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The Alliterative Morte Arthure: Introduction

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The Alliterative Morte Arthure provides a portrait of Arthur as a warrior king, in contrast to other more well known versions of him, like that of a boyish, proud king in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight or as a foolish cuckold in the French tradition. The text is filled with realistic details of medieval battle, not merely the romantic ones, and historical facts--dates and place names, for instance. Indeed, according to many scholars, the work is more of a chronicle than a romance. The poet's realism is more than superficial, however. He has a keen ear for psychologiacl detail, even describing a moment of repentance on Mordred's part, insight into this character unprecedented in the rest of the Arthurian tradition.

The Alliterative Morte Arthure was most likely written in the North Midlands towards the end of the fourteenth century. The author is unknown.[1]


1. All information is taken from Larry D. Benson's edition of the poem in King Arthur's Death (Exeter: Exeter UP, 1986). See the introduction, pages xv-xviii.



Benson, Larry D., ed. King Arthur's Death. Exeter: Exeter UP, 1986.

Brock, Edmund, ed. Morte Arthure, or The Death of Arthur. 1871. New York: Oxford UP, 1961.

Finlayson, John, ed. Morte Arthure. Evanston: Northwestern UP, 1967.

Hamel, Mary, ed. Morte Arthure : A Critical Edition. New York : Garland, 1984.

Krishna, Valerie S., ed. The Alliterative Morte Arthure : A Critical Edition. New York : B. Franklin, 1976.


Stone, Brian, trans. King Arthur's Death : Alliterative Morte Arthure and Stanzaic Le Morte Arthur. New York : Viking Penguin, 1988.

Critical Studies

Karl Heinz Göller, ed. The Alliterative Morte Arthure : A Reassessment of the Poem. Cambridge : D. S. Brewer, 1981.

Matthews, William. The Tragedy of King Arthur. Los Angeles: U of California P, 1960.

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