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Shut up, Merlin.
~ Arthur several times in the series

Arthur Pendragon is the deuteragonist of the BBC series Merlin. He was the only child of Uther Pendragon and Ygraine de Bois, the husband of Queen Guinevere, brother-in-law to Sir Elyan, son-in-law to Tom the blacksmith, the half brother of Morgana, the nephew of Tristan de Bois and Agravaine de Bois, and master of the greatest warlock and sorcerer ever, Merlin.

He is portrayed by Bradley James.

Personality

Arthur: I watched you rule. I learned that if you trust no-one you will always live in fear. Your hatred came from fear, not strength.
Uther: How dare you.
Arthur: I loved and respected you, but I have to rule the kingdom in my own way. I have to do what I believe to be right.
Uther: I won't allow you to destroy all that I built!
Arthur: Then you'll have to kill me. I'm not you, Father. I can't rule the way you did.
~ Arthur defying his father, highlighting the differences between them
Arthur is portrayed as being highly courageous, honourable, dutiful and just. Having matured and succeeded to the throne as King of Camelot, Arthur is no longer shown as the spoilt and self-serving character he once was, and is far more bound by the kingly responsibilities he must fulfill. Where once he was somewhat juvenile and described by Gwen as a "rough, tough, save the world" kind of person, his progression from boyish prince to adult king have seen a maturation in his personality.

Arthur's fairness is a particularly noteworthy element of his character. Always portrayed as seeking to do the right thing, Arthur is at times conflicted when presented with difficult moral dilemmas, such as being torn between loyalty to his father and protection of the innocent. Arthur considers his decisions very deeply and is never happy to be the reason others suffer, as shown by his offer to fight one-on-one to avoid war with Queen Annis and his offer to sacrifice himself to repair the veil. Arthur takes counsel from his trusted friends, family and advisors, among those Merlin, Gwen and formerly Morgana and Agravaine, and is shown to be more lenient in his policies than his father. Arthur is very brave and willing to take risks even at the cost of his own safety, such as being willing to give his own life to save Merlin's, Gwen's and Camelot's as a whole. During his father's lifetime he was also willing to act against his father's decisions, particularly when reasoned with by Morgana Pendragon. Arthur has a great love for the people of Camelot, frequently acting to ensure their safety and wellbeing, and was stricken when he realised a curse had fallen upon them because of his actions. He was also unwilling to allow other people sacrifice themselves for him to fix problems he himself had caused.

Arthur is a talented and charismatic leader, capable of inspiring great loyalty in people, though at times he doubts whether or not he deserves such devotion. However, since he would never ask his men to do anything he would not do himself, loyalty is generally forthcoming. Many characters have remarked on Arthur's good nature, including Morgana, who named him "a better man" than his father and Queen Annis, who felt Arthur inspired hope. The lengths Arthur goes to for the sake of people he cares about or is indebted to allow him to reap great loyalty in return from people in all walks of life. Arthur is adept at hiding his true feelings, having been accustomed to carrying out orders that he disagreed with for his father. He also finds it somewhat difficult to express himself emotionally, leading to initial difficulties the progression of his relationship with Guinevere and an awkward start with his one-time betrothed, Princess Mithian. As a result, open expressions of adoration were uncharacteristic and usually signs of enchantment. At times, Arthur is shown to reveal deeper emotion, such as when seeking forgiveness from the Shrine Boy, after which Merlin commented he had never seen Arthur cry before.

Arthur still retains some of the boyish elements of his personality, particularly regarding Merlin, whom he frequently teases and joins his knights in playing practical jokes on. He also seems to lack patience with Merlin and continually remarks on his servant's apparent incompetence, though at times Arthur also reveals sharper insight and comments that Merlin seems somehow "wise". Arthur does however have a habit of ignoring Merlin's advice and acting of his own - or Agravaine's - accord, sometimes heatedly telling him to be silent.

Unlike his father, Arthur was more capable of letting go of the past. He had a less extreme attitude towards sorcery and was prepared to accept that not all sorcerers were as evil as his father claimed, even assisting Morgana in saving a Druid boy's life. He grew to deeply distrust magic after Morgause caused him to nearly kill his father, but gradually returned to his old neutrality and unlike Uther he showed signs of believing that magic could be used for good as well as evil, even going so far as to seek magical intervention to save his father's life. However, when this backfired and Uther died seemingly because of Dragoon the Great, Arthur deeply regretted giving magic a chance and denounced it as pure evil. However after Gaius told him that Uther was already dying and that Dragoon really had done his best to save him, Arthur softened though he was still wary of magic and has not lifted the ban on sorcery. Later, Arthur revealed that some time ago, he led a raid on a Druid village, inadvertently causing a boy's death which meant that his spirit possessed Elyan. Arthur, deeply remorseful to the point of weeping, swore to treat the Druids with respect in the future, progressing his more moderate policy towards magic-users.

Despite his good nature, Arthur also has a hot temper and can at times become violent and aggressive, particularly when loved ones are threatened. This was especially shown when he learned the truth of his mother's death, when he believed Morgana was dying, when his father was dying and when he saw Gwen kissing Lancelot. In each of these cases Arthur flew into a rage and reacted violently, though stopped short of ever actually killing someone out of anger, usually because someone else intervened before he went too far.

Another negative aspect of Arthur is that he's still a very fickle and uncertain man who does not seem to have a straight opinion about magic, who can easily be influenced (for example, by Agravaine), who often changes his mind (in regard to Gwen, for example) and who hid behind his father's back several times when his not clarifying in front of others except Merlin that the slaughter of the druid camp fell under his responsibility and wasn't Uther's doing but at the same time explaining to the ghost of the druid boy that he wanted to prove himself to his father, and also when blaming his father in front of Morgana by saying that she can't blame him of Uther's sins, ignoring that Arthur himself continues the ban of magic in Camelot. When confrontating Morgana and comparing her to Uther, he also actually released Morgana of her actions by blaming Uther once again and hence betraying his honour.

Arthur is also fond of teasing and not above bullying his servants, such as Morris and later Merlin. However, Cedric and George are spared. It should be noted both of them are efficient and intelligent servants, so only timid, clumsy and lack intelligence servants are picked by Arthur and his gang. Arthur is also not fond of boring and dull servants, even though they are efficient and intelligent.

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