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Essay, Research Paper

The Depiction of Morgan Le Fay In

Assorted Histories Of The Arthurian


Morgaine speaks & # 8230 ; .

& # 8220 ; In my clip I have been called many things: sister, lover, priestess, wise-woman,

queen. & # 8221 ; So begins Marion Zimmer Bradley & # 8217 ; s history of the Arthurian fable, which

topographic points unusual accent on the character of Morgaine, otherwise known as Morgan Le

Fay. But who precisely is Morgan and how does she change in the different histories of the

Arthurian fable?

In order to measure how Morgan Le Fay is depicted throughout history, it is first

of import to set up who she is and what portion she plays in the fable. Five different

texts: Geoffrey of Monmouth & # 8217 ; s The History of the Kings Of Britain, Sir Thomas Malory & # 8217 ; s

Le Morte d & # 8217 ; Arthur, a Gallic version of the Arthurian fable, Mort Artu, written by an

unknown thirteenth century writer and T. H. White & # 8217 ; s twentieth century classic The Once and

Future King, along with Marion Zimmer Bradley & # 8217 ; s New York Times best-selling novel

The Mists Of Avalon show immensely different versions of the character of Morgan and her

importance in the fable.

In most versions of the fable, Morgan is Arthur & # 8217 ; s half sister, the girl of

Queen Igraine and her first hubby, the Duke of Cornwall. After her female parent & # 8217 ; s matrimony

to the High King, Morgan is trained in thaumaturgy of some kind. She, whether wittingly or

unwittingly, beds Arthur and is impregnated by him. She bares him a boy, Mordred, so

disappears into the & # 8220 ; kingdom of the faeries & # 8221 ; After several old ages, Morgan is married to the

King of Uriens. This is the manner Morgan appears most often in re-tellings of the

Arthurian fable. However, the character Morgause has frequently taken on some of the

features and functions of Morgan in the fable ; hence, in order to adequately

comparison texts on Morgan, one must research the word picture of Morgause besides.

The original full retelling of the Arthur narrative, Monmouth & # 8217 ; s The History of the

Kings of Britain, has few female characters. Morgan Le Fay is one time such decided absence.

Not merely does she play no portion whatsoever in the fable, but she is ne’er even mentioned.

Mordred, who is frequently her boy by an incestuous relationship with Arthur, is alternatively the boy

of Anna and her hubby, Loth, the King of Lothian. Anna is every bit close as Monmouth gets

to a Morgan-like character. She is the sister of Arthur, and girl of Igraine and Uther.

She gives birth to Mordred, who is the agencies by which Arthur & # 8217 ; s decease comes approximately, and

Gawain, one of Arthurs most loyal and sure knights.

Le Morte D & # 8217 ; Arthur by Malory shows an wholly different position as to the function

and individual of Morgan Le Fay in the Arthurian fable. She is one of Arthur & # 8217 ; s three

sisters, the others being Morgause and Elaine. Morgause marries King Lot of Lothian and

has four boies including Gawaine while Elaine marries King Nentis. Arthur has an

incestuous relationship with Morgause and she gives birth to Mordred. Meanwhile

Morgan is continually cabaling against Arthur in an effort to revenge his male parent & # 8217 ; s hapless

intervention of Igraine. Morgan steals Arthur & # 8217 ; s sword Excalibur and gives it to her lover

Accolon, who challenges Arthur so that he might go High King. Accolon is fatally

wounded. Morgan besides attempts to undermine Arthur & # 8217 ; s dub several times.

Mort Artu, a Gallic prose text by an unknown writer from 1225, shows a really

different side of Morgan. She is one time once more a sorceress and sister of Arthur ; nevertheless, she

is non shown in such a negative visible radiation. She loves her brother and is shown to care really

much about his public assistance. She describes herself as one of the & # 8220 ; ladies who know all the thaumaturgy

in the universe & # 8221 ; and says that she feels most at place on the Isle of Avalon. She is non the

female parent of Mordred, nor does she play any portion in Arthur & # 8217 ; s decease and ruin. Morgan

does, nevertheless, have two of import functions in this history of the fable. She tells Arthur of

Lancelot and Guenivere & # 8217 ; s perfidy and offers him comfort and advice as to what he

should make. She tells him to penalize them, a piece of advice which he follows. Morgan & # 8217 ; s

other of import function in this fable is that after Arthur is mortally wounded by Mordred

she carries him off to Avalon to be given to his lesions.

The Once and Future King, by T.H. White, shows Morgan in yet another different

visible radiation. She is no relation to Arthur, but alternatively she is the Queen of the Fairies, an adult females

described as & # 8220 ; heartless & # 8221 ; . She cares small for others, merely for her ain pleasance. She besides is

non the female parent of Mordred. This function is reserved for Morgause, who is shown as a bitter

enchantress. She has four kids by Lot before she seduces Arthur to her bed and bears his

kid. Morgaine is non a awfully of import portion of this version of the fable other than

because she is the Queen of the Fairies. The faeries are described as rather evil characters

and they are responsible for much of the wretchedness of the times. Morgan is describes as one

who & # 8220 ; does things to do others shout & # 8221 ; . Morgan & # 8217 ; s cardinal portion in this fable is that she kidnaps

Friar Tuck in the first book, The Sword in the Stone. She takes them to her palace where

Robin Hood and his work forces come to deliver them. After this history Morgan is merely

presented one time more, in that instance one of the Queens who argues over who should bed

Lancelot. The major result of this scene is that Lancelot becomes cognizant that his love

for Guinevere is widely acknowledged, as Morgan tells him that she is cognizant of his

pinings & # 8217 ; for Guinevere

In the newest retelling of the Arthurian fable, The Mists Of Avalon by Marion

Zimmer Bradley, Morgan is the most of import character in the narrative. It is from her

position the reader witnesses the events that surround Arthur & # 8217 ; s reign. She is, in this

history, the girl of the Duke of Cornwell and Igraine. She is adopted by her aunt

Vivianne and becomes a priestess of Avalon. She unwittingly has sex with her brother,

giving birth to his boy Mordred. When Arthur betrays Avalon by interrupting his promise to

be faithful to Avalon and the Goddess, Morgan attempts to put her lover and step-son

Accolon on the throne alternatively of Arthur. This effort is unsuccessful and fatally lesions


These five really different portraitures of Morgan le Fay root from five really different

societies. Understanding the societal clime in which these novels were written is cardinal to

understanding the mode in which Morgan is portrayed. The political and societal issues of

the twenty-four hours, such as war and spiritual tenseness, often consequence the manner writers choose to

present their subjects and characters, and this is particularly the instance with the histories of the

Arthurian fable and Morgan Le Fay.

Monmouth wrote his book The History of the Kings of Britain amongst political

and society convulsion. During the clip he was composing, Henry I was the King of England.

After his decease, Henry & # 8217 ; s girl Matilda was to inherit the throne, but alternatively Henry & # 8217 ; s

nephew, a adult male by the name of Stephen of Blois, usurped Matilda & # 8217 ; s right to be Queen and

adopted the Crown himself, claiming that Matilda was non fit to govern. Stephen began his

reign five old ages before Monmouth finished his The History of the Kings of Britain. This

doubtless had an consequence on Monmouth & # 8217 ; s portraiture of Morgan. If Morgan was involved,

or so if Anna played any major portion in the fable, it would demo to his

coevalss that adult females have played cardinal parts in the state & # 8217 ; s history and that,

possibly, they are fit to govern states after all. This would hold caused indignation and, as

Monmouth had hoped to derive some acknowledgment by higher powers by composing his history,

would non hold furthered his political aspiration in any manner.

Another factor that doubtless influenced Monmouth & # 8217 ; s word picture of Morgan is

the 12th century position on adult females. Women had small rights- instead they were the

belongings of their male parents until matrimony and thenceforth the belongings of their hubby. They

had no pick as to whom they married. Anna is shown in Monmouth to be given merely as

a award to Loth for his heroism. Arranged matrimonies were used about entirely for fiscal

and political addition. After matrimony, a adult females & # 8217 ; s topographic point was in her place, a construct which

lasted until the mid-twentieth century. Womans were responsible for the smooth running

of family personal businesss and for the upbringing of kids. With this duty came small

clip for frivolous happenings such as pursuits and banquets which consumed so much of the

clip of their hubbies. Because adult females were

expected to be content with this life style,

proposing that adult females could be an of import and glamourous portion of King Arthur & # 8217 ; s tribunal

would be traveling against all that adult females were expected to believe and care for. A major

facet of the 12th century position on adult females was that adult females were to be chaste and

virtuous, while their hubbies were permitted to portion their beds with any adult female he

should take. Proposing a grade of sexual release exhibited in most history of the

Arthurian fable through Morgan would one time once more to be making havoc amongst his

coevalss. Though most adult females could non read, the fright of them going aware of

the construct that suggests fulfilment can come outside of matrimony in their life would

doubtless been great, therefore forestalling Monmouth from showing an interesting and

inside informations history of the life of Morgan Le Fay.

Mort Artu was written in thirteenth-century France, another society that was

inhibitory toward adult females. However, by the clip this book was written the ability of

adult females to act upon and pull strings political proceedings was widely acknowledged.

Phillip II, King of France at the clip of this novel & # 8217 ; s writing, declared war on England

because the King of England married a adult female engaged to another of Phillip & # 8217 ; s lieges.

Because of this, the writer of Mort Artu can freely compose about Morgan because the

effects she a adult female could hold on the political state of affairs of states was clearly established

by Phillip & # 8217 ; s war with England.

The societal context in which this novel was written is besides really of import when it

comes to analyzing the manner in which a character such as Morgan is portrayed. The Roman

Catholic church was utilizing its power to pull strings the swayers of the European states,

particularly through the campaigns. The Pope Gregory IX excommunicated Frederick II of

the Holy Roman Empire because he would non take a campaign when the Catholic Pope demanded

that he make so. This power that belonged to the Roman Catholic Church influenced the

literature of the twenty-four hours, particularly in the sense that literature was frequently used to knock

Roman Catholic instructions. The ethical motives that the Roman Catholic Church enforced upon its

followings was ferociously protested by Gallic writers of the in-between ages. A repeating subject

in this literature is that love can non be inside the boundaries of ordered matrimonies. This

is exemplified in Mort Artu, when Morgan reveals her cognition of Guenivere and

Lancelet. Mort Artu besides presents a position on spiritual freedom, particularly through

Morgan. Morgan is shown in Mort Artu to be a really positive character and she is

portrayed in a really good visible radiation, though she is a sorceress. Had the writer agreed with

Roman Catholic thoughts, Morgan would hold been shown as an immorality and barbarous character.

This cultural factor contributes significantly to the word picture of Morgan Le Fay in Mort


In Le Morte d & # 8217 ; Arthur, Sir Thomas Malory presents a really negative position of

Morgan Le Fay and she is shown as an evil character who merely wants to harm Arthur.

Cultural and historical factors have besides influenced this word picture of Morgan and the

Arthurian fable. The 15th century in England was a clip of political uncertainness and

lawlessness. England had lost its clasp in France, mostly due to the chases of a immature lady

named Joan of Arc, who seemed to hold some kind of mystical power that allowed her to

aid drive the English out of France and place Charles VII on the throne as male monarch of France.

Because England & # 8217 ; s latest efforts to increase their imperium were dampened by a mystical

miss, Malory & # 8217 ; s word picture of Morgan must hold been influenced. There would be immediate

intuition and intensions in relation to Joan of Arc. If Morgan was interested in

Arthur & # 8217 ; s good instead than his ruin the similarities between her and Joan of Arc would

have been eldritch. Malory could non compose to the English audience a book that promotes

a heroine like Joan of Arc, so alternatively he must do her immorality.

Aside from this, there was a echt belief in fifteenth century western society that

adult females entirely were responsible for all the jobs in the universe. This theory comes from

Genesis, because Eve eats the fruit before Adam so persuades him to eat of the fruit. It

was a common belief in churches in Malory & # 8217 ; s twenty-four hours that adult females needed to be watched at all

times and ne’er trusted, because they all wanted to go on transgressing in the manner Eve did.

Malory successfully continues that tendency, as there are no virtuous female characters in Le

Morte d & # 8217 ; Arthur. Morgan, Morgause and Guinevere are all shown in a really negative visible radiation,

while Lancelot, who is an fornicator and is unfaithful to his King, and Arthur, who is

incestuos, are non shown in such a negetive visible radiation.

The Once and Future King is filled with of import cultural and historical

intensions and contexts that it is of import to hold on in order to to the full understand the

novel. It was written as an fable to World War Two and the political state of affairs that

surrounded it. T. H. White & # 8217 ; s intervention of Morgan is such that it reflects certain facets of

the society and he war during which White wrote.

A basic apprehension of World War Two is of import in understanding the thoughts

behind The Once and Future King. The war began as a European struggle between

Germany and the English-French alliance. Adolf Hitler, the leader of the German ground forces

and state, was perpetrating offenses against humanity: he was trying to kill off

an full race. Morgan, in The Once and Future King, is the leader of a cold and barbarous

people who kill people for their ain pleasance. The influence the times in which The Once

and Future King was written, particularly the influence of Hitler and his government, are really

apparent in The Once and Future King.

The historical context besides becomes an issue in White & # 8217 ; s portraiture of Morgause.

She has an matter with her brother, Arthur, yet the fact he was her brother entirely does non

consequence in White & # 8217 ; s negative portraiture of her. It seems that White is penalizing Morgause for

her infidelity to her hubby in his really pessimistic word picture of her. This can be

traced to the clip in which White wrote. While their hubbies and sweeties were off

at war, no affair how long they be at that place for, adult females were expected to stay chaste.

This value of the society is exhibited in the manner White treats adultery on the portion of the

adult females involved.

The Mists of Avalon, a 20th century New York Times best-seller by Marion

Zimmer Bradley is really influenced by the early 1980 & # 8217 ; s society in which it was written. This

epoch was both really humanistic and feminist, two values that are reflected in Bradley & # 8217 ; s

word picture of Morgan Le Fay. This is exhibited in the values which Morgan holds and her

reactions and actions in visible radiation of what she is sing. Morgan is incestuous, as is a

common subject in the Arthurian fable, nevertheless this is non presented as awfully bad by

Bradley. The modern & # 8220 ; anything goes & # 8221 ; society in which she wrote decidedly influenced the

manner Morgan was presented in being basically & # 8220 ; good & # 8221 ; despite the & # 8220 ; bad & # 8221 ; things she has

done- in killing Avalloch, in her personal businesss with many work forces and in her sick intervention of her

hubby. Abortion and suicide, two things frowned upon really much until the last half of

the 20th century are both shown through Morgan to be feasible options.

Feminism has influenced the word picture of Morgan to a immense grade. Alternatively of the

patriarchal society position that adult females are basically evil and responsible for all the

jobs in this universe, adult females, particularly Morgan, are portrayed to be superior in

mind and endowment, free of all moral restraint and incapable of making incorrect. There has

been no balanced position, either adult females are really good or really bad.

Morgan Le Fay is an interesting character who changes a good trade throughout the

assorted histories of the Arthurian fable. The societies in which all these histories of

Arthur were written have contributed to the writer & # 8217 ; s determination to portray her in a certain

manner. While in The Once and Future King we find her to be an fable to Hitler, in The

Mists of Avalon she is the prototype of feminist ideals, and while she is portrayed in a really

positive visible radiation in Mort Artu, it seems she could non perchance make any more evil in Le Morte

vitamin D & # 8217 ; Arthur. Morgan Le Fay is a really complex character whose indispensable individuality has been

changed dramatically throughout the ages and who has often fallen victim to the

stereotypes that have accompanied adult females throughout the ages.

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