King Arthur: History and Legend Series

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24 episodes in this series

Episode 1 The Origins of King Arthur
First, consider images of the Arthurian legend familiar in Western culture, and their relationship to historical reality. Trace the history of post-Roman Britain, the large-scale invasions of the Anglo-Saxons, and…
Episode 2 An Arthur-Like Figure in Cornwall
Investigate archaeological and historical evidence that support the existence of an Arthur-like figure in early Britain. Learn about the site of Cadbury Castle, the center of operations of a leader…
Episode 3 King Arthur in the Latin Chronicles
Now explore some of the most significant early witnesses to the Arthurian legend. In Latin texts by the chroniclers Gildas (6th century) and Nennius (9th century) and in the Welsh…
Episode 4 King Arthur in Wales—The Mabinogion
Grasp how Arthur became a cultural touchstone early in Welsh history. In texts such as the Black Book of Carmarthen and the Triads of the Island of Britain, uncover key…
Episode 5 Monmouth, Merlin, and Courtly Love
Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain is arguably the most important literary artifact of the Arthurian tradition. Learn about the political nature of the text, the important…
Episode 6 The Round Table—Arthur in Wace and Layamon
Discover the contributions of the Anglo-Norman scribe Wace, who translated Geoffrey of Monmouth's text into Old Northern French, and the English cleric Layamon, who created the first comprehensive account of…
Episode 7 Chrétien de Troyes and Sir Lancelot
This great Arthurian writer introduced elements of the legend that would become essential. Learn how de Troyes pioneered the genre of the medieval romance, developed the ethos of courtly love…
Episode 8 Arthurian Tales in Brittany and Burgundy
Here, encounter the works of Marie de France, whose Arthurian writings developed themes of romantic love, the magical, and the noble. Then learn how Robert de Boron linked King Arthur…
Episode 9 The Lancelot-Grail Cycle
This lecture explores the remarkable 13th-century work known as the Prose Lancelot. Discover the text's five parts, highlighting the central section, where Lancelot assumes his place as the greatest Arthurian…
Episode 10 The Early German Arthurian Tradition
Study the key Arthurian texts of Hartmann von Aue, which delve deeply into questions of the balance between noble love, knightly endeavor, and devotion to God. Then grasp the brilliance…
Episode 11 King Arthur’s Other German Adaptations
Numerous other German writers made their marks on the legend of Arthur. Among them, contemplate Gottfried von Strassburg's masterful text on the Tristan legend, Ulrich von Zatzikhoven's elaborate treatment of…
Episode 12 The Arthurian Sagas of Scandinavia
Follow the legend of Arthur into the literary traditions of medieval Iceland and Norway. Learn how Norwegian king Hakon Hakonarson commissioned adaptations of Arthurian works into Old Norse, and explore…
Episode 13 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Delve into the fascinating narrative of this highly sophisticated poem, following the great Sir Gawain through elaborate plot twists on his quest to fulfill an astonishing challenge. Investigate the meaning…
Episode 14 The Alliterative Morte Arthure
In this dramatic culmination of the saga, study the events of Arthur's military victory over Rome, and his ensuing degeneration from noble king to ruthless conqueror. Reflect on the poignant…
Episode 15 Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur
Thomas Malory's massive retelling of the Arthurian saga became a benchmark for all writers who came after him. Learn how Malory's text introduced the Pentecostal Oath, a sacred code of…
Episode 16 Enriching the Legend—Tristan and Isolde
The Celtic legend of Tristan and Isolde was assimilated as a key element of the Arthurian tradition. Study the narrative of the Tristan story as it emerged in two distinct…
Episode 17 The Holy Grail from Chrétien to Dan Brown
No physical object in the Arthurian canon carries more symbolic weight than the Holy Grail. Discover the origins and varied manifestations of the Grail, explore the most celebrated of the…
Episode 18 Arthuriana in Medieval Art
Uncover rich depictions of Arthurian scenes in cathedrals and churches across Western Europe, as well as in privately commissioned artworks, and grasp why such scenes proliferated in religious settings. Learn…
Episode 19 Spenser, Milton, and the Renaissance Arthur
In a relatively sparse era of Arthurian literary output, trace noteworthy currents of the saga in Spenser, Milton, and the work of Renaissance historians. Between the 16th and 18th centuries,…
Episode 20 Idylls of the King—The Victorian Arthur
The 19th century witnessed an explosion of interest in the legend. Learn about the poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, whose Idylls of the King inaugurated a new era of Arthurian…
Episode 21 Wagner and Twain—King Arthur in the Late 1800s
In his two overtly Arthurian operas, observe how Richard Wagner adapted and modified the Arthurian legend to dramatize social and religious ideals, linking these ideals with Germany itself. On our…
Episode 22 Once and Future—The 20th-Century Arthur
Among significant 20th-century treatments of the saga, begin with T.H. White's The Once and Future King and its ruminations on kingship, power, and governance. Also explore Mary Stewart's highly original…
Episode 23 Camelot Comes to Hollywood
From the wealth of Arthurian cinema, investigate major film portrayals of the legend from recent decades. In particular, learn about the brilliant satire of Monty Python and the Holy Grail,…
Episode 24 King Arthur in the 21st Century and Beyond
Conclude by assessing the roles of the Arthurian legend in modern culture. Consider the associations of the saga in merchandising and the commercialization of historical sites, as well as its…

Related videos

The Arthurian Sagas of Scandinavia
Follow the legend of Arthur into the literary traditions of medieval Iceland and Norway. Learn how Norwegian king Hakon Hakonarson commissioned adaptations of Arthurian works into Old Norse, and explore distinct differences in ethos, sensibility, and emphasis between the Continental and Scandinavian versions of the knightly saga.
King Arthur in the 21st Century and Beyond
Conclude by assessing the roles of the Arthurian legend in modern culture. Consider the associations of the saga in merchandising and the commercialization of historical sites, as well as its uses in pop culture and media. Finally, grasp the remarkable adaptability of King Arthur as a symbol of courage and…
Camelot Comes to Hollywood
From the wealth of Arthurian cinema, investigate major film portrayals of the legend from recent decades. In particular, learn about the brilliant satire of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the weighty symbolism of John Boorman's Excalibur, the modern-day Grail narrative of The Fisher King, and the achievements and shortcomings…
Arthuriana in Medieval Art
Uncover rich depictions of Arthurian scenes in cathedrals and churches across Western Europe, as well as in privately commissioned artworks, and grasp why such scenes proliferated in religious settings. Learn also how a massive table, once believed to be the actual Round Table of King Arthur, was put to symbolic…
Chrétien de Troyes and Sir Lancelot
This great Arthurian writer introduced elements of the legend that would become essential. Learn how de Troyes pioneered the genre of the medieval romance, developed the ethos of courtly love in his writings, and introduced the great heroic figure of Lancelot and his adulterous love of Guenevere.
Idylls of the King—The Victorian Arthur
The 19th century witnessed an explosion of interest in the legend. Learn about the poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, whose Idylls of the King inaugurated a new era of Arthurian writing and scholarship. Discover the extraordinary Arthurian works of the pre-Raphaelite painters, and delight in portrayals of Arthurian themes in…
King Arthur in the Latin Chronicles
Now explore some of the most significant early witnesses to the Arthurian legend. In Latin texts by the chroniclers Gildas (6th century) and Nennius (9th century) and in the Welsh Annales Cambriae, study accounts of Arthur's exploits and death in battle. Learn how 11th- and 12th-century texts later embellished the…
Monmouth, Merlin, and Courtly Love
Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain is arguably the most important literary artifact of the Arthurian tradition. Learn about the political nature of the text, the important elements and characters that Geoffrey wove into it, and how he established the basics of the Arthurian legend as we…
Arthurian Tales in Brittany and Burgundy
Here, encounter the works of Marie de France, whose Arthurian writings developed themes of romantic love, the magical, and the noble. Then learn how Robert de Boron linked King Arthur to the spiritual and religious realms and introduced the Holy Grail, which figures prominently in the massive, anonymous text of…
The Lancelot-Grail Cycle
This lecture explores the remarkable 13th-century work known as the Prose Lancelot. Discover the text's five parts, highlighting the central section, where Lancelot assumes his place as the greatest Arthurian knight. Delve into the Grail Quest narrative and its theological thrust, as well as the Mort Artu, detailing the tragic…
Spenser, Milton, and the Renaissance Arthur
In a relatively sparse era of Arthurian literary output, trace noteworthy currents of the saga in Spenser, Milton, and the work of Renaissance historians. Between the 16th and 18th centuries, note the rise of Arthur's presence in popular ballads, songs, and poetry, and his remarkable portrayal on the stage in…
The Origins of King Arthur
First, consider images of the Arthurian legend familiar in Western culture, and their relationship to historical reality. Trace the history of post-Roman Britain, the large-scale invasions of the Anglo-Saxons, and evidence that a single, extraordinary individual rose from the chaos to lead and save his people.