70 pages 2 hours read

John Steinbeck

The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1976

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Character Analysis

King Arthur

Arthur is a legendary ruler of Great Britain who is first seen in the book as Sir Kay’s teenage squire. At this stage of his development, he demonstrates humility and loyalty, in large part, because he was raised in obscurity and isn’t aware of his royal parentage. Arthur isn’t physically described, except in generic terms as a strong and courageous warrior. He is celebrated for bringing peace and order to the chaotic, petty realms that populated England during his time.

Arthur embodies the virtues of the ideal monarch in that he protects his people from invaders and exhibits fairness and generosity in governing his subjects. However, he possesses two major flaws. The first is that he is overly generous, even to his enemies. Sir Kay complains that Arthur’s liberal behavior as a host may bankrupt the treasury. Of greater significance is Arthur’s childlike trust in those close to him. He is destined to be betrayed by his sister, his wife, his best friend, and his illegitimate son. 

Merlin the Wizard

Merlin is an old sage who has become supremely adept at using magic. He enjoys teaching the lesson that appearances can be deceiving, often assuming the guise of a beggar when he accosts one of Arthur’s knights: “Merlin knew the winding channels of the human mind, and also he was aware that a simple open man is most receptive when he is mystified, and Merlin delighted in mystery” (4).