Document Type



This is a paper about the ideal of government expressed in Sir Thomas Malory’s fifteenth-century Morte Darthur, but it is also a paper about the relationship of laws to stories, and both to history. In Malory’s vision of the founding of the Round Table, King Arthur’s knights shed personal histories, family ties, even their memories of the functions of chivalry and knighthood. In place of traditional norms, emotional bonds, and personal histories, they substitute a code that, while it produces behaviors identical in many respects those that the traditional norms would have produced, imagines for itself a new origin in Merlin’s magical interventions. Thus redefined, honor becomes about righting all wrongs and eradicating all potential injustices, not just injustices that impinge upon friends and family. The objects of the adventures are not previously associated with the knights in any way and are in many ways irrelevant to the honor-seeking project itself. The Knights of the Round Table serve an ideal of honor that is basically impersonal – the same for every knight in every situation. The fellowship is united not by blood but by excellence.

Date of Authorship for this Version