chapter  7
16 Pages

Violence in La Queste del Saint Graal and La Mort le roi Artu (Yale 229)

The theme of violence in the last two works of the Vulgate Cycle has received surprisingly little attention from literary critics, despite that the last work in the cycle, La Mort le roi Artu (ca. 1230), is filled with descriptions of violent battles: Arthur’s knights, spearheaded by Gawain’s desire for revenge, pursue the followers of Lancelot; later, after the treachery of Mordred, both armies successively line up against the traitor, and battle follows upon battle until the Arthurian world has completely unraveled. Although the theme of violence is less obvious in the penultimate work in the cycle, La Queste del Saint Graal (ca. 1220), nonetheless its author distinguishes among several types of violence, rejecting some and authorizing others, thereby establishing a backdrop against which the subject of violence may be understood in both works. The white-robed priests, recluses, and hermits who continually intrude on the Queste teach the art of reading allegorically not only to the Grail knights within the work but also to readers outside the text. Although the religious figures are largely absent from the Mort, they have already fulfilled their function: to train readers, both medieval and modern, to read the new text allegorically and interpret its events against the backdrop provided by the former work.