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Sir Thomas Malory

Malory, Sir Thomas (mălˈərē) [key], d. 1471, English author of Morte d'Arthur. It is almost certain that he was Sir Thomas Malory of Newbold Revell, Warwickshire. Knighted in 1442, he served in the parliament of 1445. He was evidently a violent, lawless individual who committed a series of crimes, including poaching, extortion, robbery, rape, and attempted murder. Most of his life from 1451 on was spent in prison, and he probably did most of his writing there. Malory's original book was called The Book of King Arthur and His Noble Knights of the Round Table and was made up of eight romances that were more or less separate. William Caxton printed it in 1485 and gave it the misleading title of Morte d'Arthur. This work is generally regarded as the most significant accomplishment in English literature in the two centuries between the works of Chaucer and those of such masters as Spenser and Shakespeare. The last medieval English work of the Arthurian legend, Malory's tales are supposedly based on an assortment of French prose romances. The Morte d'Arthur is noted for its excellent dramatic narrative and the beauty of its rhythmic and simple language. It remains the standard source for later versions of the legend.

See The Works of Sir Thomas Malory, ed. by E. Vinaver (3 vol., 2d ed. 1967); biographies by P. J. C. Field (1993) and C. Hardyment (2006); studies by W. Matthews (1966), P. J. C. Field (1971), M. Lambert (1975), B. Dillon, ed. (1978), T. Takamiya and D. Brewer (rev. ed. 1986), M. J. Parins, ed. (1988), T. McCarthy (1991), E. Archibald and A. S. G. Edwards, ed. (1996), D. T. Hanks, Jr. (1992 and 2000), M. D. Svogun (2000), E. Edwards (2001), C. Batt (2002), D. Armstrong (2003), N. Dentzien (2004), and K. S. Whetter and R. L. Radulescu, ed. (2005).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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