Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XIX Chapters 8 and 9
The day of Launcelot’s and Meliagrace’s joust fast approaches! If Launcelot doesn’t show, Meligrance wins by default, and thus Guenever is convicted of adultery with a mystery knight, and she’ll be burned at the stake! No one wants that! Arthur notices Launcelot is missing, and asks around.
“Sir, we wot not where he is, but we deem he is ridden to some adventures, as he is ofttimes wont to do, for he hath Sir Lavaine’s horse,” the court says in unison. It’s an oddly stilted speech, but everybody figures Launcelot will show up on time, because he’s not about to let Guenever get burned at the stake.
Meanwhile Sir Launcelot is at the bottom of a well. Luckily for him he landed on straw, and also luckily for him there’s a lady down at the bottom of the well, too, one who somehow provides him with meat and drink. Also she wants to sleep with him, but Launcelot of course turns her down.
She can come and go from the bottom of the well at will, this lady can. She comes to Launcelot the morning of the joust, and warns him that Guenever will be burned soon. Launcelot says that’s a terrible thing, and that if she does end up dead because he wasn’t there, surely everyone in Camelot will realize that he’s imprisoned somewhere and search for him.
The lady offers to get Launcelot out of the well, and to provide him with arms and armor, if only he’ll kiss her once. Launcelot relents, kisses her, doesn’t enjoy it he promises.
Cut to the jousting field, Guenever in the dock, anxiously awaiting Launcelot, and haven’t we done this all before? We have. This time, instead of Sir Bors stalling for time, it’s Sir Lavaine who is certain, absolutely certain, that Launcelot will be here any minute now. As the sun rises up towards noon and Launcelot fails to appear, Arthur beings to fret more and more. Finally he announces that the execution will be put on pause until after Sir Lavaine has found Sir Launcelot.
Just as Sir Meliagrance calls foul — Launcelot’s forfeiting, Meliagrance should be the victor — Launcelot appears! Long story short, Meliagrance gets trounced. At the end of the fight, just as Launcelot is about to slice Meliagrance’s head off, the latter knight breaks down sobbing.
“I surrender! I surrender! Don’t hurt me, Launcelot! I’m a knight of the Round Table, please don’t slay me!”
A hush falls over the crowd. On the one hand, Meliagrance is entitled to clemency if he surrenders. On the other, everyone agrees he’s a dick. Launcelot, too, is taken aback. He looks around for guidance, and his eyes meet Guenever’s. She makes a slicing motion across her throat.
“C’mon, Meliagrance,” whispers Launcelot. “Get up and let’s finish this like knights. C’mon. You want, I’ll spot you half my armor and my shield and my helmet, how about that?”
“No! I surrender!”
“I’ll tie one hand behind my back!”
Meliagrance looks up. “For serious? Half your armor, shield, helmet, and also one hand tied behind your back?”
“Sure,” says Launcelot. He’s made this kind of offer before; it never works.
“I’ll take it!” cries Meliagrance. “You heard him, sire!”
So Launcelot takes off his helmet and half his armor, and lays aside his shield and has Sir Lavaine tie his left hand behind his back.
“All right!” says Meliagrance, and charges Launcelot. Launcelot has a huge undefended area, where his helmet and armor and shield would normally be protecting him; Meliagrance makes for that.
Launcelot sidesteps, then with a single swipe slices Meliagrance’s head clean off.
The end! Moral: do not joust Sir Launcelot, even if he’s got half his armor, no helmet, and one hand tied behind his back.
Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XIX Chapters 8 and 9 — No Comments
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