One thing becomes evident as soon as one starts reading Le Morte d’Arthur: it sounds
a bit stiff. Sentences just don’t seem to flow when the vast majority of them begins
with “So,” “Then,” “And,” or a combination of these. It seems at times that Malory is
more interested in laying out facts than in telling a story. These are all valuable points,
and the following excerpt can certainly attest to those complaints:

“Then within two years King Uther fell sick of a great malady. And in the meanwhile
his enemies usurped upon him, and did a great battle upon his men, and
slew many of his people. Sir, said Merlin, ye may not lie so as ye do, for ye must
to the field though ye ride on an horse-litter: for ye shall never have the better of
your enemies but if your person be there, and then shall ye have the victory. So it
was done as Merlin had devised, and they carried the king forth in an horse-litter
with a great host towards his enemies. And at St. Albans there met with the
king a great host of the North. And that day Sir Ulfius and Sir Brastias did great
deeds of arms, and King Uther’s men overcame the Northern battle and slew
many people, and put the remnant to flight. And then the king returned unto
London, and made great joy of his victory. And then he fell passing sore sick, so
that three days and three nights he was speechless…”

Yet the modern reader can work around these points with a bit of imagination on
his part. Let’s first address how Malory construes sentences. He does repeat a lot
of the same conjunctions to provide a sense of continuity, and this could be held
against him – but I would not do so, especially if there is a way to work around that.
Something that worked for me was to imagine the actual narrator telling the story, as
a grandparent tells stories to his grandchildren, or as friends tell stories to one another
at a tavern (if we want to get medieval about it). Try reading the excerpt again with
this in mind and see if it works for you too!


As to the view that Malory is laying out “facts,” it is actually quite the fair point. But
perhaps that was Malory’s purpose: to make it look like these Arthurian myths are
historically accurate. If you apply the narrator concept I just suggested to the idea
that these tales are meant to sound real, the experience becomes even richer. You’re
no longer reading some chopped retelling of legends and myths; you’re witnessing
a marvelous account of historical events surrounding Great Britain, as if Malory – or
someone of your own choosing, for that matter – was sitting next to you, telling you
all about how the king went to battle while still sick and stretched on a litter! See
the difference?

Le Morte d’Arthur really has not aged too well, but it’s still proper for consumption – so
long as we know how to stomach it.