This study explores the role of King Arthur in history. His legend grew from its roots in oral history to becoming one of the most powerful and pervasive stories through the Middle Ages, the Victorian Era to today. This study explores Arthur's roots from Welsh and Celtic oral tradition and the early annals of British history. While earliest mentions have Arthur performing his deeds as a warlord, Arthur quickly moves to a role as king and then to Christian king. Annals recorded by monks and other religious men are willing to ascribe feats attributed to Arthur while making clear his role as a Christian. During this time of change from pagan-based worship to Christianity, the early historians, as holy men accept Arthur as a Christian hero. Arthur's fame grew with the historian Geoffrey of Monmouth and then became unwavering after the stories of Sir Thomas Malory and Alfred Lord Tennyson. Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur and Tennyson's Idylls of the King cement Arthur's role as British national hero as well as reflecting the issues and conflict of the times of the authors. The upheaval of the end of the Middle Ages moving into the Renaissance as well as the violence of the War of the Roses influenced Malory, while the Industrial Revolution of the Victorian Age affected the Arthurian story as told through Tennyson. Arthur moved to film in the modern era and the films Camelot, Excalibur, and Merlin show the changing face of Arthur influenced by different eras. Throughout these changing times, Arthur remains a Christian king but his treatment of his religious focus and of other types of worship changes with each interpretation of his legend. The changing cultural and religious foci of each era influences Arthur's treatment of his own culture in each of the works in which he is portrayed.


Duntley, Madeline


Religious Studies

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis

Available for download on Thursday, January 01, 2150

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© Copyright 2002 Shannon K. Boylan