The English Law of Treason in Malory’s Le Morte Darthur
Arthuriana 20.4 (2010)
Malory’s depictions of treason, especially in the ‘Poisoned Apple’ episode, are informed by authentic, if somewhat outdated, legal practice.
The specific actions that constituted treason in Thomas Malory’s England were often different than they were a hundred years earlier and certainly more broad in scope than they are today. The medieval English law of treason encompassed, in fact, acts that a modern lawyer would not immediately recognize as treason. Frederick Pollock and Frederic William Maitland, authors of The History of English Law Before the Time of Edward I, write, ‘Treason is a crime which has a vague circumference, and more than one centre. In the first place, there is the centre that is to this day primarily indicated by the word betray. . . . The bond of fealty is another centre.’.