About ten minutes after the Quest for the Holy Grail ends, Sir Launcelot falls back into his old bad habits of adultery-having and Guenever-loving. He’ll be sitting there, clutching his silver medal (Sir Bors won the gold, since he not only entered the Grail chamber but went all the way to Sarras); to outward appearances it’ll seem like he’s just praying and such, but really in his head he’s committing adulterous act after adulterous act with Guenever.
(For what it’s worth, someone more dedicated than me did the math, and this is around fifty-two, fifty-three years after Arthur married Guenever way back in Book III. I’m just saying, they’re neither of them spring chickens. I know I said Allison Janney for Guenever at one point, but I ask you to picture Maggie Smith.)
The two of them can’t keep their hands off one another! They’re together more hotter than they did to-forehand, says Malory. It’s getting to be unseemly, and don’t think that tongues aren’t wagging in court about it. Wag number one is Sir Agravaine, the least interesting of Gawaine’s several brothers.
A hilarious pattern emerges, which runs like this. One, a maiden shows up requesting the best and most eligible knight accompany her on a strange adventure. Two, everyone points at Sir Launcelot, since he’s available again now that his wife Elaine is dead of grief. Three, Launcelot reluctantly goes and does the strange adventure. Four, Guenever gets annoyed because the strange adventure cuts into their canoodling time. Five, Launcelot gets annoyed at her for being annoyed. Six, they ignore one another’s simmering resentments, Launcelot looks for an excuse to avoid Guenever, and we’re back to step one.
Eventually Guenever’s had it! She calls Launcelot in and bawls him out, complaining about how he’s all the time gallivanting around and never seems to have time for her.
Launcelot responds by blaming Guenever (and the distraction of sex with her) for his failure to get further than the threshold of the Grail chamber back in Book XVII, chapter 15, and also claims he’s cooled it only out of respect for her crown and fear of their discovery.
“And if I had not had my privy thoughts to return to your love again as I do, I had seen as great mysteries as ever saw my son Galahad, outher Percivale or Sir Bors; wit ye well, madam, I was but late in that quest.” Launcelot always calls Guenever madam when he’s mad at her. “Wit ye well, madam, it may not be yet lightly forgotten the high service in whom I did my diligent labour. Also, madam, wit ye well that there be many men speak of our love in this court, and have you and me greatly in await, as Sir Agravaine and Sir Mordred; and madam, wit ye well I dread them more for your sake than for any fear I have of them myself, for I may happen to escape and rid myself in a great need, where ye must abide all that will be said unto you. I mean, if the worst should happen I can always jump on a horse and leave, madam, and leave you here in Camelot holding the bag. And then if that ye fall in any distress through willful folly, then is there none other remedy or help but me and my blood? You want I should let myself get arrested, tried, and executed for you, madam?”
“I —“ Guenever tries to answer him, but Launcelot is on a roll.
“And wit ye well, madam, the boldness of you and me will bring us to great shame and slander; and that were me loath to see you dishonoured. And that is the cause I take upon me more for to do for damosels and maidens than ever I did to-fore, that men should understand my joy and my delight is my pleasure to have ado for damosels and maidens. I’m Sir Launcelot, Knight in Shining Armor, the knight who is the best and the most generous. That’s my whole public persona! I lose that reputation, I stop living up to it, I cease to be the Knight in Shining Armor pretty quick. Suddenly I’m Sir Launcelot the Queenfucker!”
“Are you done?” asks Guenever.
Guenever then offers up her rebuttal: she bursts into tears and accuses Launcelot of not loving her and of sleeping with other ladies behind her back. “For wit thou well,” she spits, “now I understand thy falsehood and therefore shall I never love thee no more. And wit thou well never be thou so hardy to come in my sight; and wit thou well I discharge thee this court, that thou never come within it!”
Launcelot does a double-take. “What will you tell Arthur?”
“That’s my problem! Go!”
Sir Launcelot bursts into tears himself, and flees the scene. He goes immediately to the knights he trusts: Sir Bors, Sir Ector the Lesser, and Sir Lionel, and tells them Guenever’s kicked him out of Camelot and he’s going home to Benwick to sulk.
“Launcelot, my friend,” says Bors, “take it from a guy who got a gold medal in Grail-finding. Guenever’s upset, but she’ll calm down and regret her actions. She’s a lady! Ladies do that all the time. Men also do that all the time, but I’m putting this in sexist terms because my dialogue is being written by Sir Thomas Malory. You’re a good guy. Get out of Camelot, but don’t go far; just go up the road to Castle Winsdor, and get my friend Sir Brastias to put you up for a while. I’ll let you know when Guenever’s ready to talk to you again.”
“You’ll talk to her for me?” Launcelot knows that Guenever has a lot of respect for Bors. “I’d owe you a big-time favor.”
Bors waves the offer away. “Ye need not to move me of such matters, for well ye wot I will do what I may to please you.”