Reading Malory in Order of Composition

Vinaver-Field Edition's "Book" Divisions Narrative Characteristics
"Sankgreal" and "Roman War"
  • Only one source appears to be used for each

  • Interest in "foundation" issues

  • Routine praise of Arthur's rule and imperial ambitions

  • High incidence of "marvel" amid "historial" narrative

  • Infrequent authorial intrusion and alteration

  • No "Frensshe book seyeth" transition and most frequent traditional "the tale turneth/speketh/sayeth transition

"Kyng Arthur" (Wars of Legitimation Before Roman War) and "Trystram" (Events Leading to Grail Quest)
  • One or multiple ("Kyng Arthur") sources used.

  • Continued interest in "foundational" issues

  • Seeking the origins of the triumphs described in the Roman War and Grail Quest

  • Reduced incidence of "marvel" and higher interest in history

  • More frequent authorial intrusion and alteration

  • More frequent "Frensshe book seyeth" transition

  • Assertions about lord-vassal relations, knights' judgment, prisoners' plight

"Lancelot," "Gareth," "Lancelot and Gwenyvere," the "Morte" proper
  • Multiple sources used ("L&G," "Morte," "Gareth"?) or multiple widely-separated passages from a large source (Prose Lancelot) used ("Lancelot")
  • Investigations of motive and responsibility via pursuit of history
  • "Marvel" rare; history produced by personal decisions
  • Most frequent authorial intrusion and alteration
  • Most frequent reference to "love peramours" ("L&G" and "Lancelot") and most frequent use of "Month of May" transitions ("L&G")
  • Defense of Lancelot's conduct with Gwenyver
  • Most frequent "Frensshe book seyeth" transition (in L&G and Morte)
  • Denial of Arthur's return prophecy