The Theme Of Death In Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur

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Medieval texts often offer an escape from death through the theme of immortality which undermines the concept of dying. This is seen in Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur as King Arthur’s nobility and endeavours allow him to transcend death. Another means of escaping death is through the inclusion of Otherworld’s in medieval texts since they often symbolise a paradise which allows for immortality, and in Chaucer’s “The Parliament of Fowls” the Otherworld in his dream vision is symbolic for Heaven. However, “Sir Orfeo” engages with death in a different way and presents an immortality that is not desired since the Fairy Otherworld is depicted through hellish imagery. Plus, the accessibility to the Otherworld’s by humans is not reliable since…show more content…
King Arthur is portrayed as noble throughout the text, to the extent that ‘when King Arthur was on horseback he looked on Sir Lancelot; then the tears burst out of his eyes, thinking of the great courtesy that was in Sir Lancelot more than in any other man’ (p.488). During battle against a deceiver he refuses to kill Sir Lancelot due to the Knightly kinship they share which shows the value of nobility that is treasured in kingdoms. He is brought to tears due to the situation which shows how emotionally connected he is to Sir Lancelot and the significance of virtue. Philippa Tristram argues that the death of Arthur embraces ‘both the secular perspective of time, and the religious of eternity. It does not merely indicate that all men must die, but affirms the value of man’s endeavour.’ Thus, the text shows the secular notion of time passing and the process of death, however, the fact that Arthur is rumoured to be alive in Avalon shows the theme of immortality and being able to live for eternity due to his worthiness. His death is exclusive to the human world and is temporal since it is believed he will come back. This idea is emphasised by the juxtaposition of Arthur’s death with Sir Lancelot’s since he symbolically dies through a sickness rather than being murdered. It is as if his sins plagued him and he is dying an unworthy death which is a final resolution for him unlike Arthur’s…show more content…
In “Sir Orfeo” time is not explicitly discussed, however, Orfeo ‘Bi her clothes he knewe that it was he’ (l.408) when he enters the Otherworld. It has been ten years since Heurodis went messing which implies her clothes should be degraded or completely gone, however, they are the factor that allows Orfeo to recognise her. Thus, this hints that time passes by much slower in this world which in turn preserves what is in it more. Whilst, in “The Parliament of Fowls” the Otherworld is the narrators dream vision and has an eternal quality to it. It is where ‘trees clad with leves that ay shal laste, / Eche in his kinde, of colour fressh and grene’ (ll.173-174) and where ‘Ne no man may ther wexe sek ne olde’ (l.207) which evokes a sense of timelessness. There is no death or illness in this otherworld, however, there are themes of birth and life with the fledglings and infant rabbits. This has strong religious connotations since it creates imagery of both the Garden of Eden and Heaven. This in turn creates a paradisiacal and sacred association with the Otherworld which emphasises the idea of escaping from death. This otherworld completely erases

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