Romance Motifs and Ethics in Malory's 'Book of Sir Tristram'
Sir Thomas Malory’s ‘Book of Sir Tristram’, a condensation of the Old French Tristan en prose, has not received the attention it deserves. Previous studies notice the two texts’ differences in characterisation, style, moral emphasis, structural arrangements, and so on, but no study has sufficiently demonstrated the overall strategy and the moral purposes behind Malory’s changes. This thesis offers an evaluation of both texts’ approaches to some ethical questions, including identity, violence, justice, and passion, through a close analysis of their presentation of romance motifs. The comparison draws on traditional treatments of these motifs and reveals that the authors of romance can incorporate stratified perspectives to voice ideological interpretations. Malory’s treatment of the moral discourse in the ‘Tristram’ articulates the chivalric ideal in the characters’ expressions of how they understand identity, honour, courtesy, courage, faithfulness, justice, compassion, and love. This analysis shows how Malory renews the meaning of the romance motifs borrowed from his sources by changing the characters’ response to the ethical problems underlying the archetypal actions. Thus, Malory’s narrative generates experiential edification, as it engages the reader in the active moral evaluation of the events.