Le Morte Darthur Book 18

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Capitulum i

Arthur and Guinevere are both glad to have all the living knights back at Camelot; however, Lancelot and Guinevere are again drawn to each other, so much so that everyone at court is talking about it. To protect her, Lancelot stays away and fights in tournaments as other ladies' champion. Guinevere gets angry with him and orders him into her rooms. He tries to explain himself but Guinevere won't hear it, eventually becoming so upset that she bans him from court and from her company on pain of death.

Capitulum ii

Lancelot tells Bors, Sir Ector and Sir Lyonel that he has to leave and is planning to return to his own country. Bors advises him against it, saying that Lancelot is too great a knight to simply go, and that Guinevere might regret her decision before long; Lancelot should stay with a hermit near Windsor, Sir Brasias, who is a former knight himself, until Bors sends him news. Lancelot agrees. Guinevere starts to feel guilty and wants him back almost as soon as he is gone, but she pretends that nothing is wrong.

Capitulum iii

To prove that she doesn't prefer Lancelot, Guinevere holds a feast for the other knights, including Sir Pyonel - the cousin of Sir Lamorak (who Gawain and his brothers killed). Guinevere serves fruit, because she knows that Gawain likes it, and Pyonel poisons an apple to kill Gawain and avenge his brother. Unfortunately, it's not Gawain but an innocent knight named Patrice who eventually eats the apple and falls down dead right there in the banquet hall. Gawain and Sir Mador, Patrice's cousin, accuse their hostess Guinevere of having plotted to kill Gawain .

Capitulum iv

Mador officially accuses Guinevere of murdering his cousin in front of Arthur. It is decided that in fifteen days' time, Mador and another knight on behalf of Guinevere will fight, and if Guinevere's man loses, she will be found guilty and burned at the stake. (Arthur can't fight for her because he will have to act as judge.) All of the knights who were present at the dinner are suspicious of the queen. Arthur asks Guinevere where Lancelot is, because he would surely fight for her and win; she tells him that she doesn't know. Disappointed, Arthur tells her to ask Bors instead.

Capitulum v

Bors is reluctant to fight for Guinevere, because he blames her for Lancelot's absence, and is also worried that the other knights will be displeased with him for supporting her. Guinevere and Arthur both beseech him, and finally Bors gives in, on the condition that, should a better knight than him arrive in time for the fight, he is released from his promise. The king and queen agree happily. Bors rides to see Lancelot and tells him to prepare himself for battle and come to court in time for the fight, so that he can battle Mador in Bors's stead. When he returns to court, the other knights accuse him of siding with a murderess. Bors replies that he doesn't believe Guinevere to be guilty.

Capitulum vi

On the evening of the fight, Lancelot arrives just in time before Bors and Mador begin to fight. Bors tells Arthur that this other, better knight will take his place. Arthur, curious, wants to know who the stranger with an unfamiliar shield is, but Bors refuses to say, simply telling the king that he is released from their agreement now.

Capitulum vii

Before entering the fight, Lancelot calls to all the other knights that they should be ashamed for not trusting Guinevere and refusing to fight for her. He knocks Mador off his horse, splintering his spear, and the battle continues on foot. Mador stabs Lancelot through the thigh and injures him badly, but finally Lancelot defeats him. Mador begs for him to spare his life, and Lancelot agrees that he will, if Mador takes back his accusation and drops the matter of Patrice's death once and for all. Mador gives in and Lancelot is declared the winner. He reveals himself to everyone by taking off his helmet. Arthur and Guinevere thank him profusely, and all the other knights welcome Lancelot back to the court.

Capitulum viii

Nimve, the lady of the lake, comes to court, having heard that Guinevere was accused of murder. She reveals that it was Pyonel who poisoned the apples instead, and that he did it to avenge his cousin. Pyonel flees back into his own country, and even Mador (with Lancelot speaking for him) is allowed back into the queen's good graces.

Arthur now decides to hold a great tournament. He declares that he and the King of Scots will fight against anyone who wants to compete with them., and many knights from all over the country come to rise to the challenge. However, both Lancelot (who says that he's not yet fully recovered from the fight with Mador) and Guinevere (who claims she is sick) stay behind when Arthur and his knights depart for the tournament, which angers the king. Guinevere calls Lancelot to her and tells him that he must follow Arthur, because it's going to look suspicious if they both stay behind.

Capitulum ix

Lancelot agrees to follow Arthur, but - against Guinevere's advice - decides that he will fight against Arthur in any fights that he enters. Lancelot departs the next morning and, halfway to the tournament, takes up lodging in Astolat with an old baron who greets him with pleasure. Lancelot asks him for a shield and armor that will not be easily recognizable, so he'll be able to fight anonymously again, and the baron tells him that he has two sons who were recently made knights; the older one was injured soon after and can't ride anymore, so Lancelot can have his shield and armor; and the younger one (Lavayne) is strong, so he'll ride with Lancelot and help him however he can. The baron also has a daughter, Elayne, who falls in love with Lancelot and asks him to fight with a token from her pinned to his helmet. Knowing he will be disguised, he agrees.

Capitulum xi

When Lancelot and Lavayne arrive at the tournament the next day, preparations are being made for a big fight of two parties: one around King Arthur and the King of Scots, and one around the King of Northumberland and the King of Northgalys. They join in on the side of Northumberland, opposing Arthur. The fight begins and both "armies" are equally strong. Lancelot fights best of them all, defeating ten fellow knights, but when he has the chance to slay Bors, he doesn't. Lancelot gets injured by Bors, who doesn't know who he's fighting, and Lavayne barely manages to save him.

Capitulum xii

After the fight, the victorious King of Northumberland wants to honor Lancelot for helping his side win, but Lancelot begs off, saying he has to tend to his injuries. He and Lavayne retreat to a nearby forest. Lavayne pulls out the spearhead still stuck in Lancelot's side, and Lancelot loses consciousness for a half hour. When he comes to again, he tells Lavayne that there is a hermit by the name of Baudewyn living nearby, who is a surgeon and might be able to save Lancelot's life. Lavayne rides and fetches Baudewyn, who says that once upon a time - as a knight - he would have refused to treat someone who fought against Arthur, but now he doesn't care, and asks to be brought to Lancelot.

Capitulum xiii

A hermit finds Sir Lancelot strongly wounded and bleeding in his saddle. At first he does not recognise him and L. does not introduce himself, but by a wound on L.’s cheek he knows that it is L. and calls him the “most noblest knight in the world”. He takes him to his hermitage and cares for his wounds.

King Arthur is at a feast with other people and he asks King Northgalis and his people who the knight with the red sleeve could have been as he owes him honour and a prize. Sir Galahad and the King with the Hundred do not know him either and nobody knows where he could be. Sir Gawaine goes out to find this knight. In the meanwhile King Arthur returns to London. Sir Gawaine lodges at Astolat with Sir Bernard. Gawaine tells him and his daughter, Elaine, about the tournament at Whinchester, where the two knights with the white shields fought and the one with a red sleeve upon his head beat forty knights of the Round Table.

Elaine declares that that is the man she loves the most but she does not know his name.

Capitulum xiv

Elaine tells Gawaine that she has his shield and she explains how that happened and when she shows it to Gawaine he recognises it straight away as L.’s. He is very surprised though that L. should wear a token of a Lady. Gawaine is anxious as L. was very badly hurt in the tournament.

Elaine goes out to look for L. Gawaine reports this to Arthur and Arthur says that he had guessed so and that this had been the reason why he had not wanted Gawaine to fight. King Arthur is also surprised that L. should wear a token of a Lady. He openly declares L. the winner of the tournament.

Capitulum xv

When Queen Guenever hears that Lancelot wore the red sleeve of Elaine she is furious and calls Sir Bors to her. She declares L. a traitor and Sir Bors tries to calm her down by saying that he might have worn the sleeve so as not to be recognised and that Sir L. loves all women likewise. He also points out that L was the best knight at the tournament and that he could have slain them all if he had wanted to. Then Sir Bors goes out to find L.

Whilst looking for L. Elaine meets her brother, Sir Lavaine, who brings her to him. When she sees the state L. is in the is shocked and faints. L. comforts her by saying that he did it all for her and that he will recover soon. L. is surprised that she knows his name and so she tells him of Sir Gawaine.

L. knows that Guenever will be very angry. Elaine cares for L. in the best way and meanwhile Sir Lavaine is sent out by L. to find Sir Bors as L. knows that he will come to look for him.

Capitulum xvi

Sir Lavaine lies in wait for Sir Bors de Ganis in Whinchester and when he arrives he takes him to L.

When Sir Bors sees L. lie wounded in bed, he brakes out in tears and asks L. for forgiveness. L. is not angry and after that they talk about Guenever who is angry at L., which makes him sad. Then Sir Bors asks L. about Elaine but L. cannot tell him why he wore the sleeve. Bors wishes L. that he might fall in love with Elaine as he thinks she is a very decent Lady but he fears that she will be one of the many to love L. in vain.

Capitulum xvii

Sir Bors tells L. about a tournament planed by King Arthur and the King of Northgalis on All Hallowmass Day. So Lancelot asks Bors to stay with him so that he can recover and join the tournament. Elaine still takes care of L. in the best manner, “there is no wife no daughter that did a better duty”. Sir Bors is very pleased with Elaine.

One day when Sir Lavaine and Elaine are out collecting herbs, L. puts on his armour and tries to train. His wound tears open again and he bleeds so strongly that he is unconscious.

When Elaine sees it she is distressed and rebukes Bors for having let L. out of bed. The hermite and Sir Baudewin of Brittany pass by and the hermite takes L. with him and can bring him back to consciousness and cures him, he sends Bors to the tournament alone though.

Capitulum xviii

Before Bors leaves L. the latter asks him to do his best for his honour. Bors tells Arthur about L. and Arthur is very glad that he is alive. Guenever seems not to be angry anymore.

Then the King of Northgalis, the King with the Hundred Knights, Sir Galahad the haut Prince of Surluse, King Anguish of Ireland and the King of Scots come to the tournament.

The first from the Round Table to fight is Sir Gawaine, he smites down 20 knights. Sir Bors also smites down 20 and the prize is splitted.

Sir Gareth and Sir Palomides also do great deeds but they leave the tournament suddenly (probably a joint adventure) so they get no prize.

Sir Bors visits L. and tells him of the tournament and how Gareth did so well. They all go back to Astolat and meet Sir Bernard his sons Sir Tirre and Sir Lavaine, Elaine also comes with them. L. wants to depart the next morning.

Capitulum xix

When L. is getting ready to leave, Elaine asks him to marry her or to be her paramour. L. tells her that he does not want to marry her as he does never want to marry and that he will not be her paramour either as this would be an insult to her and her family. But if she should want to marry any other knight he would give them and her heirs a thousand pound yearly and he will always be her knight. Elaine does not want any of this and is ready to die for love for him.

Sir Bernard is distressed but Sir L. tell him that he never did anything that could have made her have hopes. He compliments her, though, and says that she is a fair Lady and has done nothing unworthy during the time she took care of him. When Sir L. returns to court, King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table, except Sir Agravaine and Sir Mordred, are very glad to see him.

Queen Guenever is still angry at L.

Elaine lies in bed lamenting and grows weaker every day. She calls upon God and Jesus and is sure that her love is nothing bad as she is an earthly woman who loves an earthly man.

Before she dies, she dictates a letter which is to be put into her right hand. She wishes to be put into her best clothes and wants her body to be put into a boat and then covered with black cloth, this boat should then be stirred along the Thames to Westminster by one man. After her death all this is done according to her wishes.

Capitulum xx

King Arthur and Queen Guenever see the boat out of the window and send Sir Kay, Sir Brondiles and Sir Agravaine to look. The boatsman does not speak. Arthur and Guenever go to look themselves and Guenever finds the letter in the hand of the richly dressed corpse. The letter is read out aloud in court, Elaine states that she died a “clene maiden” and that she died for her love for L. and that, at least, he should giver her the mass-penny. Everybody feels very sorry for her. L. is called for and he tells them that he did not want her death and that her brother, Sir Lavaine, can prove that. Guenever reproaches him and says that he could have done something but L. answers her that he cannot be made to love as love should come from the heart. Elaine is buried properly and L. offers her the mass-penny.

Guenever apologises to L. for having been angry at him for the wrong cause and Lancelot tells her that that was not the first time nut he will endure it.

The following winter Sir Lavaine is much appreciated at court.

Capitulum xxi

Many jousts take place that winter, Lancelot hardly enters, but Sir Lavaine does so well that many want him at the Round Table. After Christmas, Arthur starts a tournament of his people against those of the King of Northgalis, King Anguish of Ireland, the King with the Hundred Knights, the King of Nothumberland and Sir Galahad the haut prince. The tournament will take place at Westminster at Candlemass Day. Queen Guenever warns L. to fight again and that if he should, he should wear her golden sleeve and make sure that his people recognise him.

Sir L. goes with Sir Lavaine to the hermit Sir Brasias to cure and strengthen himself. He takes regular baths in a well in the woods. A Lady hunts in the woods and is only accompanied by other women. By mistake she shoots an arrow into L.’ buttocks and L. is very angry and hurt.

Capitulum xxii

the Lady apologises as she wanted to kill the animal that had hidden in the well but had missed it. Lancelot is cared for by the hermit and Sir Lavaine but the wound is bad and he bleeds heavily. The wound makes it hard to sir in the saddle but L. still wants to fight. At the day of the tournament the King of Northgalis, King Anguish of Ireland, the King of Nothumberland, Sir Galahad and the King with the Hundred Knights each bring many good knights with them. On King Arthur’s side , the King of Scots, King Uriens of Gore, King Havel of Brittany, Chaleins of Clarence and King Artgur himself bring several hundred Knights with them, especially many from the Round table.

Capitulum xiii

The tournament starts and many Kings of Arthur’s side are defeated. So Arthur gets so angry that he smites down the King with the Hundred Knights and three other knights. Sir Gawaine, Sir Gaheris, Sir Agravaine and Sir Mordred join in. then the knights of Lancelot’s blood join in with Sir Gareth and Sir Palomides and they give the other King a hard time. But the Duke Galahad hold against them quite well. Then Sir L. and Sir Lavaine enter the fight. When Sir Bors sees this he warns every other knight of L.’s blood and/or they fight somewhere else. Lancelot fights against knights of the Round Table and defeats them. Lavaine also does very well. After L. has hit down at least thirty knights, mainly of the Round Table, Arthur calls his knights to him ( Sir Gawaine, Sir Mordred, Sir Kay, Sir Griflet, Sir Lucas the Butler, Sir Bedevere, Sir Palomides, Sir Safere) and goes with them against Lancelot and Lavaine. Sir Gareth cannot watch this as L. made him a knight and therefore he takes a shield of a Welsh knight and fights at L.’s side, without him knowing who he is. The three win and L. wonders who Gareth might be, as he fought so well.

At the same time Sir Bors, Sir Ector de Maris, Sir Lionel, SirLamorak de Galis, Sir Bleoberis, Sir galihud, Sir Galihudin, Sir Pelleas and more of King Ban’s blood hold back the King with Hundred Knights and the King of Northumberland.

Capitulum xiv

Arthur is angry that he and his knights cannot win. Sir Gawain tells him that he wonders why Sir Bors and others of Lancelot’s blood retreated from the fight and fought somewhere else. He also says that the strange knight with the golden sleeve must be L. as he recognises his manner of fighting. The other knight must be Sir Lavaine and the third his brother, Gareth. He explains that Gareth was made a knight by L. and that he cannot bear to fight against him. He advises Arthur to end the tournament as it would just be more shameful to loose so high.

Then Arthur goes of to tell everyone and to find L., they all have a feast together and L. tells them about his wound in his buttocks.

L. is given the prize and they count up the number of knights the three fought down each.

First Arthur reproaches Gareth for having left him for Lancelot but Gareth explains and then Arthur loves him even more than before as he acted so nobly.

  • chivalry

Capitulum xv

This chapter tells nothing of the story and stands out. The author himself seems to express an opinion and wants to give an explanation.

The month may is described as the month in which not only nature blossoms but also the human heart and various men and women fall in love. But just as winter lets the flowers die, the lovers often are not true to each other.

There are people who truly love, however, and of these there were more in the old days, people like Lady Guenever, which is why she comes to a good end.