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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The Code of Chivalry

The legend of Arthur and his knights is as much a description of feats of arms as it is an examination of the essence of virtuous knighthood. Malory’s version of the story was written during the War of the Roses, a particularly volatile time in Britain’s history. Pretenders to the throne attacked from every direction, much as Arthur’s treasonous barons do. During periods of social upheaval, there is always a great danger that the warrior class might take advantage of the chaotic situation and use force of arms to further selfish agendas.

The mythology of Camelot is meant to illustrate the proper way in which warriors ought to conduct themselves in a civilized society. The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights and Malory’s Morte d’Arthur explicitly describe this code of conduct:

They swore never to use violence without good purpose, never to fall to murder or treason. They swore on their honor to be merciful when mercy was asked and to protect damsels, ladies, gentlewomen and widows, to enforce their rights and never enforce lust on them. And they promised never to fight in an unjust cause or to fight for personal gain. All the knights of the Round Table took this oath (98).