Camelot in the Nineteenth Century: Arthurian Characters in the Poems of Tennyson, Arnold, Morris, and Swinburne

By Laura Cooner Lambdin; Robert Thomas Lambdin | Go to book overview

was unable to understand why sexual love could not coalesce with divine love.


NOTES
1.
Although we never actually hear Gauwaine's accusation in The Defence," it can be inferred from the poem's content that it is similar to Aggravyne's in the Morte, except that it is aimed at Guenevere rather than Launcelot. In the Morte it is clear that Arthur already is aware of the amour between his wife and his best friend; the king would prefer not to listen to Aggravayne's accusation:

We know all that Sir Launcelot holdith youre quene, and hath done longe; and we be your syster sunnes, we may suffir hit no lenger. And all we wote that ye shulde be above sir Launcelot, and ye ar the kynge that made hym. knyght, and therefore we woll preve hit that he is a traytoure to youre person. (1163; bk. 20. chap. 2)

All blame here is directed at Launcelot rather than Gwenyvere; however, when Launcelot escapes, the king decides to punish his wife. Launcelot feels that this sudden transference of blame is a malicious reaction intended to torture him:

For thes knyghtes were sente by kynge Arthur to betray me, and therefore the kyng woll in thys hete and malice jouge the quene unto brennyng, and that may not I suffir that she shulde be brente for my sake. For and I may be harde and suffirde and so takyn, I woll feyght for the quene, that she ys a trew lady untyll. her lorde. But the kynge in hys hete, I drede, woll not take me as I ought to be takyn. (1171; bk. 20, chap. 5)

2.
Gawayne is unable to move Arthur with this plea for Gwenyvere's innocence, so he begins to weep heavily. This emotional reaction is typical among the figures of medieval romance, who frequently cry or swoon when they are surprised, disappointed, or embarrassed. A modern reader is likely to be amazed at the frequency with which daring, hardy young knights lapse into such "unmasculine" behavior. While female characters do behave in similarly dramatic ways, their reactions are less noticeable because so few fully developed characters are women. Malory, who depends upon showing rather than telling, uses weeping and fainting in a wide variety of situations to reflect acute sentiment. Less violent circumstances evoke blushes, the reaction favored by Morris's Guenevere.
3.
In his sorrow and anger, Gawayne never considers that Gareth and Launcelot were best friends, or that Gareth's death was clearly an accident.

-103-

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Camelot in the Nineteenth Century: Arthurian Characters in the Poems of Tennyson, Arnold, Morris, and Swinburne
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions to the Study of World Literature ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Chapter 1 Arthurian Legends: Origins to the Nineteenth Century 1
  • Notes 11
  • Chapter 2 Alfred Tennyson 13
  • Notes 47
  • Chapter 3 Matthew Arnold 51
  • Notes 68
  • Chapter 4 William Morris 71
  • Notes 103
  • Chapter 5 Algernon Swinburne 107
  • Notes 139
  • Chapter 6 Final Remarks 143
  • Selected Bibliography 147
  • Index 155
  • About the Authors *
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