Excalibur

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade October 2001

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Excalibur Excalibur, the weapon that struck fear into the hearts of its enemies, is the title of John Boorman's film, which brought the Arthurian legend to the big screen. There are many aspects of Excalibur which are exceptional, but the symbolism is just plain excellent. A symbol, as defined by the Webster's Dictionary, is a sign or object accepted as representing a thing, quality, or idea. Many powerful symbols are present throughout Excalibur, but three seem to attract the most attention.

One such symbol is the mystical sword, Excalibur. Excalibur symbolizes, among other things, responsibility and authority. To be able to wield Excalibur one must possess certain characteristics, one being responsibility. When one does not display responsibility, the sword will not function for that person. For example, when Arthur called upon the magic of the sword to defeat Lancelot, the sword broke. This exhibited a lack of responsibility on Arthur's part, and he had to show the appropriate amount of remorse for his actions to regain possession of Excalibur.

Authority is also a quality that Excalibur symbolizes. From the time when Excalibur was first forged, it was meant to identify the current king. When one possesses the sword, he, therefore, possesses the authority of the kingship. Excalibur passed authority unto young Arthur when he pulled it from the boulder. Through that task, Arthur was not known as a squire, but as a king.

Later in the film, when Arthur's kingdom was in ruins, he searches for the one thing that can save Camelot, the Holy Grail. Two qualities that are representative in the Grail are youth and life. Youth, a quality which the old King Arthur was in dire need of, is displayed by King Arthur's regaining of his strength and young appearance after he drank out of the chalice. Life is demonstrated when the plants in Camelot begin to grow after he drinks out of the Holy Grail.

Last, yet not least, King Arthur himself is an important symbol in the film. Two qualities so as that King Arthur symbolizes are forgiveness and courage. Forgiveness, a respectable quality, is seen when Arthur forgives his wife and Lancelot for having an affair. A feat, which might have been difficult for most men, was natural for King Arthur. The young king first shows his courage when he rushes to the aid of his knight, whose castle is under siege. For an inexperienced youth, he displayed enormous courage by helping to defend the castle.

People believe that John Boorman did an exceptional job of symbolizing, among other things, King Arthur, the Holy Grail, and Excalibur. Hopefully, with this film, people will become more interested in the Arthurian legend.