It’s not clear to me why Book XIX was separated out from Book XVIII.  Both concern Launcelot and Guenever and their infidelity-related misadventures, plus neither of them are crazy long.  Even combined they’re shorter than Book X.

We do get another look at the crazy-go-nuts criminal justice system of King Arthur’s court.  Meliagrance ambushes Guenever and ten knights.  His knights attack, and nine of the ten knights are wounded.  He takes Guenever, the wounded knights, and all their hangers-on prisoner.  He tries to murder the little boy that Guenver dispatches as a messenger.  Then, because he apologizes and surrenders to Guenever when Launcelot appears, he gets off scot-free.  He doesn’t even lose his castle!  He remains a knight of the Round Table, able to wander freely through Camelot!

Conversely, when he accuses Guenever of infidelity, his evidence consists of a) she looks kind of tired, and b) there’s blood on her sheets.  He doesn’t identify who she supposedly slept with, he has no witnesses, and frankly blood on a lady’s bedsheets could come from many, many different sources.  Granted, Guenever’s affair with Launcelot is something of an open secret, but nobody present who is aware of it is willing to come forward and say so.  And yet on Meliagrance’s say-so, Guenever’s scheduled for execution.  Meliagrance, of all knights, the same guy who got off with a slap on the wrist in the previous paragraph!

Arthur puts the execution on temporary hold, when Launcelot fails to show, but he’s clearly very reluctant to do so, and Meliagrance cries foul.  Is the standard of justice here that ladies are considered flammable unless demonstrated otherwise?  And I’m setting aside all the nonsensical aspects of trial by judicial champion, which we went over in the last book.

The story of why Launcelot was late to the joust is also pretty specious.  He agrees to go to Meliagrance’s castle, for no reason.  He goes on a tour of the castle, which is the very first castle tour by anybody anywhere, in all of Malory.  He survives a sixty-foot drop unharmed (Malory says he falls onto hay, but still).  A mysterious woman who totally has the hots for him brings him food and water and eventually escorts him out of the well.  I don’t get it, I really don’t.

But man, that’s quite a list of knight names at the end there, am I right?

Knights of the Round Table who have died: a list I surely won’t have to update as we go on from here!

Sir Balin, slain by Sir Balan in Book II.*

Sir Balan, slain by Sir Balin in Book II.*

Sir Accolon, slain by King Arthur as a result of Morgan’s plan failing in Book IV.*

King Pellinore, slain offscreen by Sir Gawaine sometime after the start of Book IV.

Sir Chestaline, Sir Gawaine’s youthful ward, slain by Roman soldiers during Book V.*

Sir Marhaus, slain by Sir Tristram early in Book VIII.

Sir Lamorak, slain offscreen by Sir Gawaine and his brothers around the time of Book X.

Sir Uwaine, slain by Sir Gawaine in Book XVI.

Sir Colgrevance, slain by Sir Lionel in Book XVI.

Sir Galahad, ascended into heaven with the Grail in Book XVII.

Sir Percivale, died of grief after coming in second on the Grail-Quest, in Book XVII.

Sir Patrice, ate a poisoned apple intended for Sir Gawaine, in Book XVIII.

Sir Meliagrance, decapitated by Launcelot with one hand tied behind his back, in Book XIX.

Sir Tristram, murdered by King Mark at some point before Book XIX.

Starred entries are knights who were not, technically, members of the Round Table, but who were more or less solid Camelot-allies.  Gawaine-related deaths: 5 of 14.


Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XIX Conclusions — No Comments

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