This concludes my rambling collection of thoughts on Malory. I read him this time with a determination to make some kind of sense of him, and I think I did. I enjoyed Le Morte D'Arthur much better this time than I had before. I think I understand what he was trying to say, and why he was trying to say it.
I still don't like Sir Tristram at all, and if I should ever meet Queen Guenever in the street I will shake her till her teeth rattle. Sir Launcelot still tries my patience. I am still quite put out about the character assassination of Sir Gawain. But at least now I feel like I understand.
Although parts of this book had me grinding my teeth in frustration, I loved other parts. The early stories of the Round Table, especially Book III, Book IV, Book VI, and Book VII, were most enjoyable. The Grail Quest, Books XIII to XVII, is hands down my favourite part of the whole epic, a world I can understand although I may not agree with all the theology—evocative, dreamlike, with layers of meaning and characters I don't feel like hitting over the head. Finally, the last books, especially Books XX and XXI, complete the grand tragedy; there is a reason why the whole work is named after the topic of the last few chapters. The cumulative force of the whole Morte builds up and crashes down in those last books.
While parts of it still irritated me, Le Morte D'Arthur is justly famous as the great English epic of Arthur and contains more to enjoy than it does to irritate. I recommend it to anyone who's interested in the Matter of Britain or the medievals.