Every great tale has both a hero and a villain. In Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, the role of scoundrel falls to Sir Mordred, slayer of the hero. Mordred is not wholly a one-dimensional character. Malory provides just enough information to feel some pity for Mordred and substantial information to feel loathing for this Knight of the Round Table. Malory creates a victim as well as a villain. Sympathy for the victim part of Sir Mordred begins with the circumstances of his birth.
Mordred was a product of incest that his father attempted to murder, facts which generate some compassion. His mother was Morgan La Fay who deserted him after his birth. His father was her brother, King Arthur, who never acknowledged him as his son. (____) After Mordred’s birth, King Arthur learned about a prophecy made by Merlin that a child born on May Day would destroy him and his kingdom. Without any regard for his son, King Arthur gathered all the noble May babies and sent them to sea in an unsound ship. The ship sank and the only child to survive was Mordred. (____) Out of the reach of his parents, Mordred grew to manhood without either their love or protection. At the age of twenty, scarred by his youth and evidently filled with hatred, Mordred reentered the life of his father as a Knight of the Round Table. (____)
Introduced as King Arthur’s nephew, Sir Mordred was awarded a seat at the Round Table without possessing the attributes required of his fellow knights. Sir Mordred, the false knight, was crafty, very shrewd, and often guilty of breaking the Code of Chivalry. (____) Mordred had reasons to seek revenge, but the drive to simply destroy was also powerful in him. “He maliciously and cunningly destroys the dream of Camelot and his father Arthur through the two people Arthur loves best: Lancelot and Guinevere.” (___) After breaking his father’s heart, Sir Mordred ultimately became the instrument of King Arthur’s death.
Mordred was just as diligent in...