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Le Morte Darthur, prophecy


Prophecy is the driving force of Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur. The Morte emerged from a tradition of prophecy that existed long before its creation, and which continued into the early modern period. Prophecy influenced both political and religious spheres, as well as medieval cultural perceptions of time. English culture absorbed the Morte’s prophetic elements and used them to either bolster later uses of prophecy or to defame them. Using the Morte as a starting point, this examination draws on elements from various sources: Greek, Christian, and Welsh folklore, Geoffrey of Monmouth and contemporaries of Thomas Malory. Also part of this analysis are the Tudors, their rivals, and their enemies, all of whom drew on Arthurian-style prophecy in their bids to consolidate power, and the Church, who demonized those prophecies that threatened the established order. Elements of prophecy existed in the cultural belief systems of medieval England long before Thomas Malory wrote his masterwork, and they continued for centuries afterward. By tracing the use of Arthurian prophecy, this literary history argues that these concepts frequently spilled from the literary realm into the everyday beliefs of people, and as such was often used as a tool by authority figures.