Simon Armitage - The Death of King Arthur (4 stars)

Simon Armitage - The Death of King Arthur

The Yorkshire poet follows his Gawain translation with another medieval epic


In 2006 Simon Armitage embarked upon the commissioned task of translating Sir Gawain and the Green Knight for a modern audience. Encountering some resistance from the ‘lady on the desk’ at the British Library when he requested a peek at the original manuscript, he chose not to go down the ‘don’t you know who I am?’ line. Given the acclaim which he received upon the publication of those endeavours, it’s highly likely that he would have experienced few obstacles on researching The Death of King Arthur.

Once again, the Yorkshireman renders medieval prose effortlessly readable as he brings to life the ‘awesome adventures’ within this 4000-line poem while his caption footnotes help frame the tale (an Arthurian feast can take up to three pages while the slaying of Gawain requires just the one). Arthur may be a tough guy to love, what with his disdain for a ‘malevolent Scotland’ and coming across like a nepotistic despot who swanned around ‘anointing his relatives as royal rulers’ of whatever country they so fancied, but Armitage’s work keeps you glued to his fate.

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