All right, so, while we’re talking about the poor treatment of women in these stories…
Launcelot’s riding around, and he comes across a knight running down a damosel.
“Help! Help!” she shouts.
Launcelot sighs, and rides up in between the knight — who’s got a sword out and swinging, trying to kill the damosel — and the lady, and he’s all “whoa, whoa, let’s all calm down for a second, what’s up here? What’s happening? You’re a knight, I can tell by the armor. Why are you running down a poor defenseless woman? Didn’t you hear about the new oaths that Arthur instituted at the end of Book III? No more just randomly killing women.”
“This doesn’t concern you, stranger,” says the knight, whose name is Sir Pedivere. “This is between me and my wife. I’ll kill her! I’ll kill her despite whatever you say.”
“Yeah, no, okay, if you’re going to insist on that, then you and I will fight. And I should warn you, I’m Sir Launcelot du Lake. Kind of a big deal.”
“You’re the Man from Benwick? Jeez. Listen,” says Pedivere. “She’s an adulteress, okay? She’s cheated on me. I need to kill her.”
“It’s not true!” cries the woman. “He’s just jealous because I’m very close to my first cousin. But we aren’t lovers! Surely you, Sir Launcelot, of all knights, understand that it’s possible to be very close to a member of the opposite sex — your cousin, maybe the wife of your king — and not be, technically speaking, adulterers?”
“Of course,” says Launcelot. “Listen, you’ll be safe with me. We’ll all head back to Camelot together, all right? It’s nearly Pentecost.”
Pedivere and his wife agree to this, and they start up the road, and after they’ve been walking for about an hour Pedivere suddenly turns and says “Oh no! Did you see that! A dozen men at arms, riding up behind us!”
“What? Where?” Launcelot turns to look, and Pedivere, quick like a bunny, draws his sword and decapitates his wife.
Launcelot is outraged. “Traitor! You’ll pay for that!” he cries.
“I surrender!” says Pedivere immediately. He drops his sword and falls to his knees.
“I… you… I… you’re cheating!” Launcelot is even more outraged. “We fight now!”
“Get up and fight!”
“No! I surrender!” Pedivere turtles up like a hippie being accosted with a taser (safety note: tasers can kill if used improperly).
“What the.. okay, okay, I’ll take my armor off, how about that?”
“No! I surrender! I said I surrender!”
“Listen, this crime is going to go on your record. But if you kill me, it’ll be like none of this ever happened! Isn’t that a good reason to fight me?”
“I surrendered already!”
“Okay, well, then…” Launcelot is quaking, he is so mad. Literally angry with rage! “Then you’ll have to do what I would have made you do if I beat you in a fight. Take this severed head of your wife, and go and tell Queen Guenever all about this incident, and do whatever penance she says.”
“Yeah, okay,” says Pedievere.
SMASH CUT to Winchester, where Arthur and Guenever listen to Pedivere’s atrocious story. I don’t know why Winchester instead of Camelot.
“Does Launcelot think I like this?” Guenever asks. “He’s all the time sending me these villains and defeated knights. I mean, feh. I don’t like these awful knights. This story is particularly bad, and Launcelot doesn’t come off all that well in it. No, no, I won’t give you penance to do, either,” she tells Pedivere. “Go bother the Pope about it, he owes us a favor.”
So Pedivere takes the severed head of his wife to Rome, and tells the Pope all about it, and the Pope shakes his head and sighs and has the head given a good Christian burial and sends Pedivere back to Guenever with an apology note. Afterwards, Malory claims, Pedivere repented and became a holy man and hermit.