Camelot

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Camelot is the most famous castle and court associated with the legendary King Arthur. Absent in the early Arthurian material, Camelot first appeared in 12th-century French romances and eventually came to be described as the fantastic capital of Arthur's realm and a symbol of the Arthurian world. The stories locate it somewhere in Britain and sometimes associate it with real cities, though more usually its precise location is not revealed. Most scholars regard it as being entirely fictional, its geography being perfect for romance writers; Arthurian scholar Norris J. Lacy commented that "Camelot, located no where in particular, can be anywhere".[1] Nevertheless arguments about the location of the "real Camelot" have occurred since the 15th century and continue to rage today in popular works and for tourism purposes.

Contents

Early appearances

The castle is mentioned for the first time in Chrétien de Troyes' poem Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart, dating to the 1170s, though it is not mentioned in all the manuscripts.[1][2] It is mentioned in passing, and is not described:

Nothing in Chrétien's poem suggests the level of importance Camelot would have in later romances. For Chrétien, Arthur's chief court was in Caerleon in Wales; this was the king's primary base in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae and subsequent literature.[1] Chrétien depicts Arthur, like a typical medieval monarch, holding court at a number of cities and castles. It is not until the 13th-century French prose romances, including the Lancelot-Grail and the Post-Vulgate Cycle, that Camelot began to supersede Caerleon, and even then, many descriptive details applied to Camelot derive from Geoffrey's earlier grand depiction of the Welsh town.[1] Most Arthurian romances of this period produced in English or Welsh did not follow this trend; Camelot was referred to infrequently, and usually in translations from French. One exception is Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which locates Arthur's court at "Camelot";[5] however, in Britain, Arthur's court was generally located at Caerleon, or at Carlisle, which is usually identified with the "Carduel" of the French romances.[6] It was not until the late 15th century that Thomas Malory created the image of Camelot most familiar to English speakers today in his Le Morte d'Arthur, a work based mostly on the French romances. He firmly identifies Camelot with Winchester, an identification that remained popular over the centuries, though it was rejected by Malory's own editor, William Caxton, who preferred a Welsh location.[7]

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