King Arthur’s Death: The Middle English Stanzaic Morte Arthur and Alliterative Morte Arthure

Few copies of the Stanzaic Morte Arthur and Alliterative Morte Arthure are available. I am indifferent in announcing that King Arthur’s Death by Larry D. Benson is perfectly mediocre. With that said, it’s also the only copy of the two works that’s easily available. The TEAMS Middle English Texts series tries to produce texts that are otherwise difficult to find. Tracking down copies of the Stanzaic and Alliterative is very difficult—apart from this text, only translations and facsimiles are in print, and those not of the same quantities of Le Morte Darthur. I’m not familiar with the publishing companies that produce the facsimiles, so I haven’t yet chanced a copy.

My problem with King Arthur’s Death is that Benson regularizes the spelling for the benefit of readers who are not practiced in Middle English, not a common practice for TEAMS. I/j/u/v standardization is helpful, but since I’m experienced in Middle English, I find the full modernization frustrating to read. I much prefer the fragment from the Alliterative included in Norton’s supplementary material, but it’s only a few pages and the full text is unavailable.

With that said, King Arthur’s Death is a Middle English text with regularized spelling, not a translation. The introductory material and footnotes are adequate; the text is glossed where necessary. King Arthur’s Death is easily available online, and TEAMS publishes a free copy on their website for those who cannot afford the book. I would have preferred a different copy (perhaps I’ll tackle one myself someday), but as the Stanzaic and Alliterative are vital for understanding Malory’s work, as they were two of his major sources. Since this is the only copy available, it will suffice.

Table of Contents

  • Preface to the Revised Edition
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • Stanzaic Morte Arthur
    • Select Bibliography
    • Text
    • Notes
  • Alliterative Morte Arthure
    • Select Bibliography
    • Text
    • Notes
  • Glossary


King Arthur’s Death: The Middle English Stanzaic Morte Arthur and Alliterative Morte Arthure — 4 Comments

  1. I hope you don’t mind my rather belated comments! I only recently discovered your blog, and am having a very enjoyable time reading earlier posts as I have the time.

    I just wanted to mention that technically Benson hasn’t modernized the spelling, but regularized. The spellings he uses all have a manuscript basis, but he just selects one variant (generally the one closest to modern spelling) and generalizes it. Actually for Benson’s purpose, making these works of literature more accessible, that’s not necessarily a bad option. Old Norse sagas are routinely regularized in much the same way (which can be mildly irritating when a given edition uses a normalization you don’t like as much). For linguistic study, obviously a proper scholarly edition would be needed, but since those exist Benson’s choice is fine.

    Edmund Brock has done a very nice edition of Alliterative for the Early English Text Society, and I see that J. Douglas Bruce has edited the Stanzaic for the same series. The former seems to be going for around $50 new (I found my copy for £10 at a used bookshop, so there is some hope for finding these in the secondhand market as well), and the latter for a hefty $100. Brock’s, at least, is a good edition, with reasonably useful marginal notes and a full glossary. So there are reasonable editions out available, but not necessarily cheaply so.

    • I don’t mind at all! I’m thrilled that you find it worth your time to read back that far!

      And once again, I am indebted to you for your help in catching my errors (that’s what I get for blogging with insomnia…I really need to go back and revise now that I’m lucid again). I found Benson’s edition to be more difficult to read than any other text I’ve seen with regularized spelling, or any other work from TEAMS. Perhaps it was the footnotes–I remember being quite angry that the few items I would have liked more information on had no footnotes. TEAMS ordinarily does fabulous work, but this one seemed markedly different from the other volumes I’ve read.

      Thanks for the recommendations! I normally go straight to the EETS, but I wasn’t able to find information on these two editions. I also seem to have bad luck with ordering EETS editions a month or two after they go out of print…

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