Mordred: Treachery, Transference, and Border Pressure in British Arthurian Romance

Sir Mordred

Sir MordredMordred: Treachery, Transference, and Border Pressure in British Arthurian Romance

George Gregory Molchan

Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College: Master of Arts, Department of English, May (2005) 


This study focuses on the question of how Mordred comes to be portrayed as a traitor within the British Arthurian context. Chapter 1 introduces the question of Mordred’s treachery. Chapter 2 charts Mordred’s origins and development in Welsh and British literature. Chapter 3 focuses on the themes of unity, kinship, loyalty, adultery, and incest that emerge in connection with Mordred’s character. Chapter 4 deals with the idea that Mordred’s treacherous characteristics have been transferred upon him in the course of the British Arthurian narrative’s development. Chapter 5 discusses the possibility that Mordred’s development is in part due to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s response to political pressure. Chapter 6 briefly addresses the importance of this study.

XCIII. Annus. Gueith Camlann, in qua Arthur et Medraut corruere; et mortalitas in Britannia et in Hibernia fuit. 93 The battle of Camlann, in which Arthur and Medraut fell. And there was plague in Britain and Ireland.

The preceding text, which appears in the Annales Cambriae or Annals of Wales (ca 960-80), is the first known reference to Mordred, who is perhaps the most infamous character in Arthurian literature. Throughout the various Arthurian traditions within and without the British context, Mordred is most frequently depicted as a traitor for usurping the crown from Arthur and for his interest in Arthur’s wife, Queen Guinevere. Several items concerning the entry in the Annales, which are crucial to understanding the development of Mordred’s character in the body of British Arthurian works, deserve comment. Firstly, the entry makes no mention of Mordred’s perfidy. Moreover, it cannot be determined from the text if Arthur and Mordred fought alongside one another or upon opposing sides of the battle. In fact, little can be inferred from the text other than that Arthur and Mordred fell at Camlann.

Click here to read this thesis from the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College

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