Excerpt: ...King Arthur, God you bless and all your fair fellowship, and in especial the fellowship of the Table Round. And for this cause I am come hither, to pray you and require you to give me three gifts, and they shall not be unreasonably asked, but that ye may worshipfully and honourably grant them me, and to you no great hurt nor loss. And the first don and gift I will ask now, and the other two gifts I will ask this day twelvemonth, wheresomever ye hold your high feast. Now ask, said Arthur, and ye shall have your asking. Now, sir, this is my petition for this feast, that ye will give me meat and drink sufficiently for this twelvemonth, and at that day I will ask mine other two gifts. My fair son, said Arthur, ask better, I counsel thee, for this is but a simple asking; for my heart giveth me to thee greatly, that thou art come of men of worship, and greatly my conceit faileth me but thou shalt prove a man of right great worship. Sir, he said, thereof be as it be may, I have asked that I will ask. Well, said the king, ye shall have meat and drink enough; I never defended that none, neither my friend nor my foe. But what is thy name I would wit? I cannot tell you, said he. That is marvel, said the king, that thou knowest not thy name, and thou art the goodliest young man that ever I saw. Then the king betook him to Sir Kay the steward, and charged him that he should give him of all manner of meats and drinks of the best, and also that he had all manner of finding as though he were a lord's son. That shall little need, said Sir Kay, to do such cost upon him; 211 for I dare undertake he is a villain born, and never will make man, for an he had come of gentlemen he would have asked of you horse and armour, but such as he is, so he asketh. And sithen he hath no name, I shall give him a name that shall be Beaumains, that is Fair-hands, and into the kitchen I shall bring him, and there he shall have fat brose every day, that he shall be as fat by the...
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Scholars have determined that there were at least six Thomas Malorys alive in the 1400s when Le Morte d'Arthur was written. Considerable evidence points to the likeliest author as one Sir Thomas Malory or Maleore of Newbold Revell in Warwickshire, who was born in the first quarter of the fifteenth century. A member of the gentry, he became a soldier in the service of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, with whom he fought in the siege of Calais in 1436. In records of the period he is accused of various crimes--including armed robbery, attempted murder, and rape--and he is said to have executed several dramatic escapes from prison.
Several things about Malory seem indisputable. As in Arthur's time when post-Roman Britain was in a state of fierce tribal war, he lived in an age of great unrest. Europe was still recovering from the Black Plague and a century of war. In England, two powerful families fought for the throne. Although he may have been a scoundrel, Malory was also, it seems clear, a man of ideals who believed in courage and loyalty, and who mourned the passing of chivalry. Incarcerated for long periods, he had many hours to fill his imagination with French romances and tales of chivalry, volumes of which were readily at hand. It is thought that Le Morte d'Arthur was written during his imprisonment.
Malory referred to himself as a 'knight-prisoner.' With a military man's passion for the details of conquest, a prisoner's sense of injustice, and a penitent's desire for redemption, he dedicated himself wholeheartedly to this retelling of the Arthurian legends. Sir Thomas Malory died, it is presumed, around 1471.
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