English Language and Literature ETDs

Publication Date



According to C. G. Jung, the fundamental human needs, loves, and hatreds are reflected in dreams in the forms of personalities and situations. These feelings, he maintains have always been common to humanity, and have been recorded in man's mythology

Extrapolating from this principle, Joseph Campbell, in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, has found enough common elements in mythologies from several cultures to postulate the "monomyth": a cyclical hero's life that is found in all the world's major mythologies. The cycle duplicates the quest a person makes in times of great stress into his own inner self for strength and renewal. In mythological terms the cycle consists of the hero's preparation for this "soul journey," his departure upon it, and his return with some form of record

On the basis of the monomyth, and using other psychologically oriented books for elucidation, I have tried to demonstrate that Mallory's Le Morte Darthur is outstanding an example of the appearance of the archetypes in literature.

I begin with a survey of criticism in which I find no previous archetypal examination of Malory's work. As a prelude to making· such an examination, I briefly list the major events of Malory's century, and give a plot summary. I then analyze, roughly in their order of appearance, the situations and characters in Le Morte Darthur that appear archetypal.

The primary themes of the book are isolation, fruit­lessness, and death. I devote a chapter to the tale of Balin and Balan, which, in small, duplicates the essential patterns of Malory's entire work.

Le Morte Darthur, as a whole, conforms to the archetype of rebirth, except that the final step of regeneration is not taken. Arthur, initially the hero, goes through the· entire monomyth cycle in the first few chapters of Malory's book. Thereafter he ceases to strive, and Lancelot becomes the hero, remaining so (along with Arthur) even after the breakup of the Round Table. According to the monomyth (the basis of which is an unrelenting demand for new growth), Lancelot should have been the destroyer of Arthur's inactive reign, but in this he failed, becoming instead a partner in maintaining the status quo. Mordred, the new challenger, did manage to kill the "tyrant," Arthur,-but, in doing so, was himself destroyed. No one was left to rebuild. Thus the rebirth cycle is left incomplete, and the end effect of Le Morte Darthur is one of darkness, death, and hopelessness – in effect. not dispelled by the famous inscription on Arthur's tomb, the validity of which is questioned by Malory himself.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Jane Lucile Baltzell

Second Committee Member

Robert E. Fleming

Third Committee Member

Mary Beth Whidden

Document Type