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Literature: Idylls of the King
Alfred Lord Tennyson's verse narrative Idylls of the King is inspired by Arthurian legends, especially Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur; however, it also draws extensively on the Mabinogion and French traditions. The complete Idylls consists of 12 poems, plus a dedication to the deceased Prince Albert and an epilogue addressed to Queen Victoria. Tennyson, a longtime enthusiast of the Arthurian tales, worked on the collection for decades: the first four poems appeared in 1859, and the last one in 1885. (In book form, the poems are not in order of writing or publication.)

Provides examples of:

  • A Day in the Limelight: Because Tennyson doesn't try to replicate Malory in his entirety, a number of significant characters, like Merlin, appear in no more than one or two poems apiece.
  • Accentuate the Negative: How Vivien and Modred set to work on other characters.
  • Accidental Murder: Balin and Balan, of each other.
  • Adapted Out: Morgaine/Morgause.
  • Anyone Can Die
  • The Atoner: Guinevere and, if you're paying very close attention, Lancelot.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Thoroughly deconstructed by the end, as physical appearance turns out to be an utterly unreliable way of judging character.
  • Berserk Button: Balin responds badly to any number of things, but especially to perceived insults to himself and to Guinevere.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Round Table is destroyed, Arthur is dead and gone and civilization is in ruins. Still, the good Sir Bedivere remains, and the new year is at hand.
  • Child by Rape: Arthur.
  • Consummate Liar: Vivien, although she's right about Guinevere and Lancelot.
  • Cool Sword: Excalibur.
  • Cradling Your Kill: "Balin and Balan".
  • Darker and Edgier: The poems become grimmer and gorier as the Round Table dissolves.
  • Dead Woman Writing: Elaine leaves a posthumous message for the court in "Lancelot and Elaine".
  • Death by Despair: Elaine of Astolat.
  • Death Seeker: The heartbroken Arthur after he realizes the extent of Guinevere's and Lancelot's treachery.
  • Driven to Madness: Sir Pelleas, complete with Madness Mantra ("I have no sword").
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Sir Gawain, who dies offstage between "Guinevere" and "The Passing of Arthur."
  • Fisher King: As Arthur's power fades and the Round Table slowly disintegrates, the seasons change for the worse.
  • Girl in the Tower: Lyonors in "Gareth and Lynette."
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Guinevere's passion for Lancelot destroys the Round Table by undermining everyone else's virtue.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: Why Arthur Jumps at the Call in "The Coming of Arthur."
    • Subverted in "Gareth and Lynette." Because of some backstage maneuvering by Arthur, Lancelot does not go on the quest when Lynette asks; when he does put in an appearance later on, Lynette is exasperated instead of pleased.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Guinevere whenever a woman gets too close to Lancelot, as first becomes apparent when Vivien shows up.
  • Heroic Vow: Knights must swear one to join the Round Table.
  • Holier Than Thou: Pellam's understanding of Christianity.
  • Idiot Ball: Carried by several characters.
    • Thanks to his Incorruptible Pure Pureness, Arthur doesn't pick up on the relationship between Guinevere and Lancelot.
    • Merlin allows himself to be tricked by Vivien.
    • Tristram doesn't pack up to go, despite Isolt warning him that Mark could return any second.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Arthur and Galahad.
  • Kill 'em All: The battle at the Red Knight's court on a small scale, followed by Arthur's final battle on a large one.
  • Knight In Shining Armour: Most prominently Arthur, Gareth, and Galahad.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Lancelot, especially in "Lancelot and Elaine", "The Holy Grail" and "The Last Tournament."
  • A Man Is Not a Virgin: Subverted, sort of. Arthur strongly advocates male chastity and tells Guinevere that he was a virgin before he married her. Similarly, Sir Galahad's purity is linked to his virginity. A number of knights fail to pass this test, though.
  • Merlin and Nimue: Here, Merlin and Vivien.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Enid by Geraint.
    • More ironically, Guinevere accuses Lancelot of cheating with Elaine of Astolat.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Tristram neglects to keep track of time during "The Last Tournament"...
    "Mark's way," said Mark, and clove him thro' the brain.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Tennyson's Arthur is a romanticized version of Prince Albert.
  • Not So Different: The Red Knight's point about the relationship between his court and King Arthur's. Given what follows, he appears to be correct.
  • The Oath-Breaker: By the end of the sequence, many of Arthur's knights have betrayed their vows in one way or the other.
  • One Steve Limit: Unlike the original legends, Tennyson does not deluge us with multiple characters with the same name.
  • Playing Cyrano: Sir Gawain promises to do this for Sir Pelleas in "Pelleas and Ettarre." The execution, however, leaves something to be desired.
  • Public Domain Character: The entire cast of characters.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Lynette spends most of "Gareth and Lynette" trying to provoke Gareth, whom she believes to be base-born, until she changes her mind near the end.
  • Smug Snake: Modred, Vivien.
  • Sole Survivor: Sir Bedivere.
  • Tame His Anger: "Balin and Balan" subverts this trope. Balin does his best, but once he's separated from Balan and begins to doubt Guinevere, his self-control evaporates.
  • The Dividual: Balin and Balan, of the syndividual type. Balan is capable of restraining Balin's anger issues. Then, they split up.
  • Triang Relations: Type 12, although platonic on the male ends. Arthur loves Guinevere and Lancelot. Lancelot loves Guinevere and Arthur. Guinevere loves Lancelot, but not Arthur.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Because Tennyson skips large chunks of the legend, some characters simply disappear without a trace (Vivien), or have blink-and-you'll miss-it resolutions to their plot (Lancelot).
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: Arthur.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Lancelot and Guinevere; Tristram and Isolt.

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alternative title(s): Idylls Of The King
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