Morgana Pendragon, also known as Morgana, is the main antagonist of the BBC series, Merlin. She is the daughter of Uther Pendragon and the half-sister of Arthur Pendragon and Morgause. Initially being an innocent ward of Uther who had spoken out against his actions on those who practice sorcery, she eventually discovered she had magic. At the start of Season 3 onwards, she became the main antagonist of the series.
She was portrayed by Katie McGrath.
Morgana started off being a very kind woman who was Uther's ward. However, unknown to her at the time she was actually his daughter and half-sister of Arthur. Morgana had a close friendship with her maidservant Gwen, Arthur and Merlin at this point in time.
Morgana eventually discovered that she had the gift of prophecy which was something that frightened her immensely. When she slept, she would have nightmares foreseeing the future of those in Camelot and the people she cared about. She sought the help of Gaius but this did nothing to stop her prophetic dreams because he only helped by giving her a sleeping draught. Morgana would also join in Merlin's adventures such as rescuing Camelot from a plague and meeting a young Druid boy named Mordred who she bonded instantly with.
Morgana showed resistance to Uther's rule and disliked his hatred of magic and how he executed those who wielded the power. Uther eventually imprisoned her and executed Gwen's father driving her to plan his assassination. In this occasion she also accused Uther of having abandoned her (supposed) father Gorlois in the battlefield years before, causing his death. She stopped when Uther showed he cared for her when they visited her supposed birth father's grave together.
Morgana started to panic after several events revealed that she does have magial powers that recently awakened. When she woke from a frightening dream, she created a fire that burned her curtain drapes. She confided this in Merlin which led the two of them to become closer as he thought that this made them alike and he understood her fears. Merlin suggested that she visit the Druids but this plan didn't work when Arthur and his soldiers invaded the camp, believing that the Druids had kidnapped her instead of her willingly searching for them. She eventually accepted that magic could be used for good.
Morgana eventually met her half-sister Morgause after the latter defeated Arthur in a duel. Morgana tells her that she wants Uther dead and Morgause makes her the source of a sleeping plague without telling her. When Merlin learned about this, he tried to kill her reluctantly using poison; however, much to their surprise, Morgause showed up to save Morgana and took care of her for a year. Morgause then used this time to corrupt Morgana, turning her evil further.
It should be noted that even before Morgause corrupted her into the evil sorceress she would later become, Morgana herself had become resentful on Uther since his crusade against magical beings or those whom possess powers or knowledge of sorcery. And with her now revealed to have magic, Morgana's resent on Uther became hate, which contributed to her turn to the dark side and Morgause merely did the rest. She also helped train Morgana hone her powers and help control them.
However it should also be noted that Morgana simply hated Uther, not the whole of Camelot and she never intended to take the throne until Morgause planted the idea in her mind.
Morgana returned to Camelot pretending that she still cared about her former friends. She pretended that she had forgiven Merlin for poisoning her as she understood his reasonings. Her true feelings are eventually revealed and Morgana as scheming to overthrow Uther so she could have the throne, especially since she learned that Uther was her illegimate father when still in a coma due to Merlin accidently causing her fall from the stairs. Merlin tried to help her see sense but she continued working with Morgause. However only Merlin knew of her double-agent status as he could not reveal her actual agenda without proof or he would have been executed for suggesting that Uther's ward had magic and wanted to kill him.
Morgana and Morgause eventually were able to take over Camelot using the army of King Cenred, who had offered his allegiance to their plight. Morgause killed Cenred after they acquired the Cup of Life, which made the army they had acquired immortal. Morgana killed a large number of townspeople to force the knights to be loyal to her. Morgana was defeated by Merlin, Arthur and Gwen, causing her and a wounded Morgause to flee for the time being.
A year later, Morgana desired revenge on Arthur and all of Camelot. She sacrificed her sister to the Underworld in order to release spirits on Camelot. Morgana then formed an alliance with Agravaine in hopes of destroying Camelot. Morgana killed Uther but would not be satisfied until Arthur was dead so she could claim her rightful place as Camelot's queen. Some of her schemes with Agravaine included attempting to kill Arthur in a duel, brainwashing Merlin and using him to kill Arthur and having Gwen exiled by forcing her to have an affair with the revived Lancelot. Lancelot had been reawaken using necromancy but he was only an empty vessel with Lancelot's face and none of his characteristics or memories. Morgana wanted Gwen exiled because she claimed that Camelot's only Queen was herself and that nobody would be able to occupy that place.
Morgana took over Camelot again with the help of a warlord named Helios and became queen. Her reign was very short because Merlin and Arthur overthrew her army. Morgana was wounded in battle after attempting to escape. She met a dragon named Aithusa who healed her injuries.
Morgana then used magic on Gwen, turning her evil temporarily. She brainwashed her by trapping her in a tower with mandrakes which made her hallucinate that all those she loved were against her. She then ordered to Gwen to kill Arthur by putting poison in his food. Morgana did this so she could get throne and then planned on killing Gwen if the plan worked.
During the final battle against Morgana, Arthur was on the verge of death after being stabbed by her ally Mordred with a sword forged in dragon's breath (the dragon being Aithusa). Percival and Gwaine attempted to kill Morgana by stabbing her but she captured them. Morgana killed Gwaine and found where Arthur was heading because she tortured him to death. Morgana encountered Arthur and Merlin and attacked them. She taunted Arthur by saying that she would watch as death claimed him but Merlin stopped her. Morgana replied by saying that she couldn't be harmed by ordinary weapons because she was a high priestess. Merlin then stabbed Morgana with Excalibur, which was forged with dragon's breath, causing her death.
Earlier in life, as the King’s ward, Morgana displays a spirited, quick-witted, demonstrative, sympathetic, satisfying, rapturous, optimistic, and compassionate nature. While in Camelot she is considered by many to be very beautiful and attracts the attention of numerous men, including Knight Valiant, Merlin, and Arthur Pendragon. However, Morgana proves to be both beautiful and capable; she is also fiery, volatile, and dispassionate, so she will not hesitate to stand up to Uther, despite his being her guardian. She always takes issue with his heartless and unjust persecution of magic-users, believing that his punishments are unfair and unfitting. When necessary, she also displays her courage and ability as a fighter, always intervening to stand up for what she feels is right. Like Uther, she is also very stubborn, obstinate, and headstrong, and when Arthur told Uther that he lost a bet against Morgana, Uther told him that he should have known better than to mess with her.
Despite portraying a fierce (but just) and independent personality at the court, on the inside Morgana is feeling great fear, depression and loneliness while in Camelot. Not knowing that she is Uther's daughter, the thought that he may find out about her magic greatly stresses her, taking into consideration his attitude towards magic. Unable to find anyone to help her and having no one to turn to, she slowly envelopes herself in loneliness and depression, which fleetingly disappears at the company of creatures like Morgause, Alvarr and Mordred, who are like her. After Merlin poisons her and almost causes her death, Morgause takes her with her to cure her, and Morgana spends over a year with Morgause. When she returns, she is a different person; more antagonistic and cruel, she returns determined to take revenge for beings like herself against Uther and the magic-hating Camelot.
Though Morgana initially believes Arthur was a better man than his father and would be a fair ruler, she ultimately becomes more and more fixed on her belief that the Pendragons are not fit to rule Camelot and seeks to take the throne herself, despite her also being a Pendragon in blood. She joins Morgause in her regicidal ambitions and eventually operates alone in trying to kill Arthur. Despite being motivated by her disagreement with Uther's tyrannical regime, Morgana herself lapses into a reign of cruelty during the times she rules Camelot to gain the allegiance of the people, such as executing innocent people in her first reign, and threatening to burn peasants' crops in her second reign. Morgana also takes a sadistic pleasure in tormenting Uther and forcing Gwaine to fight for food, as well as willingly torturing Elyan for information.
Morgana is portrayed as being vengeful, vituperative, ruthless, embittered, hateful, cold, uncaring, and calculating. Having turned against her closest friends and even her own family, Morgana zealously pursues what she believes to be her rightful throne as well as the downfall of her enemies, even those she once cared about. She is a highly isolated and darkened character who resembles her biological father far more than she cares to admit since she, like Uther Pendragon, has suffered greatly on an emotional level and is unwilling to let go of past suffering. Additionally, Morgana seeks to avenge her losses but ultimately fails to achieve satisfaction, which dooms her to be perpetually unhappy and disconsolate, a fact first pointed out by Queen Annis much to Morgana’s ire. In spite of her apparent callous antipathy, on rare occasions, Morgana shows a sorrowful melancholy that she herself does not expect to feel, such as upon the death of Uther, the resurrection of Lancelot as a mere shadow of his former glory and her confrontation with Arthur.
However, despite her abhorrent, vindictive, and unforgiving personality, Morgana remains a powerful, cunning, arrogant, intelligent, overconfident, manipulative, and ferociously determined individual. Her darker characteristics are largely the product of external influences while her truer nature was portrayed as one of immense compassion. This nature has arguably not disappeared due to the melancholy, she sometimes showed and she does at times reveal a vulnerable side of herself, such as her shock and hurt on hearing of Agravaine's death, her deep conflict at seeing Arthur again, her fear at being rendered powerless and her elation at being healed by Aithusa.
This nature is explored more after her liberation from her prison. The time she spent with Aithusa made her more vulnerable and impotent, (at times) shows her softer side to the young creature. Even at her enemies, she shows acts of kindness, as shown when she ordered her men to burn Finna's corpse after her suicide. She also displays a polite, kind, caring, charming, thoughtful, cheerful, and loving side, like a mother figure towards Mordred, as he is the only one she can still consider her friend. After turning his back on Arthur and delivering Emrys' true name to her, Mordred is the one she was able to forgive, even after he tried to kill her twice, and when he died at the hands of Arthur, she swore vengeance at her friend's grave. From this point forward, Morgana became more sadistic, treacherous, psychotic, and nasty, even towards her allies, and her only goal became the death of Arthur Pendragon, which she initially realises, shortly after she is slain by Merlin.
Powers and Abilities
Morgana was a seer and thus was able to see visions of the future in her dreams. She often suffered from prophetic nightmares as a result of this ability, initially largely revolving around Arthur Pendragon's death. She also had some level of telepathy as she was the only person other than Merlin able to hear Mordred speaking mentally The Beginning of the End. Morgana was also a very powerful sorceress and High Priestess of the Old Religion as well as a highly trained swords woman.
Though initially Morgana's powers were raw and uncontrolled, resulting in her inadvertently setting her room alight and shattering a vase, in the year spent with Morgause, Morgana's skill with magic improved greatly and she gained control over her abilities. However, she admitted that her magic was still considerably weaker than Morgause's The Tears of Uther Pendragon, many of her spells relying on her using an object of some sort – such as when she tried to kill Arthur by using a Phoenix Eye - as the central focus for the spell rather than simply conjuring something on her own. When Morgause was wounded by Gaius and Merlin, Morgana displayed tremendous magical power by bringing the whole room crashing down with an emotionally-driven magical outpouring. Her grief for Morgause augmented her powers to an extremely high degree, although it is unknown if she was actually in control of the magic One year later, Morgana's magical powers had grown under Morgause's continued tutelage, and she finally became a High Priestess of the Old Religion. She showed very strong magic when she was able to swiftly defeat four Knights of Camelot, killing two of them. Later on she was able to perform a difficult ritual to tear the Veil between the worlds. Morgana repeatedly cast powerful magic that incapacitated her opponents instantly, leaving her largely free to pass in and out of Camelot. Morgana also thwarted Merlin's attempt to cure Uther magically by enchanting a necklace to counteract any healing spell and worsen the ailment tenfold The Wicked Day.
Morgana later used an enchantment on Arthur's sword to make it ten times as heavy when he fought Derian in single combat in an attempt to have him killed. However, while she had great skill in casting complex spells, she had little experience using magic in direct combat, as shown when she directly engaged Merlin in a magical duel. Although she did come close to overcoming him, even in his strongest form, she was ultimately defeated by him and badly wounded Morgana once used telekinesis to cause her dagger to follow Merlin wherever he moved, which would have been certain death for him had Alator not intervened and, catching her by surprise, knocked Morgana out with a stunning spell . Morgana also demonstrated enough magical competence to wield the power of necromancy, a little-practiced art, to get rid of her rival Guinevere once and for all. Using a magical coin given to her by Morgause, Morgana resurrected a shade of Lancelot's spirit and, controlling his mind, used him and a magical bracelet to force Gwen into adultery, thus causing her exile from Camelot. She also put a glamour on Gwen that made her look like a deer in the eyes of others, thus making Arthur and the other knights think that she was an animal.
Three years after her second assault to Camelot, Morgana's magic had grown even stronger. With a simple stunning spell, she was able to knock out Merlin in his young form, whereas three years earlier two stunning spells of hers were not enough to prevent an older Merlin from defeating her. She also grew more adept at telekinetically using weapons, being able to wield a dagger with her mind without using any verbal spell
Merlin himself admitted that the day Morgana would be as strong as him was not far. Indeed, she managed to keep an Ageing Spel for a long time without the use of potions, surprising even Merlin and Gaius with her achievementShe also acquired new and powerful spells, including magical explosions, which she uses to capture Alator, or enchanting snakes which manage to defeat the Knights of the Round Table .
The full extent of Morgana's powers was displayed after she learnt about Emrys' true identity. Even Mordred, a born druid, admitted that he was no match for her powers . The High Priestess could create a small meteor, casting the spell along with Mordred, and use powerful magic to trap Merlin inside the Crystal Cave.
Morgana was shown to be a very powerful witch capable of performing feats such as telekinesis, mind control and necromancy. She also had the capability of seeing the future via prophetic dreams and was a skilled swordswoman though she preferred using magic in combat (as Morgana's swordswoman skills were ultimately inferior to her half-brother, Arthur's swordsman skills). After she turned evil she became skilled in torturing and even brainwashing people using both plants and creatures with magic properties (such as mandrake roots and the Fomorroh) and her own powers.
For all her infamous power, Morgana was vastly inferior to Emrys in terms of magic during the majority of the series. She was rendered almost catatonic with fear by the very sight of him in Season 4. In season 5, her magic grew in power that even Merlin called her's new strength frightening and it was said that it might equal Emrys' power one day (however, this is unknown because unlike Morgana; Emrys is half-human and half-magical creature of the old religion). Morgana had a high sense of self-preservation and was not above begging for her life and hiding behind others to achieve her ends. She was also quite able to charm and manipulate others, at first most of her former friends and later, when her true nature was discovered, present and possible future allies.
- Morgana is based on the witch of the same name in Arthurian legend.
- In the TV series, Morgana is never known by her full name in the legend, "Morgana Le Fay".
- In the legend, she was also known as "Morgan" or "Morgaine".
- In the show she and Arthur Pendragon share the same father, Uther, while in many legends they have the same mother.
- Morgana's actress, Katie McGrath almost didn't get the role of Morgana. Because she and co-star Colin Morgan (Merlin) are both Irish, the casting directors didn't want two actors with the same accent and they were ready to decline Katie if she couldn't do an English accent only Colin beat her to it and they both got their roles.