Le Morte d'Arthur
- The Death of Arthur
- Letto da: Bill Homewood
- Durata: 38 ore e 4 min
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Of all the legends of Western civilization, perhaps the glorious adventures of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table are the best known. The Quest for the Holy Grail, and the undying illicit love between Sir Launcelot and Queen Guenevere, have provided inspiration for storytellers and poets down the ages, and sparked so many films and books of our own time. Fifteenth-century knight Sir Thomas Malory penned the book with relish, packing his story with tales of heroism, treachery and revenge, noble suitors, beautiful princesses, dragons, sorcerers, giants, and bloody deeds of derring-do on and off the jousting field.
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- Tad Davis
Brilliant and powerful
Bill Homewood has a voice and a style of delivery that has not always been well-suited to the material he's been given. Even when he's not a good match, though, you can always count on three things: meticulous preparation, expert pronunciation of all proper names, and the ability to rise to whatever heights of passionate intensity are demanded by the material.
Fortunately in the case of Thomas Malory you get all that AND a nearly perfect match between Homewood's voice and the story he's narrating. I've listened to three other renditions of Malory, and with one exception I can say that this is the best I've heard, and in fact the best I can imagine hearing. The exception is the recording by Derek Jacobi. There are two problems with Jacobi's reading, though: it's severely abridged, and the audio quality has suffered in the transition from older technology. I would still recommend it if you're not ready to tackle Malory whole and in one piece; but if you want the original straight up, Bill Homewood is your man.
As is (apparently) the case with all audiobooks based on Malory, this uses the Caxton edition rather than the Winchester manuscript; I believe there are still copyright issues involved in the latter that make its superior organization of the narrative off-limits for most audiobook publishers. That's OK. Caxton has at least the advantage of being broken down into short chapters that make it easier to swallow the epic a little bit at a time.
It's a powerful, tragic story. After all its digressions, it finally boils down to a terrible war between Arthur, Gawain, and Lancelot over Guinevere; Lancelot has rescued her from the flames for adultery and has proclaimed her innocence, laying waste to the knights of the round table in the process. But he knows that he's lying. Malory makes clear that Lancelot lay with the Queen by night and by day; Arthur's kingdom is undone by the malice of Agravain and Mordred, but Agravain and Mordred are telling the truth, and it is Lancelot and Guinevere who have actually betrayed the king. It's an awful story, all the more awful because it is so simple and so human and so inevitable.
Now, having praised Homewood for doing Malory whole, I'll come down on Malory for one thing. He makes such a terrible mess of the Tristan and Isolde story (known as Tristram and Isoude in his account) that no one will blame you, and you will truly miss nothing of significance, if you skip Books 8, 9, and 10 in their entirety. Get the story of those two lovers somewhere else. Malory doesn't even show you how it ends anyway.
Malory loses control of his story at times, but boy does he bring it in for a landing at the end. Bill Homewood never loses control of HIS take on the narrative, and when the story comes to its powerful, almost unbearable conclusion, he’s right there with it — and us.
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- Price Family
Great in every way, except too much bass in the narrator’s voice
I loved listening to this. I made it several hours in before the struggle to understand the narration just got to be too much. I was listening in my car while commuting, and the narrator’s voice has so much bass that it was hard to understand. I had to turn up the volume quite a bit to hear clearly, but then it was clearly taxing the bass in my car’s audio system. Shame, otherwise it was really great!
Superb reading of the definitive version of King Arthur.
Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur is for me the most evocative and enthralling version of the Arthurian legend, it is the definitive version.
Sir Thomas Malory’s tales of King Arthur and his knights of the round table is for me the definitive version of the Arthurian legends, even though it was itself a reworking of other works. Malory didn’t write these stories himself, Le Morte D’Arthur is really a compilation of Arthurian stories from both English and French sources (There are references to the ‘French’ books throughout Le Morte D’Arthur). It is for me, despite the archaic prose, the most evocative and enthralling version of the Arthurian legend. The style of the prose rather than being a hinderance adds to the charm. In fact the text that initially would seem to be an obstacle isn’t as difficult a read as you would expect. Yes there are archaic words and syntax, but there are extensive footnotes and a glossary to help.
It is a story of an idealic realm, of a chivalrous age long gone, it is a magnificent epic of a tale. A story of love, loyalty, heroism, betrayal, knightly quests and battles - lots of battles. There is plenty of action here, ranging from jousts and sword fights to full scale war. These battles are often quite violent, in one fight Malory describes Arthurs as being ‘so bloody, that by his shield there might no man know him, for all was blood and brains on his sword.’
As well as battling other kings to enhance and protect his kingdom Arthur also has to fight a Roman invasion. Which he not only successfully repels but also manages to kill a cannibalistic giant who eats men and children and then ordains the building of a monastery to mark the spot on St Michael’s Mount. The size of these battles is enormous, sometimes involving thousands of knights. As you would expect Arthur and his knights of the ‘table round’ are all heroes but one knight who stands out more than any other is Sir Launcelot du Lake, who is probably the most renown of all his knights, and the story of his doomed love for Queen Guenever, Arthur’s wife, is probably one of the most renown love stories in literature.
Launcelot enters the story a quarter of the way through and it’s not long after that that we became aware of of his and Queen Guenever feelings for each other. ‘Wherefore Queen Guenever had him in great favour above all knights, and in certain he loved the queen again above all other ladies damsels of his life, and for her he did many deeds of arms, and saved her from the fire through his noble chivalry.’
The story also has elements of humour, such as Launcelot receiving an unwanted visitor to his bed:
‘The knight to whom the pavilion belongs arrives, slips into the bed and begins to kiss Launcelot, who springs up and wounds him with his sword. The knight says that his lady was supposed to have met him in this bed, and Launcelot apologizes for hurting him. The lady arrives and cries out at realizing that her lord, Belleus, is wounded. But Belleus reassures her that Launcelot is a good man. The lady asks Launcelot if Arthur can make Belleus a knight of the Round Table. Launcelot agrees, and in the morning he rides to Bagdemagus’ Abbey.’
Even embarrassing moments like these end with chivalry. Launcelot seems unflappable, he even beats a knight naked armed only with a branch at one point!
One of my favourite stories is the story of Beaumains. It’s also the longest story in this book, it’s an action packed love story with plenty of action and includes a tournament with the knight of many colours and also has elements of magic. Beaumains’ story is also similar to Arthur’s, his past is unknown and he feels he has to prove himself to become a knight. The magic and trickier used in this story is also reminiscent of Arthur’s tale.
There is plenty of magic and subterfuge throughout this tale, and a fare share of villains to take advantage of that, such as Morgan Le Fay. It has to be said that these stories are definitely fuelled by testosterone, women in Arthur’s world are trophies to be fought over and won, even Guenivire falls into that category. Knights fighting over these damosels are also not above stealing another man’s wife. Damosels are also portrayed as pitfalls for the knights too, this also proves to be the case with Guenevere and they can be scheming and deceitful as in Morgan’s case.
Book X,at 184 pages the longest book in the series. It concerns mainly Sir Tristram de Liones but as with all the stories it does digress quite a bit. As with the first volume there is plenty of action, if the knights aren’t engaged in war they are usually jousting and there is quite a bit of jousting in book X! The complex relationship between Sir Tristram and Sir Palomides begins to develop here too. From there the story moves on in book XI to Sir Launcelot but does return briefly to relate the conclusion of Tristram and Palomides in book XII. The pace now increases as we encounter spitting dragons, serpents and magic. Launcelot becomes, through enchantment, embroiled in a love triangle between Queen Guenevere and Elaine. The affair has a negative effect on him driving him into madness. Elaine is the daughter of King Pelles cousin of Joseph of Aritmathea. It is Pelles who introduces Launcelot to the Sangrail, the Holy Grail, in which he prophecies will break up the round table. There’s more fantasy here, it’s more of the romanticism you’d expect from Arthurian legend. This is one of my favourite parts of the whole book, I loved Sir Galahad’s story and Sir Lancelot’s realisation that he may not be the chivalrous knight he thought he was as he hears the harsh words of a hermit:
‘Now take heed, in all the world men shall not find one knight to whom Our Lord hath given so much of grace as He hath given you, for He hath given you fairness with seemliness, He hath given thee wit, discretion to know good from evil, He hath given thee prowess and hardiness, and given thee to work so largely that thou hast had at all days the better wheresomever thou came; and now Our Lord will suffer thee no longer.’
At which Launcelot promises to repent:
‘all that you have said is true, and from henceforward I cast me, by the grace of God, never to be so wicked as I have been, but as to follow knighthood and to do feats of arms.’
However he struggles to adhere to his repentance. Launcelot is one of the most powerful and complex characters in the Arthurian stories. His affair with Guenevere is compassionately dealt with by Malory, in a rare narrative aside he contemplates their affair:
‘Wherefore I liken love nowadays unto summer and winter; for like as the one is hot and the other cold, so fareth love nowadays; therefore all ye that be lovers call unto your remembrance the month of May, like as did Queen Guenever, for whom I make here a little mention, that while she lived she was a true lover, and therefore she had a good end.’
As the story unfolds religion becomes an important element in the story and the knights who seek the grail are subject to attacks from the devil as they learn that jousting isn’t the only battles they will have to win to achieve there goal. We also learn, through flashbacks, from Merlin the significance of the round table and the relevance of the Holy Grail. The story of the Sangrail is at the centre of Arthurian legend. Malory uses this as an analogy of the failings of the Britain he lives in stating ‘the Grail will never return to Britain because too few people believe in it.’ In this Le Morte D’Arthur’s tale of a declining empire is as relevant to Britain today as it was in Malory’s days. As well as this Le Morte D’Arthur is a story of love, faith, loyalty, adultery, murder and selfishness as well as selflessness, it’s a tale of religious morality and an adventure story.
The downfall of Camelot can be attributed to many things, everyone has a hand in it. The lustfulness of Guenevere, the disloyalty of Lancelot, hatred and ambition also play a part. Each small act that leads to all the blood and destruction could’ve been avoided if individual actions had been different, people could have turned away, but they don’t. There is many lessons to be learned from this tale.
The last battle when it comes is on such a scale it overshadows all the battles before it with over 100’000 dead! Despite the sad end to Arthur’s story Malory leaves us with a little hope:
‘Yet some men say in many parts of England that King Arthur is not dead, but had by the will of our Lord Jesu into another place; and men say that he shall come again, and he shall win the holy cross. And the inscription on his gravestone was:
‘Hic iacet Arthurus, Rex quondam Rex que futurus’ - ‘Here lies King Arthur, once and future King’.
Le Morte D’Arthur is for me the most magnificent telling (or re-telling ) of the stories of King Arthur. I have loved these stories since I was a young boy, initially through the movies then the books. Having just finished Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord trilogy I felt an urge to re-visit Malory’s work and found it still held its magic. If you are new to Arthur you may find Malory’s book a little daunting, if you do I would recommend John Steinbeck’s ‘The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights’ (although incomplete it is a more accessible version of Malory), also T.H. White’s ‘Once and Future King’ is excellent. But at some point you will have to read ‘Le Morte D’Arthur’ the book from which all other books are born, and when you do I would thoroughly recommend this two volume penguin edition in particular.
The Audible version is brilliantly read by Bill Homewood, I loved his characterisations and he also helps with any problems you might have with the prose if you read it yourself.
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- Bridget Ryan
Best Morte Darthur Audiobook
Epic, unabridged audiobook perfect for my university studies. Bill Homewood is a great narrator, he does different voices for different characters, and really makes it immersive.
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