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Learn More in these related Britannica articles: romance: Arthurian themes. This last situation and the quest for the Holy Grail the vessel used by Christ at the Last Supper and given to Joseph of Arimathea brought about the dissolution of the knightly fellowship, the death of Arthur, and the destruction…. In some accounts it was suggested…. History at your fingertips. Sign up here to see what happened On This Day , every day in your inbox! By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Notice.
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Sir Lancelot - Shame & Scandal
There was a problem with your submission. We see here an admirable humility, which Lancelot has demonstrated before, towards the beginning of the Grail Quest:. XII:5 . To assume either of these would be to drastically simplify the situation; we must also take into account the nature of the affair between Lancelot and Guinevere. In light of this, it is of primary importance to remember what Malory says in a rare moment of commentary on the problematic relationship:.
For, as the Freynshhe booke seyth, the quene and sir Launcelot were togydirs.
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And whether they were abed other at other maner of disportis, me lyste nat thereof make no mencion, for love that tyme was nat as love ys nowadayes. XX:3 . However, to have left the explanation at this would have been both inartistic and unsatisfactory, and thankfully, a closer reading of the text yields some potentially fruitful explanations. The best place perhaps to begin these considerations is at the end. It is through this demonstration of commitment to her husband post-mortem  that Lancelot, heart-broken, takes to wearing religious vestments too and embraces priesthood.
Lancelot, whilst emotionally inclined to Guinevere still, has by her passing, truly been released from the sinful nature of their love. Although arguably there was nothing sinful about it from the very moment Arthur died, through the actions of Guinevere they fittingly redeem themselves for the illicit affair during his lifetime. His expression of his love towards her in a typically courtly manner and his constant defence of her stand testimony to this.
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And ellis had I bene shamed, for that same day that ye made me knyght, thorow my hastynes I loste my swerde, and my lady, youre quene, founde hit, and lapped hit in her trayne, and gave me the swerde whan I had nede thereto; and ells had I bene shamed amonge all knyghtes. And therefore, my lorde Arthure, I promysed her at that day ever to be her knyght in ryght othir in wronge.
XVIII:7 . Just as he is indebted to Arthur for initiating him into the Round Table, so he is indebted to Guinevere for saving him from being shamed in the initiation ceremony . Indeed, one could say that it is Guinevere who gets Lancelot knighted — without his sword the ritual which would lead to his ordination into the knighthood could not commence.
For I woll allwayes fle that noble kynge that made me knyght: and whan I may no farther, I muste nedis deffende me. XX . Nothing short of necessity would push Lancelot to fight against his lord, even in such hard-pressed circumstances. The answer to this may lie in the actual reasoning behind the view that a relationship of this nature is treason. Whilst it is a far from popular view both contemporarily seeing as Guinevere in The Alliterative Morte Arthur has a son with Mordred ,  and in modern scholarship, I find more than enough proof in a handful of critics and close readings of Le Morte Darthur to support it.
Immediate suspicion should be roused from the fact that Guinevere bears children for neither Arthur nor Lancelot. Both have children by other women; Arthur has, quite notably, his future slayer Mordred, and Lancelot has Galahad by Elaine of Corbin — thereby dispelling any possibility of their sterility. So aftir thys the quene com unto sir Galahad and asked hym of whens he was and of what contrey.
Than he tolde hir of whens he was. As to that he seyde nother yee nother yay…. Than sir Galahad was a lityll ashamed and seyde,,. XIII . However, it is her infertility that works in favour of justifying the relationship between Lancelot and Guinevere — because of the lack of concern of a contaminated bloodline.