Bachelor of Arts
Morte Darthur, Sir Thomas Malory, Drama
Ever since Eugene Vinaver published his edition of the of Sir Thomas Malory (generally known by the title apparently given it by its first publisher, William Caxton), critics have disputed the interpretation that governed his editing. Vinaver based his edition on the "Winchester Manuscript," discovered in 1934, contending that Morte Darthur was written as a series of eight separate "tales" and has therefore nothing that resembles the comprehensive structure of a novel, a play. or even a simple romance. He based his argument on features of the manuscript, such as explcits and decorated letters marking tale divisions, and on inconsistencies of plot and characterization.
Several critics have taken issue with the use of the manuscript as an argument, pointing out that some of the explicits are weak and that at least one of Vinaver's divisions is almost nonexistent. As always with handwritten material, there is also the problem of the reliability of the scribe. Vinaver's stylistic judgment is open to debate as well. I have found, on first reading and in subsequent study, that characters speak in individual styles, which are strongly affected by the narrator's tone. The appearance of different members of the cast generates subplots but does not interfere with the overall structure of the drama of Arthur's reign.
Woehrle, Anne, "Real People Tell the Whole Story: Dialogue and Characterization in Malory's Morte Darthur" (1984). Honors Papers. 636.