Date of Award

12-2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

English

Major Professor

Laura Howes

Committee Members

Roy M. Liuzza, Mary Dzon

Abstract

King Arthur is one of the most well known mythical figures in the English language, and throughout his 1500-year literary tradition, poets have built an intricate and multifaceted mythos around this legendary character. Integral to Arthur’s various depictions is how each poet chooses to illustrate his kingship. These characteristics often overlap across poems, poets, and time periods. Yet, upon closer examination, subtle differences between those kingly depictions produce telling insights into the period in which the story was written. For this study, I have examined three separate Arthurian romances: The Alliterative Morte Arthure, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and The Awntyrs off Arthur. These texts serve as bookends to a particularly eventful period in English history and speak volumes about public perception regarding kings and chivalry. When we juxtapose these texts against their respective time periods, we gain a better understanding of what Arthur truly means for Britain. As a king, as a man, as a symbol of English identity, Arthur represents whatever Britain needs at that specific time. This both explains why he maintains certain similar characteristics across lengths of time, as well as why certain traits change drastically.

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