Undergraduate Humanities Forum 2005-6: Word & Image

Document Type


Date of this Version

April 2006


2005-2006 Penn Humanities Forum on Word & Image, Undergraduate Mellon Research Fellows.

URL: http://humanities.sas.upenn.edu/05-06/mellon_uhf.shtml


In a powerful image in an illustrated manuscript of La Mort le Roi Artu, King Arthur sits atop the Wheel of Fortune as three other figures cling to the wheel below him. The image -like the ominous dream that inspires it - perfectly captures King Arthur's liminal status as he transitions from a powerful monarch leading a strong coalition of knights to an enfeebled leader attempting to hold together an increasingly fragmented alliance. The image is evocative of the Round Table itself, where Arthur would be seated at the center with his knights spread out on either side of him in the ultimate embodiment of egalitarian rule. In this context, however, the Round Table is pitched on its side to become the Wheel of Fortune, with men desperately grasping the sides rather than stoically seated around it. King Arthur, perched atop the wheel, occupies a precarious position, waiting to be pitched from the wheel at the whim of the female representation of Fortune, who stands at the center of the image.



Date Posted: 08 August 2007