Latin. Whether he is telling the truth or just trying to find a background for his own fantasies, the fact is that such a book was never found. Apparently even during Monmouth’s lifetime, his work was accepted with a considerable controversy and its author was accused by several of his contemporaries of being a mere liar. One of the most harsh of them, William of Newburgh, uttered that Monmouth’s story about Arthur and his companions “was made up, partly by himself and partly by others, whether from an inordinate love of lying or for the sake of pleasing the Britons” (Jones 69). It is highly probable that Newburgh is right, yet Monmouth's version of Arthur's life gained much popularity and became a cornerstone for the following generations.

In Monmouth’s book Arthur is promoted from a war leader, potentially of a great importance, to a “once and future king” of Britons. The cleric attributes him Uther the Pendragon for a father and tells an intricate history how the king won Arthur’s mother Igraine and the future hero was conceived in the castle of Tintagel. After the death of his father, Arthur inherits his throne and starts fights against Saxons, Picts and Scots. The most important battle against Saxons is said to be the battle at Bath, which is the way Monmouth interprets the famous battle of Badon. Gradually Arthur conquers most of the Northern Europe – Ireland, Iceland, Denmark and Norway. In the periods of peace he marries Queen Guinevere and establishes an order of knighthood with such knights as Kay, Bedivere and his nephew Gawain. Later the king is dragged into another war, this time with a ruler of Western Roman Empire, Lucius, and leaving, he entrusts the country to his other nephew, Mordred. Soon news reaches Arthur about the betrayal of Mordred who has taken both, his throne and his wife. Therefore he returns to fight his last battle with this treacherous kin, whom he defeats and kills, but he himself is mortally wounded. But instead of dying on the battlefield, he is carried away to the mysterious Isle of Avalon “to have his wound which is said to be fatal, healed” (Lupack 27) and that is how a myth arises about Arthur being still alive and ready to return when the right time comes.

Taking into consideration this ambiguous end of Arthur’s story, it may be true that one of Monmout’s intentions when writing his Historia was to give some hope to his nation under the rule of Norman kings. At least that is what king Henry II believed when he decided to put an end to these prospects of Arthur’s return. In order to prove the death of the brave king of Britons, he encouraged rumours about his grave being found at Glastonbury. Since then this argument was repeatedly used by several English kings to reinforce the legitimacy of their reign. However, this fact did not prevent the cult of Arthur from increasing in importance; on the contrary, it even supported its further development.


1.2. From history to romance

Monmouth’s manuscript finally gained more weight in the literary field than in the field of history. It did not take a long time before the story crossed the border of Britain and was altered into numerous translations and adaptations in several countries. This fact had a considerable effect on the future fate of the legend, as the “translators” often enriched Monmouth’s version of their own ideas, elaborated on some parts and omitted the other ones. The most influential of such modified translations was Roman de Brut by a Norman called Wace and its subsequently reworked English version of a cleric Layamon. The approach they adopted definitely deflects the Arthurian matter from having any historical value and establishes a new romance tradition. Wace, who transforms Monmouth's Latin text into French verse, decorates the story with features of the courtly literature. He emphasizes the chivalric aspects and knightly behaviour and adds elements of courtly love praising ladies, especially queen Guinevere. In Brut Arthur simply becomes “the flower of chivalry” (Jones 90). Another significant contribution of Wace is that he introduces the idea of the Round Table, which becomes one of the well-known symbols of Arthur’s court. This theme is even further developed by Layamon, who on the basis of Wace's Brut creates an English version in the alliterative verse.

The Round Table is not the only aspect of Arthurian legend that has originated in France. Paradoxically, in a certain period this subject became much more popular in this continental neighbour of England than in the country of its origin. The credit for this must be attributed primarily to Chrétien de Troyes, who in the second half of the 12th century created five romances with Arthurian motifs: Erec et Eneide, Cligés, Lancelot or Le Chevalier de la charrete (The Knight of the Cart), Yvain or Le Chevalier au lion (The Knight with the Lion) and unfinished Perceval or Le Conte del Graal (The Story of the Grail). In these stories Troyes not only further develops the concept of courtly love and chivalry, but also introduces other themes that will ultimately become characteristic for the legend: the quest for the Holy Grail and the adulterous love of Lancelot and Guinevere. He is also the first to present Arthur as a character of a secondary importance – the king is not usually directly involved in the adventures of his knights, who are the central characters of the stories, and Arthur's court has a sole function to regroup all these heroes and to give them a common background.

The share of France in the development of the Arthurian legend is undeniable, for it laid foundations of a new attitude towards the story and presented Arthur as a noble king with a chivalric court. Finally in the mid-15th century comes a writer, who, building on the English as well as the French sources and with an addition of his own imagination, gets the hero back to his homeland - it is Sir Thomas Malory and his vast romance Le Morte d'Arthur.


1.3. Malory’s King Arthur

The 15th century does not bring innovations only to the Arthurian story, but to the whole history of literature. In this period William Caxton introduces to England the art of book printing and thus makes the books more accessible for the readers. One of the first printed works is, among others, Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory, with Caxton as a publisher and an editor in one person. The interventions of the latter into the romance are quite considerable – besides some changes both in the content and the vocabulary, he divides the longish text into 21 books and writes his well-known preface. In its opening lines Caxton describes how he was asked by certain noblemen to publish the story of “the most renowned Christian king, first and chief of the three best Christian” (3) and adds some of their arguments supporting Arthur’s existence. Subsequently he notes that this hero is “more spoken of beyond the sea, more books made of his noble acts, than there be in England” (5) and therefore he decides to strengthen his reputation in his own country as well as to set the chivalric manners at his court as an example to the public. He apparently achieves his aims and
  1   2   3

Похожие:

Department of English and American Studies iconDepartment of English and American Studies

Department of English and American Studies iconDepartment of English and American Studies

Department of English and American Studies iconMasaryk university in brno faculty of Arts Department of English and American Studies

Department of English and American Studies icon101 American Idiom: Understanding and Speaking English Like an American by Harry Collis and Mario Russo published by Mc Graw Hill

Department of English and American Studies iconAddress: American Studies Program

Department of English and American Studies iconDepartment of Communication Studies

Department of English and American Studies iconThe Department of Social Studies

Department of English and American Studies iconDepartment of Educational Policy Studies

Department of English and American Studies iconDepartment of Government & International Studies

Department of English and American Studies iconDepartment of Politics and International Studies

Разместите кнопку на своём сайте:
Библиотека


База данных защищена авторским правом ©lib.znate.ru 2014
обратиться к администрации
Библиотека
Главная страница