“King Bahthur’s Court,” a playful and satirical piece written by Robert E. Howard in a 1925 letter to his friend Tevis Clyde Smith, encapsulates Howard’s unique blend of humor with his fascination for the medieval era, albeit in a whimsically modern context. The play parodies Arthurian legends and the chivalric code, infusing contemporary 1920s elements to critique and satirize both the romanticized past and the modern world’s commercialism and materialism.
Howard’s creation serves as a humorous critique of both the romanticized past and the present, showcasing his ability to weave humor with commentary on society and history. Through “King Bahthur’s Court,” Howard demonstrates his literary versatility, extending beyond the sword and sorcery for which he is best known.
As a side note, this was moved from The Collected Volume 3 first edition to Volume 3 in the Ultimate edition due to the date of the letter.
Prologue: The narrator invites the reader to escape the clamor of the modern city by delving into a tale from King Bahthur’s days, a period presented as nobler and more serene.
Act 1: King Bahthur and his knights, Sir Allhehad, Sir Launcealittle, Sir Goway, and the King’s Jester, engage in humorous banter. Bahthur addresses a rumor about Sir Launcealittle’s unfair victory in a contest, which Launcealittle defends with a comic recounting of the event. The King gifts Launcealittle a “royal knight-shirt” as a sign of favor.
Act 2: Sir Launcealittle daydreams about improving the kingdom and marrying Queen Gwen, who complains about the state of the kingdom under Bahthur’s rule. This act reflects on desires for personal and political improvement with a light-hearted tone.
Act 3: Sir Goway boasts of his adventures and a dubious act of heroism, revealing a comedic twist on the concept of knightly valor and reward. King Bahthur praises Goway, further satirizing the notion of chivalry.
L’Envoi: The epilogue laments the loss of the noble era of King Bahthur, replaced by modernity’s commercial and mundane aspects, symbolized by flivvers (early cars), packinghouses, bootleggers, and filling stations. It ends on a note that both commemorates and mocks the past’s idealization.
- King Bahthur: The ruler of the court, a figure that parodies King Arthur.
- Sir Allhehad: A knight, possibly a play on the idea of someone who is content or lacks nothing.
- Sir Launcealittle: A knight whose name puns on the legendary Sir Lancelot, but with a diminutive twist suggesting lesser valor or significance.
- Sir Goway: A knight, whose name suggests dismissal or departure, adding to the humorous treatment of knightly characters.
- King’s Jester: The comic figure in the court, providing humor and satire.
- Queen Gwen: Short for Guinevere, she represents the queen in this satirical version of Arthurian legend, expressing discontent with King Bahthur’s rule and showing a more modern, candid demeanor.
- THE LAST OF THE TRUNK OCH BREV I URVAL, Paradox Entertainment, March 2007
- THE COLLECTED LETTERS OF REH VOL. 3: 1933-1936, Robert E. Howard Foundation Press, October 2008
- SENTIMENT: AN OLIO OF RARER WORKS, REH Foundation Press, December 2009
- THE COLLECTED LETTERS OF REH VOL. 1: 1923-1929 ultimate edition, Robert E. Howard Foundation Press, June 2021 (letter #025)