Mordred: Character & Significance

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  • 0:01 Early Childhood of Mordred
  • 0:47 Mordred's Plan
  • 1:30 Mordred's Final Days
  • 2:35 Significance of Mordred
  • 3:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shamekia Thomas

Shamekia has taught English at the secondary level and has her doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

Mordred was the son (and nephew) of King Arthur. He betrayed King Arthur and helped destroy King Arthur's reign at Camelot. Learn more about Mordred's life and test your knowledge with a quiz.

Early Childhood of Mordred

In Thomas Malory's prose piece Le Morte D'Arthur, Merlin the magician predicted Mordred would be born. Mordred was the son and nephew of King Arthur from an intimate encounter King Arthur had with his half-sister Morgause, when he did not know they were related. King Arthur was devastated when he learned Morgause was his half-sister. To hide their incestuous affair, King Arthur tried to kill Mordred by having all of the children born on the same day as Mordred, May Day, the first day of summer, sent to sea. King Arthur arranged to have all of the children sent away on a ship. However, the ship carrying Mordred wrecked and he survived. Mordred was found by a fisherman and given to the Duke Nabur to be raised as a foster child.

Mordred's Plan

Sir Gawain was Mordred's half-brother; his parents were King Arthur's half-sister Morgause and King Loth of Norway. When Mordred grew up, he became a knight along with Gawain. Mordred was not liked by other knights, but they tolerated him because of Gawain. Mordred had affairs with married women and sometimes beat the husbands of the women he was having an affair with. He also raped women and murdered people, but never paid for his crimes. Mordred was known to mock and scorn other knights as well and secretly wanted to destroy his father, King Arthur. Eventually Mordred destroyed King Arthur by using the two people King Arthur loved the most, Lancelot, his best knight, and Guinevere, his wife.

Mordred's Final Days

When Guinevere and Lancelot fell in love, other knights knew about their relationship, including Mordred. One day when King Arthur was away hunting, Lancelot and Guinevere met up with each other. Mordred and the other knights were there and Lancelot killed all of the knights except Mordred, who went to King Arthur to inform him of Lancelot and Guinevere's affair. King Arthur was focused to punish Lancelot and Guinevere. He decided to burn Queen Guinevere at the stake, but Lancelot saved her. While King Arthur was away at battle with Lancelot, he left Mordred in charge of Camelot and Guinevere.

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