Book Series The Illustrated Prose Lancelot, vol. 1

La Mort le Roi Artu

(The Death of Arthur) from the old French 'Lancelot' of Yale 229 with Essays, Glossaries and Notes to the Text

E. Willingham (ed)

  • Pages: 322 p.
  • Size:215 x 280 mm
  • Illustrations:28 col.
  • Language(s):French, English
  • Publication Year:2008

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-51676-9
  • Paperback
  • Available


The multi-volume project responds to long-standing lacunae in Old French text study and Arthurian scholarship, in that it aims to provide a linguistically and scribally authentic text of a single illustrated Arthurian manuscript; in this case, it is one that has never before been edited, collated, or translated. Since research on text, language, and manuscript may be impeded by editorial policies operative in older editions of medieval narratives and since viewing the manuscripts directly is often difficult or impossible, the editorial board set protocols for the Lancelot Prose of 229 editions that would address the need for authentic, accessible texts, packaged with ancillaries to address a variety of reading and experience levels. At the same time, the board wished to take into account the potential of electronic images to enhance scholarly work and teaching based on the editions. The idea of a strictly “diplomatic edition” was discarded in light of digital technology’s ability to provide high-resolution images of an original that are useful for close private study and public viewing. Thus each edition provides a useful, portable, authentic reading of Old French Arthurian narrative that is supported externally by online electronic images and internally by a selection of wonderful illustrations and a variety of ancillary materials and essays developed through years of study and teaching based on Yale 229.

The Mort begins with the return of Bohors from the quest of the Holy Grail and narrates the declining fortunes of King Arthur and his Round Table through the dissolution of the Table and the “death” of Arthur. The tale includes Morgain’s efforts to convince Arthur of Lancelot and Guinevere’s adultery, Lancelot’s battle to save Guinevere from burning at the stake, the dramatic discovery of Guinevere and Lancelot by Arthur’s knights, the departure of Arthur from his kingdom to fight Lancelot, and Arthur’s leaving his Kingdom, the keys to his treasury, and his Queen in the hands of the treacherous Mordret. In the closing folios, Arthur is mortally wounded by Mordret at the apocalyptic Battle of Salisbury Plain, and Lancelot returns to avenge Arthur against Mordret’s two sons at the final Battle of Winchester. The book closes shortly after the death of Lancelot, with a rejection of the life of court and chivalry in favor of penance and spiritual fulfillment.