Morte Darthur Questions

1) What is the nature of the love between Lancelot and Guinevere? Is it honorable? Why does Malory say that Guinevere was a 'true lover'?

The love between Lancelot and Guinevere is lustful in nature. Guinevere shows that she is not proud of her affair with Lancelot by becoming a nun, and repenting for her “sins” after Arthur dies. Malory says that Guinevere is a ‘true lover’ because she mourns for her husband after he dies to make up for her infidelity when he was alive. Guinevere shows that her true love is for her husband, and when she dies, she is buried near Arthur.

2) Who, in your opinion, is the best knight of the Rount Table? Why?

The best knight of the Round Table is Gawain. Gawain is the most noble and loyal knight of Arthur’s Court. He is loyal to his lord and kinsmen, and he is an extremely honorable man. Gawain shows his good character by refusing to participate in the scandal against Lancelot, but at the same time shows his loyalty to Arthur. Lancelot realizes what an ideal knight Gawain is, and this is why Lancelot weeps when he arrives to Gawain’s burial place, Dover Castle.

3) What causes the fall of the Round Table?

The fall of the Round Table is brought about by jealousy, malice, and betrayal. Lancelot’s affair with Guinevere is an opportunity for the jealous knights of Arthur’s court. Mordred takes advantage of Arthur’s preoccupation with Lancelot and his queen, Guinevere, and while Arthur and Gawain are away chasing Lancelot, Mordred seizes Arthur’s throne. The fall of the Round Table is clearly caused by jealousy, malice, and betrayal.

4) How is Arthur shown in the stories we have read? How does this Arthur compare with the King Arthur you would expect?

Arthur is shown as a young naïve king, and this is a King Arthur very different from the one that the reader would expect. Arthur seems almost helpless without his knights, especially Gawain and Lancelot. Arthur doesn’t seem like the powerful figure that one would expect. Even when older, he is quick to act rashly (shown in the fight with Mordred) and seems very immature as a leader. The reader finds that many of the knights of Arthur’s court often save Arthur and Guinevere. One would expect Arthur to be an all powerful king, and in many of the stories we read this isn’t the case.

5) How does the comitatus function in the Arthur stories?

There is comitatus between Arthur and his knights; however, this comitatus seems as if it is easily violated. It reminds the reader of the bonds of comitatus present in Hrothgar’s court in Beowulf. The two courts are similar because though the appearance of comitatus is there, little things give the impression that loyalty and honor are not as prevalent as they should be. Gawain is the only knight that can be said to truly follow the rules of comitatus. Clearly Lancelot does not strictly adhere to comitatus even though he is thought of as the “best knight.”

6) Why is Lancelot considered a saint at the end of Malory's Morte Darthur.

Lancelot is considered a saint at the end of Malory’s Morte Darthur because of the manner in which he deals with his love for Guinevere, his loyalty to Arthur, and his appreciation of Sir Gawain. Lancelot may have many flaws, but he still attempts to keep his loyalty to those that he has sworn it to. He deeply grieves the loss of Gawain and Arthur, and sincerely loves Guinevere.

7) How have values changed (or have they?) from Beowulf to Malory's Morte Darthur.

In Malory’s Morte Darthur many of the values are similar to those found in Beowulf; however, there are many changes with regards to love and romance between warriors and ladies. Lancelot would never be considered a great hero or warrior in the time of Beowulf because he has too many human flaws. These human flaws, however, are what glorify Lancelot in Malory’s Morte Darthur. Bravery and glory in war are still very important values in both literary works, but love clearly puts a new perspective on the life of warriors and the bonds of comitatus.

8) Who is viewed as the perfect knight in the Morte? Why?

In the Morte Darthur, Lancelot is viewed as the perfect knight because he is the strongest in battle. Lancelot has often times saved the king, queen, and other knights from an almost certain death. Lancelot is portrayed as a saint in the Morte Darthur because he is repentant and loyal to his former lover Guinevere. Also, after he dies, he exudes the 'Odor of Sanctity.'

9) What characters follow what sort of ethical code, and why?

Gawain follows a strict, idealistic ethical code. Gawain is the ideal knight and greatly contrasts Lancelot. Lancelot is a great warrior, but he has many of the human flaws that Gawain does not. Lancelot is emotional, prone to follow his feelings (anger and love), and much more “human” than Gawain. Gawain seems like the ideal person, while Lancelot seems like a common man.

10) How does the exaggerated Art of Love by Capellanus reflect on this society? Do you think it is a condemnation of what is being done in courtly society? Or, is it in support of the lifestyle?

Capellanus’ Art of Love reflects perfectly on this society because many of the people in the society do not follow his rules. This is done in condemnation of what is being done in courtly society. Guinevere realizes that what she has been doing was wrong, and that is why she becomes a nun. The society clearly has many flaws with courtly love. There are affairs between the most noble people, and double loves of all natures. There is much lust, betrayal, and publicity of love.

11) We know that Chretien hated Lancelot, his very own creation. Why would writers after Chretien (Including Malory) revive and glorify him, despite his moral "issues"?

Writers after Chrétien revive and glorify Lancelot because of his human characteristics. Lancelot is a romantic figure who follows his human emotions. He is not always perfect, and this fact draws sympathy to his character. He is the opposite of the ideal knight because he has so many flaws which lead him to trouble.

12) Since Malory completed his work in 1469-1470 and it rounds out our exploration of the Middle Ages (500-1500), I want you to reflect on literature previous to this, thinking on the significance of this work as the last one we read. How has society changed? What values are important? What are the definitions of power, hope, wisdom, pride, and love for each society? What commentary on this change may we glean by reading the Morte Darthur?

Society has greatly changed in the literary works we have covered. The introduction of courtly love and love in general amongst warriors and ladies has changed the idea of the ideal hero. Lancelot is glorified for not being an ideal man and, this would be unheard of in the time of the great hero, Beowulf. The power of a king is much different from the power that Hrothgar and Hygelac had. Arthur seems to have significantly less physical power than his knights even though he is their king.


Works Cited