Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book VI Chapter XVIII and Conclusions
The final chapter of Book VI is a short one. Launcelot gets back to Camelot at Pentecost, and he meets a bunch of knights from his adventures earlier in this book, which serves as a sort of recap of his adventures. There’s Gawaine, Uwaine, Sagramore, Ector-the-Lesser, Kay, Gaheris, all the other knights imprisoned by Turquine, the three knights who fought Lancelot thinking he was Kay, and the other three knights he fought for Kay, and Nimue’s cousin Meliot, and Bagdemagus, and Gahalantine, and Mador and Mordred, and even Sir Bellus, the knight whose tent Launcelot broke into during a comic interlude. Arthur congratulates Launcelot on a solid year of terrific strange adventures, and everyone gets drunk and parties. And so at that time Sir Launcelot had the greatest name of any knight of the Round Table, and most he was honoured high and low. The end!
Since Malory uses this short little chapter as a recap, I’ll go ahead and put my end-of-Book notes in this section. The vaunted Adventures of Launcelot leave a lot of questions unanswered. So we’ve got Launcelot and Lionel, who decide to go off and have strange adventures. I’d ask “why,” and call that the first unanswered question, but by this point in Le Morte D’Arthur I think we’re all clear on how knights go on strange adventures for funsies all the time. A better question: why do they leave behind Sir Ector-the-Lesser? And why, later, does Launcelot ditch both Lionel and Ector (as well as Kay) to adventure alone?
Once Launcelot and Lionel are departed, they’re almost immediately separated, as Lionel is captured by Sir Turquine. Speaking of, is Turquine a giant? He’s apparently giant-sized, except that he’s small enough to ride a horse, so maybe not? Plus he wears armor, and to the extent that other giants’ garb is described, they walk around without pants on. On the other hand, maybe we just don’t see enough giants to get a good sense of how they dress, as a class. Turquine is either a very large man, or a very small and atypically-clad giant, I guess.
Before Launcelot can rescue Lionel, he goes on this side adventure, where Morgan le Fay abducts him and fails to seduce him. She locks him up, but he escapes almost immediately, with the help of Bagdemagus’s grown daughter. Now, it takes a while to acquire a grown daughter. Has it been the fifteen or twenty years since Bagdemagus was passed over to join the Round Table? We know it’s been at least that long since the end of Book I, since Mordred shows up a full-grown knight, but since the middle of Book IV?
Launcelot escapes from Morgan, as I said, and he has this homophobic comic interlude with Sir Bellus. Maybe I’m looking back on Le Morte D’Arthur with jaded postmodern 2012 eyes, but the homophobia seems jarringly out of place. Even moreso than the rampant wall-to-wall misogyny; blatant sexism is at least familiar. You see sexism all over the place.
Homophobia seems more modern to my eyes. Abraham Lincoln, while he was an attorney, shared a bed for a while with a male roommate, and at the start of Moby-Dick Ishmael and Queequegg are obliged to share a bed due to crowding at their hotel. On the other hand, maybe I’m reading the homophobia into it; maybe it’s a matter of Launcelot getting woken up unexpectedly and assuming he was getting robbed, not necessarily sexually assaulted. But Malory writes “And when Sir Launcelot felt a rough beard kissing him, he started out of the bed lightly and the other knight after him, and either of them gat their swords in their hands,” which seems to have a thinly-veiled homophobic subtext. Since I don’t live in the 15th century (thank God) I can’t really tell what Malory was going for.
This ended up being long, so, second half tomorrow!
Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book VI Chapter XVIII and Conclusions — No Comments
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