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The Role of Merlin in Le Morte D'Arthur

  • Word Count: 3915
  • Approx Pages: 16
  • Has Bibliography

One of the most interesting characters in literature is Merlin the
magician. His name conjures up images of mystery and his actions reflect a
medieval mysticism. Thomas Malory brings the role of Merlin into a place
of significance in his tale, Le Morte D'Arthur by combining the elements of
mysticism and religion. Malory adds a depth and texture to the character
that represents Christian and mystical skills alike. Through this unlikely
combination, Malory creates a Merlin that is worthy of inspection. The
goal of this paper is to examine the character of Merlin as he is depicted
in Le Morte D'Arthur and how Malory utilizes this character.
The most interesting aspects of Merlin are that he is a splendid
combination of secular and religious characteristics. In regards to
understanding the role of Merlin and the mystical in Malory's Le Morte
D'Arthur, we must first examine the context in which medieval stories were
written. According Geoffrey Ashe, author of The Discovery of Arthur, it is
important to realize that medieval writers often crafted characters to be
medieval. To put it simply, "Arthurian adventures . . . were handled in
medieval terms and expressed medieval interests" (Ashe 14). It is safe to
assume that although the Arthur story has been "modified," we can also know
in a "hazy way that realities underlie it" (Ashe 15). Eugene Vinaver
explains that writers such as Malory began expressing historical events
from their own point of view. He concludes:
This habit soon became the very essence of courtly romance. Whatever
the subject of the narrative, its primary function as conceived by
twelfth- and thirteenth-century poets was to serve as an expression
of the thoughts and emotions inspired by courtly idealism, to
translate in terms of actions and characters the subtle varieties of
courtly sentiment and the highly sophisticated code of courtly

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The Role of Merlin in Le Morte D'Arthur. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 10:56, July 30, 2016, from