Sir Lancelot Character Analysis

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In “The Noble Tale of Sir Lancelot du Lake” and “The Tale of Sir Gareth of Orkney,” Sir Thomas Malory presents a variety of Arthurian tropes — like magical enchantments, daring sword fights, and damsels in distress — to his English audience. However, as suggested by the titles of the aforementioned tales, Malory seems to be concerned with examining the idea of knighthood, or, in broader terms, looking at what it means to be a knight in King Arthur’s Camelot, because he connects one of the most iconic Arthurian characters, Sir Lancelot du Lake, to (possibly) his own creation, Sir Gareth of Orkney. This explicit connection invites readers to examine Sir Lancelot’s and Sir Gareth’s actions with a critical eye. While Sir Lancelot’s actions fulfill …show more content…

However, the specific circumstances in which Sir Lancelot and Sir Gareth confront other knights suggests two different notions of behaviour expected of a knight. Although Lancelot is revered by his fellow knights, the “worship and honour” (95) that he receives appears to derive entirely from his skill with a sword or spear. Consequently, as there are no knights willing to engage in combat with Lancelot, not even those “thirty great knights” (114), who are “armed all in black harness, ready with their shields and swords drawn” (115) for battle, Lancelot’s spear — his masculinity — is literally and symbolically restrained by his own reputation as a warrior and a lover in Book III of Malory’s text. Lancelot’s reputation not only drives Morgan le Fay to “put an enchantment upon” (98) him and strip him of “[his] armour, [his] horse, shield, and spear” (99), but also makes his potential combatants “scatter on every side” (115) to let him proceed on his adventure, unchallenged. The palpable fear that Sir Lancelot’s potential foes display in the presence of an identified Lancelot, who “bears his [own] shield” (114) in battle, is significant because it reveals that Lancelot is only able to maintain his reputation as the greatest “knight of the world” (119) with deceptive acts, such as using a “white shield” (102) with “no pictures” (102) of identification painted on its surface or “saving” damsels in forests with prearranged acts of bravery. Nonetheless, the general uneasiness, or outright hostility, that Lancelot’s enemies display upon meeting an identified Lancelot is of immense significance because it suggests that there is a dark undertone to Lancelot’s character. In Janet Jesmok’s “The Double Life of Malory’s Lancelot du Lake,” she suggests that

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