Conquest, Crusade and Pilgrimage: The Alliterative Morte Arthure in its Late Ricardian Crusading Context
Arthuriana 20.2 (2010)
This article explores the poem’s problematic use of holy war rhetoric, arguing for an engagement with contemporary debates on the transformation, revival and decline of the crusading ideal within the framework of the Papal Schism and the Hundred Years War. More specifically I suggest that through its skillful use of religious vocabulary the poem highlights the manipulative potential of the language of holy war, and in doing so asks the reader to reflect critically on the crusading revival under Richard II. Yet rather than merely denouncing the simple appropriation of religious language to justify a continued war of conquest, the poem stresses the potential for a genuine blurring of motives— political, spiritual, economic, imperialistic, self-glorifying—which may ultimately result in the pursuit of those delirious messianic ambitions that the poem’s Arthur seems to share with Richard II.