Arthurian Heroes and the Representation of Men and Women
(Thamires)In the tales ofÂ Le Morte d’Arthur, God and some religious holidays like Easter are often mentioned, which gives some insight that the characters are Christians. However, the characters’ behaviors and relationships follow the course of their wishes and prophecies, with little consideration for religious manners and expectations.
King Uther, King of England, gets attracted by Dame Igraine, the wife of Duke of Tintagel. She does not correspond to his interest and tells her husband about it. The Duke and his wife run away, making King Uther wish for Igraine even more. Merlin comes to the King and promises to help with Igraine, but under one condition “the first night that ye shall lie by Igraine ye shall get a child on her, and when that is born, that shall be delivered to me” (Malory 5). King Uther kills the Duke and pretends to be him to lay with Igraine. They conceive a child, and when that boy is born, Merlin takes him to Sir Ector and his wife and names the boy Arthur. Even though Arthur is with Sir Ector, he is destined to become a king.
Later, when all men try to pull the stone’s sword and fail, Arthur is the one who does it, and as it was said, “whoso pullet out this sword of this stone and anvil, is rightwise king born of all England” (Malory 8). At first, Arthur is seen as too young to be king, and is called a bastard, but Merlin soon reveals that he is King Uther’s son. He becomes a generous king and conquers many lands.
King Arthur then wants to marry Guenivere, daughter of King Lodegreance, but Guenivere is in love with Lancelot, and Lancelot is in love with her; still, that does not bother Arthur, who marries Guenivere anyways, and she becomes Queen Grenivere.
The love between Guenivere and Lancelot never ends. Even after marrying King Arthur, she still seems to admire and care for Lancelot, “Queen Guenivere had him [Sir Lancelot] in great favour above all other knights, and so he loved the Queen again above all other ladies days of his life” (Malory 95), and Lancelot also has strong feelings for the Queen.
King Perilous wants Sir Lancelot to marry his daughter, Elaine. The King knows that Lancelot must have a son, who will be called Sir Galahad, the good knight and “by whom all the foreign country should be brought out of dangerous, and by him the Holy Grail should be achieved” (Malory 283). Lancelot refuses to marry her because of his feelings for Queen Guenivere. With the help of Dame Brusen, Elaine, who desires Lancelot, enchants him and manages to be in bed with him. Lancelot feels very ashamed for sleeping with Elaine, and even though he and the Queen do not have an actual relationship, he behaves as if he has cheated on her.
Both Arthur and Galahad were conceived in very shady ways, where someone was being tricked and fooled. Apart from the odd ways they are begotten, both men had promising futures and cared much honor with them. This brings back the concept of how relevant religion is for those characters since men and women seem to lie, be unfaithful and take advantage of others not only to follow these prophecies but to fulfill their personal desires as well. Furthermore, those are behaviors usually not accepted by those who follow Christianity.
Malory, Thomas.Â Le Morte dâ€™Arthur: The Winchester Manuscript, edited by Helen Cooper. Oxford University Press, 2008.
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