Marriage, Adultery and Inheritance in Malory's Morte Darthur
Marriage in the middle ages encompassed two crucial but sometimes conflicting dimensions: a private companionate relationship, and a public social institution, the means whereby heirs were produced and land, wealth, power and political rule were transferred. This new study examines the concept of marriage as seen in the Morte Darthur, moving beyond it to look at `adulterous' and other male/female relationships, and their impact on the world of the Round Table in general. Key points addressed are the compromise achieved in the `Tale of Sir Gareth' between natural, youthful passion and the gentry's pragmatic view of marriage; the problems of King Arthur's marriage in light of both political need and the difficulty of the queen's infertility and adultery; and the repercussions of Lancelot's adultery in the tragedies of two marriageable daughters, Elaine of Astolat and Elaine of Corbin. Finally, the author reveals and considers in detail (focusing on dynastic dysfunction in three generations of Pendragon men: Uther, Arthur and Mordred) the myth of benevolent paternity by which men, whether born legitimate of bastard, were united through the Round Table. KAREN CHEREWATUK is Professor of English at St Olaf College, Minnesota.
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