This paper identifies a hitherto unremarked incorporation in the Stanzaic Morte Arthur of a motif adapted from Book IV of Gregory’s Dialogues, and considers the significance of the changes inherent in this insertion for both the Stanzaic Morte Arthur and Malory’s Morte Darthur. This version of the fortune’s wheel-motif is unique to the Stanzaic Morte, and does not appear in any of the variant versions of the OF source text. This modification is arguably both an interpretation of and a comment upon the nature of Arthur’s transgressions in the Stanzaic Morte; this paper will scrutinize the variant forms of this motif in all three of these texts and offer an interpretation of their significance.
Studies on literary discourse in the 14th century suggest that the honoring of one’s word is the primary code of behavior for nobility (Burrow 1966, Brewer 1973, Canfield 1989, Donnelly 1997 et al.) In the 13th-century prose Tristan, gaber, meaning to talk falsely, is frequently associated with the speech of Dynadan, allowing his subversive opinions to question ideas of nobility. Malory, however, portrays Dynadan as a ‘passing good knight’ who is capable of humour, compassion, and wisdom. His speech often contains insights on the irrationality of human nature, and his function in strengthening the secular moral basis of the Round Table fellowship reveals a new approach to sociopolitical instabilities.
This paper will explore the portrayal of two heroes from different literary traditions, Arthur from medieval Welsh and Finn mac Cumaill from medieval Irish. Although at first glance they may seem to have diametrically opposite roles within (or without) society, Arthur the king of all Britain, Finn the outlaw in the wilderness, on closer examination it will be seen that they have a surprising number of characteristics in common. An analysis of both their similarities and their differences can help to illuminate our understanding of each character and the earliest literature which survives about both of them.