Idylls of the King by Alfred Lord Tennyson
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Book Description:

"The Idylls of the King, published between 1856 and 1885, are a cycle of twelve narrative poems by the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892; Poet Laureate from 1850) which retell the legend of King Arthur, his knights, his love for Guinevere and her tragic betrayal of him, following the rise and fall of Arthur and his kingdom. The whole work recounts Arthur's attempt and failure to lift up mankind and create a perfect kingdom, from his coming to power to his death at the hands of the traitor Modred. Individual poems detail the deeds of various knights, including Lancelot, Geraint, Galahad, and Balin and Balan, and also Merlin and the Lady of the Lake. There is little transition between Idylls, but the central figure of Arthur links all the stories. The poems were dedicated to the late Albert, Prince Consort.

Tennyson based his retelling primarily on Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur and the Mabinogion, but with many expansions, additions, and several adaptions, a notable example of which is the fate of Guinevere. In Malory she is sentenced to be burnt at the stake but is rescued by Lancelot; in the Idylls Guinevere flees to a convent, is forgiven by Arthur, repents, and serves in the convent until she dies. Tennyson amended the traditional spellings of several names to fit the meter.

The Idylls are written in blank verse (except for the last verse of the last idyll, which happens to be an alexandrine). Tennyson's descriptions of nature are derived from observations of his own surroundings, collected over the course of many years.

Part of the work was written in the Hanbury Arms in Caerleon, where a plaque commemorates the event. The dramatic narratives are not an epic either in structure or tone, but derive elegiac sadness from the idylls of Theocritus. The Idylls of the King are often read as an allegory of the societal conflicts in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland during the mid-Victorian era." (Quote from

Table of Contents:

Publisher's Preface; Dedication; The Coming Of Arthur; Gareth And Lynette; The Marriage Of Geraint; Geraint And Enid; Balin And Balan; Merlin And vivien; Lancelot And Elaine; The Holy Grail; Pelleas And Ettarre; The Last Tournament; Guinevere; The Passing Of Arthur; To The Queen

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About Alfred Lord Tennyson

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Published January 1, 1925 by Macmillan. 298 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Idylls of the King


Tennyson intended his work to be a celebration of the virtues of King Arthur and admittedly avoided writing a literal history of a figure that remains shrouded in mystery.

Aug 12 2001 | Read Full Review of Idylls of the King (Forgotten...

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