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King Arthur Through the Ages

from Calvert School

Reviewed by Martha Robinson

Purchase details: King Arthur Through the Ages CD-ROM for Windows. Requirements: Windows 95 or later, Pentium processor with 32MB RAM, 8x CD drive, sound card. Not compatible with Vista, XP, or 2000. Available from Calvert School.

King Arthur Through the Ages offers a huge collection of information for doing a unit study on King Arthur and his times. With a copyright of 1995, the CD uses basic menus, audios, and still, rather than moving, graphics. More than 50 references in addition to various versions of Mallory's Le Morte d'Arthur provide much meaty material for this program.

The main menu has seven options. Information on each of these is listed below:

  • Tales of Arthur -- This section has twenty-five legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Vocabulary is highlighted in the text, and when clicked on, brings up a window that pronounces and defines the word(s) and usually shows a small related graphic. An audio symbol next to difficult-to-pronounce words in the text may be clicked on to give an oral pronunciation. Students are expected to read these legends on their own.
  • Readings from Arthur -- Eight pieces of literature are shown here either in their entirety, such as the Tennyson poems, "Lady of Shalott" and "Idylls of the King," or as excerpts such as those from The Mabinogion, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and Le Morte d'Arthur. The student has the option of having each of these read aloud by the narrators, a couple of whom have rich British accents.
  • Arthur Through History -- This timeline of British history shows events from 43 A.D. when the Romans invaded to 1982. General British history is highlighted along with writings and references to Arthur such as movie productions and books. A new window with more information appears when an event on the timeline is clicked.
  • Arthur's World -- This section includes graphics and explanations of how the world might have been in the time Arthur was thought to have lived, if indeed he was a real character. The categories for study are castle, church, tournament, hunt, knighthood, heraldry, banquet, arms and armor, and dress. A large graphic comes up in a new window when the category is chosen, and a smaller window with verbiage comes up with the graphic is clicked. The smaller window contains interesting details about the category and more highlighted vocabulary. When these words are clicked, another window with pictures from ancient manuscripts, artwork, original drawings, and even a Gregorian chant audio clip comes up to illustrate the point. This section has loads of information that will create a picture in the mind of the reader of the feudal system and the early church in England.
  • Picturing Arthur -- Art appreciation is the topic for this section. Artwork created from the King Arthur stories is shown here along with related excerpts from some of the legends.
  • Quest for the Grail -- A fun final exam is the "Siege Perilous." In this section of the CD, the student must answer questions about the material in order complete "quests." Three levels of difficulty, "page," "squire," and "knight," are available. Good things, such as the sword coming a bit, and finally all the way, out of the stone, and the castle gate opening, occur when correct answers are given. An evil laugh is heard when the answer is incorrect.

Recommendation: While this CD is not as fancy as more recent computer CD's, King Arthur Through the Ages offers a wonderful unit study on the legend of King Arthur with forays into literature, geography, history, early British culture, and art appreciation. The material presented is at an appropriate depth for late elementary and middle school ages. I especially enjoyed the classic art and the reading of poems and stories by professional actors. The "game" that serves as the final exam is a fun and thorough review of the material that is guaranteed to appeal to children. I found a couple of programming bugs while going through the program, but these were only minor distractions rather than anything serious. King Arthur Through the Ages would make a great gift, starting point for unit studies, or supplement to British history studies. resources related to this review:'s History Resources Section for ideas, links, living books, and more!
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