Luke Tarzian on Thomas Malory's Morte Darthur

Published by admin_main on Mon 13 Sep, 2010

2. On 440-41, when Sir Agravain and Sir Mordred make known their suspicions about Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere, how do their fellow knights and King Arthur receive the news? What problem does King Arthur introduce when he admits that Sir Lancelot is “the best knight among us all”? (441)

The reception of Agravain and Mordred’s claims has slightly different receptions from Arthur and his knights. Although Arthur listens to Agravain and Mordred, and has a sneaking suspicion, he does not readily believe that his Queen is having an affair with Lancelot. This could stem from ignorance and fact that lies in plain sight-

-”Ye shall ride tomorn on hunting, and doubt ye not, Sir Lancelot will not go with you…(441, Sir Agravain)”

And also from his undying love for Sir Lancelot because the knight is valorous, strong, and has helped the King and Queen many times over-

-”Wit you well, he is none other. But I would be loath to begin such a thing but I might have proofs of it, for Sir Lancelot is an hardy knight, and all ye know that he is the best knight among us all. And but if he be taken with the deed, he will fight with him that bringeth up the noise, and I kno no knight that is able to match him. Therefore, and it be sooth as ye say, I would that he were taken with the deed…(441, Arthur)”

In the case of the knights, Gawain, Gaheris, and Gareth will have none of what Agravain and Mordred are saying. The knights don’t want to have anything to do with Agravain and Mordred when they reveal Lancelot’s sins to Arthur and make their opinions known to Agravain and Mordred.

-”Brother, Sir Agravain, I pray you and charge you, move no such matters no more afore me, for with you well, I will not be of your counsel…(440, Gawain)” -”So God me help, we will not be known of your deeds…(440, Gaheris and Gareth.”

The three knights also do not wish to be part of the counsel that tells the King of Lancelot’s misdoings because they believe he has done enough good deeds and been kind enough to them and the King and Queen, therefore not warranting Agravain and Mordred revealing their secret.

-”Not by my counsel, for and there arise war and wrack betwixt Sir Lancelot and us, wit you well, brother, there will many kings and great lords hold with Sir Lancelot. Also, brother, Sir Agravain, ye must remember how often times Sir Lancelot hath rescued the King and Queen, And the best of us all had been full cold at the heart-root had not Sir Lancelot been better than we, and that has he proved himself full oft….(440, Gawain).”

They also appear to be fearful of the consequences should a war start with Lancelot since he is a mighty knight in combat, which leads to the problem with Lancelot. When Arthur says that Lancelot is “the best knight among us,” it raises a couple of issues. Should Agravain, Mordred, and the twelve knights they plan to confront Lancelot with actually confront him, getting him to confess and come quietly, if you will, will not be an easy task because he is strong physically and mentally, very cunning, and a master in combat. Should they break into fight, they will undoubtedly fall barring some miracle. The second problem that arises stems from the fact that Lancelot is the greatest knight amongst them. Should they find proof of his sins and bring them to King Arthur’s attention, there will most likely be war and they will all have to face Lancelot and his blade or point.

4. On 444-47, when Sir Lancelot rescues Queen Guinevere from her trial and execution, what does King Arthur most lament about the current situation? What key event triggers the revenge cycle that is about to begin?

Arthur expresses sorrow about several things that have taken place with Lancelot’s rescue of the Queen.

And when he awoke of his swoon, then he said: “Alas, that ever I bore crown upon my head! Fr now have I lost the fairest fellowhip of noble knights that ever held Christian king together. Alas, my good knights be slain and gone away from me. Now within these two days I have lost nigh forty knights and also the noble fellowship of Sir Lancelot and his blood, for now I may nevermore hold them together with my worship. Alas, that ever this war began…(446, Arthur).”

In his lament, Arthur clearly states he mourns more for the loss of his fellow knights and Lancelot than he does for Queen Guinevere.

“…And much more am I sorrier for my good knights’ loss than for the loss of my fair queen; for queens I might have enough, but a fellowship of good knights shall never be together in no company…(446, Arthur).”

His sorrow for the loss of his knights outweighs that of the loss of Guinevere because it was in a period of time where woman were not thought of as highly (more as possession, i.e. “For queens I might have enough”) and knightly bonds and fellowship were considered very important.

The revenge cycle that ultimately leads to Arthur’s demise is Lancelot’s slaying of Sir Gaheris and Sir Gareth while they were unarmed, although he was not aware of who he had struck. Gawain and Arthur both seek to avenge or “revenge”, is it is put, their deaths and go about devising a plan.

Gawain is zealous in his lust for revenge:

“…Wit you well, now I shall make you a promise which I shall hold by my knighthood, that from this day forward I shall never fail Sir Lancelot until that one of us have slain the other…(Gawain, 447).”

While Arthur expresses desire for revenge but remains patient

“Sir, ye shall not need to seek him so far, for as I hear say, Sir Lancelot will abide me and us all within the castle of Joyous Garde. And much people draweth unto him, as I hear say…(Arthur, 447).”


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