Essays

Le Morte D’Arthur: The Seven Deadly Sins

The seven deadly sins are spoken of often and frequently in every day life for that is what they are affected with. All of these sins can intertwine to form a domino effect of actions and reactions that link to all of the sins. Once one is committed, it becomes easier to fall into the others for they are all interlinked. This is prevalent in Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur as proven by the acts committed by the various characters throughout the book. When looked at as separate words, the definition of the phrase, the “seven deadly sins”, becomes clearer.

Starting with “seven”, being the chosen number of dealings, following with “deadly”, meaning fatal, proceeding to die, or to become deceased and finally “sins”, wrongful doings according to religiosity. So from the breakdown of the specific words it can be said that the expression, the seven deadly sins, means that there are seven, not two, not four, but seven wrongful doings that upon execution become fatal. Now that the phrase has been fully explained and hopefully understood, it is time to move on to the actual seven sins that are deadly.

The first of the seven sins is greed, being the insatiate longing for or the keenly intense desire for something being of material value or not, that is usually not thought of to be achieved in an moral way. The second sin is gluttony, meaning the overindulgence in anything, great appetite for anything, such as food for example. The third sin is wrath, meaning extreme anger or feeling of vengeance. The forth sin is sloth, being severe laziness or lack of enthusiasm to do anything.

The fifth sin is envy, meaning the coveting of anything that is not rightfully owned by the coveter, grudging contemplation of more fortunate people and of their advantages. The sixth sin is lechery, being sexual lust or lust for anything, to live in gluttony. The seventh, and last of the sins is pride, being the overweening opinion of one’s own qualities, merits, often personified as arrogant. All of these are classified as sins because they are morally wrong and can make a person unpure. Le Morte D’Arthur is a tale of many knights and endless battles.

In this legend, many of the seven deadly sins surpassed and this is what will be looked at. With the first of the sins being greed, it is evident that many of the knights committed this sin. These knights were greedy for power, which made them not pure of heart and therefore as a result, could not achieve the Holy Grail. Sir, you are one of the most gifted of men, and one of the most sinful. God, in his love for you, has granted you these gifts; but you, in the hardness of your heart, have not returned that love. You have not used those gifts in the furtherance of his glory; no, you have used them only in the furtherance of your sin.

Therefore you are harder than stone: neither water nor fire can soften your sin, nor may the Holy Ghost enter you. In this quote Launcelot is bitter for he never thanked God for his many gifts. He was greedy to be the bravest knight in all the land and in doing this only received and greedily kept all of his gifts, never realizing that someone had given them to him. Another apparent aspect of greed was displayed in the character Mordred who was greedy to have power over the people, to be king and ruler of all. During the absence of King Arthur from Britain, Sir Mordred, already vested with sovereign powers, had decided to usurp the throne.

Accordingly, he had false letters written announcing the death of King Arthur in battle and delivered to himself. Then, calling a parliament, he ordered the letters to be read and persuaded the nobility to elect him king. The coronation took place at Canterbury and was celebrated with a fifteen-day feast. Mordred seized the throne when Arthur was absent and then lied to obtain this tribute “honourably”. He is greedy for the power and he lets it get the better of him. The second sin is gluttony, displayed in Launcelot when he overindulges in Gwynevere. He takes is obsession with her to far until it becomes this.

However, their love did not pass unnoticed at the court, and Sir Aggravayne, being of a vituperative disposition, spoke openly of it. ” Launcelot and Gwynevere had become so used to being together, that they were more obvious then they should have been. The third sin is wrath which is evident through all of the knights for at one point or another in the novel, each and every knight swears vengeance on another knight to avenge someone’s death. The ambassadors withdrew angrily, and Arthur himself was doubly grieved; by the Emperor’s message and by Sir Gryfflette’s injury.

He decided to avenge Sir Gryfflette secretly, so he commanded the chamberlain to take his horse and armour to the outskirts of the city at dawn the following day. They each feel that it is their own responsible to make the murderer “pay” for what they have done by bestowing upon them the same act they committed to the deceased. The fourth sin is sloth. The knights may have been lazy at a few short points in the novel, but on a whole, the mentioning of sloth would be entirely insignificant compared to the amount of the other six sins stressed within.

The fifth sin is envy which is apparent in many cases throughout the book. Pendragon coveted Igraine when she was still married to Tintagil thus leading Pendragon to envying Tintagil. King Uther Pendragon, ruler of all Britain, had been at war for many years with the Duke of Tintagil in Cornwall when he was told of the beauty of Lady Igraine, the duke’s wife. Thereupon he called a truce and invited the duke and Igraine to his court, where he prepared a feast for them, and where, as soon as they arrived, he was formally reconciled to the duke through the good officers of the courtiers.

In the course of the feast, King Uther grew passionately desirous of Igraine and, when it was over, begged her to become his paramour. Igraine, however, being as naturally loyal as she was beautiful, refused him. Pendragon coveted his neighbour’s wife and she being pure and loyal, refused him thus not committing this sin. He on the other hand The sixth sin is lechery displayed in the way Tintagil lusts for Igraine and gets Merlin to cast a spell to sleep with her so as to sleep with her and conceive Arthur.

The king swore on the gospel that he would do so, and Merlin continued: ‘Tonight you shall appear before Igraine at Tintagil in the likeness of her husband, the duke. Sir Ulfius and I will appear as two of the duke’s knights: Sir Brastius and Sir Jordanus. Do not question either Igraine or her men, but say that you are sick and retire to bed. I will fetch you early in the morning, and do not rise until I come; fortunately Tintagil is only ten miles from here. ‘ Merlin helps Pendragon fool Igraine into sleeping with him. He has sexual lust for her as defined in sin number six, lechery.

The seventh and final sin is pride which can been seen when Gwynevere casted Launcelot out because of her foolish pride. Good Sir Launcelot, do not be discouraged! Remember that you are the greatest knight living and that many important matters at this court lie in your hands. It is well known that women are inherently changeable, and often repent of their anger. Therefore I suggest that you ride no farther than the hermitage at Wyndesore, where the good hermit Sir Brastius will care for you, and wait there until we have better tidings for you.

Because of Gwynevere’s foolish pride, she cannot forgive Launcelot for having to be with other women to avert the attention from his relationship with her. The seven deadly sins can ruin one’s life, as it did many characters in Le Morte D’Arthur. The sins are in place to warn people of their outcome, and yet still they commit them. The seven deadly sins may not lead to immediate death, but have definite malevolent products that should be taken into account by all.

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