Theatricality of the Chivalric World in Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'arthurr


The paper presents various aspects of theatricality in Thomas Malory' s Le Marte D'arthur. It explores the predominant performative character of the culture of shame and honour, in which ceremonious forms of knightly behaviour create public spectacle of chivalric ideals. The theatrical aspects of Arthur's world are analysed in the context of Erving Goffman' s concepts of the self as a product of dramatic performance, an object of social ritual and a participant of a strategic game. Due to the insight provided by these sociological theories, chivalric performance is considered as an expression of tendencies towards idealisation and the assumption of its sincerity is shown as a necessary element of the gamelike nature of social interaction. Self-regulating procedures of this culture are provided by knightly rituals, whose theatricality is determined by their stylisation and the presence of spectators. Apart, however, from the overt theatricality of the chivalric display, the article also scrutinises the textual theatricality of Le Marte D'arthur, evident in the sensuality of the narrative style, abundant in visual and aural markers of combat intensity. Since Malory skilfully shifts the vantage point, which situates the evaluative frame within the narrative, the reader is presented with a complete spectacle, in which he may observe both the performers and the audience.


Joanna Bukowska