TWO short books suffice for the breaking of the slowgathered storm and its clearing in a sad sunset. Malory's leisurely ways, in some preceding parts of the work, notably in the Tristram books, taxed reasonable patience. Now he changes his methods, proceeds with concise directness, and as a result romance in these last books rises nearly if not quite to epic levels. Attention, no longer diverted by episode or secondary pageant, is focused on a few great actors; they stand out in the open, their gestures full of force and life, their words charged with energy.
These personages are Guenevere, Arthur, Lancelot, and Gawain. Minor knights like the evil Agravaine and Mordred, and the loved Gareth and Gaheris, play their destined rôles; others, like Bors and Ector, continue to act in character and to command interest. But the significant group of the four principals holds the center of the stage.
In one sense, Gawain takes the lead among them. It is not he who brings about the great disclosure of Lancelot's guilt, feared and expected so long, but it is