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The Role of Merlin in Le Morte D'Arthur

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 05:15, July 06, 2015, from