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The Arthurian adultery in English literature, with special emphasis on Malory, Tennyson, E.A. Robinson,… Cameron, John Ronald 1960

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i THE ARTHURIAN ADULTERY IN ENGLISH LITERATURE, WITH SPECIAL EMPHASIS ON MALORY, TENNYSON, E.A. ROBINSON, AND T.H. WHITE John Ronald Cameron B.A., U n i v e r s i t y of B r i t i s h Columbia, 1952 A t h e s i s submitted i n p a r t i a l f u l f i l m e n t of the requirements f o r the degree of MASTER OF ARTS i n the Department of E n g l i s h We accept t h i s t h e s i s as conforming to the re q u i r e d standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA September, I960 .In presenting t h i s thesis i n p a r t i a l fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of B r i t i s h Columbia, I agree that the Library s h a l l make i t f r e e l y available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of t h i s thesis f o r scholarly purposes may be granted by the Head of my Department or by his representatives. It i s understood that copying or publication of t h i s thesis for f i n a n c i a l gain s h a l l not be allowed without my written permission. Department of The University of B r i t i s h Columbia, Vancouver 8, Canada. Date flu<xUST ^3, f<? 4o . i i ABSTRACT The purpose of t h i s t h e s i s i s to examine the h i s t o r y i n E n g l i s h l i t e r a t u r e of the r e l a t i o n s h i p between King Arthur, Guinevere, and La n c e l o t , i n order t o show how va r i o u s authors have enriched the legend by developing the p s y c h o l o g i c a l p o t e n t i a l of the c h i e f char-a c t e r s , and by p r o j e c t i n g the standards of t h e i r r e s p e c t i v e ages i n t o t h e i r v e r s i o n s of the s t o r y . S p e c i a l emphasis has been placed on the work o f S i r Thomas Malory, A l f r e d Tennyson, E.A. Robinson, and T.H. White. The A r t h u r i a n legend i s p a r t i c u l a r l y appropriate f o r such a comparative study. I t has r e c e i v e d the a t t e n t i o n of E n g l i s h w r i t e r s f o r e i g h t c e n t u r i e s , and, f o r the past hundred ye a r s , of w r i t e r s i n America as w e l l . I n the f i f t e e n t h century Malory used the legend to argue f o r a strong monarchy, and t o remind h i s a r i s t o c r a t i c countrymen of the neglected i d e a l s of c h i v a l r y ; i n the nineteenth century Tennyson hoped t h a t the r e - t e l l i n g of the s t o r y f o r i t s elements of moral and s p i r i t u a l a l l e g o r y would i n s p i r e the V i c t o r i a n s t o r i s e above the m a t e r i a l i s m and s e n s u a l i t y which feo him were signs of the times; e a r l y i n the twe n t i e t h century Edwin A r l i n g t o n Robinson suggested a comparison between the d i s i n t e g r a t i o n of Camelot and the d i s r u p t i o n of European s o c i e t y a f t e r World War I , and he questioned the t r a d i t i o n a l l y accepted greatness o f Arthur and h i s kingdom; i n the l a s t decade Terence Hanbury White has seen that,the I l l problem facing King Arthur also confronts the s t r i f e - t o r n twentieth century how can the energies of men be harnessed f o r constructive rather than destructive action? The adultery between Guinevere and Lancelot has been made the f o c a l point of t h i s study because i t involves the three best-known characters of the legend, and because i t has attracted the i n t e r e s t of writers more than has any other element of the Arthuriad, p a r t i c -u l a r l y i n the past one hundred years. i v TABLE OF CONTENTS INTRODUCTION THE VITALITY AND ADAPTABILITY OF THE ARTHURIAN LEGEND CHAPTER I THE BACKGROUND TO MALORY A. B. C. D. Geoffrey of Monmouth Ch r e t i e n de Troyes . 1. C o u r t l y l o v e 2. Creatio n of Lancelot French Prose Romances E n g l i s h Verse Romances CHAPTER I I MALORY A. B. C. D. I n s t a b i l i t y of F i f t e e n t h Century C h i v a l r y i n the Morte Darthur 1. A r t h u r 2. Lancelot A t t i t u d e to C o u r t l y Love S t r e s s on Moral G u i l t of Lovers CHAPTER I I I CHAPTER IV SURVEY: MALORY TO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY TENNYSON A. The I d y l l s of the King as A l l e g o r y 1. I d e a l i z a t i o n of Arthur 2. S t r e s s on g u i l t of l o v e r s B. The V i c t o r i a n I d e a l of Marriage 1. Romantic love 2. Co-operation 3. C h i l d r e n 4. Lanc e l o t and E l a i n e as p o t e n t i a l i d e a l CHAPTER V EDWIN ARLINGTON ROBINSON A. Comparison w i t h Tennyson ' 1. Background 2. -Technique B. Influence of European S i t u a t i o n on Treatment of Arthur C. R e a l i s t i c Psychology 1. Character of Guinevere 2. Character of Lancelot V CHAPTER VI TERENCE HANBURY WHITE A. Reasons f o r Success 1. Imagination 2. S c h o l a r l y research 3. P s y c h o l o g i c a l i n s i g h t 4* Humor B. Arthur and C i v i l Law C. Character of Art h u r D. Character of Lancelot E. White as T r a d i t i o n a l i s t 1. Love of medieval l i f e 2. D i s d a i n f o r modern s o p h i s t i c a t i o n F. Reasons f o r Arthur's F a i l u r e CHAPTER V I I . CONCLUSION A. A r t h u r i a n Legend I d e a l f o r Comparative Study . B. Summary of Major Treatments of the Adult e r y C. Other Aspects of the Legend INTRODUCTION The Arthurian legend has commanded the attention of writers from the Anglo-Saxon period to the twentieth century; indeed, a f t e r more than eight centuries of treatment, Arthur and h i s knights s t i l l fascinate the imagination, i t i s true that the story i s not as fresh as i t once was, but there are few signs of exhaustion. Writers such as Edwin Arlington Robinson and T.H. White i n the twentieth century are s t i l l attracted by t h i s ancient legend of chi v a l r y and i t s t r a g i c champion. A.B. Taylor has summarized the reasons f o r t h i s popularity: But the strength of the Arthurian legend l a y i n i t s c a p a b i l i t y of i n f i n i t e adaptation. From the beginning i t was fashioned to r e f l e c t contemporary i d e a l s . . . I t began as a symbol of national and r e l i g i o u s warfare...reflecting the Norman m i l i t a r i s t s p i r i t and crusading z e a l . . . i t was used by French poets as the symbol of ch i v a l r y and of love. In the G r a i l quest i t symbolizes the fas c i n a t i o n exercised by r e l i g i o u s mysticism. In Malory*s "Morte Darthur" i t r e f l e c t s the aspirations of the noblest men at a time when r e a l c h i v a l r y was dead...and i n Tennyson's " I d y l l s of the King" the ideals and f a i l i n g s of the V i c t o r i a n era. i The legend o f f e r s such a wide v a r i e t y of characters and incidents that p r a c t i c a l l y every age has found i n i t something of i t s own problems and c o n f l i c t s . In other words, the Arthur-ian legend throughout the centuries has been the mirror of 1. A.B. Taylor, An Introduction to Medieval Romance. London, Heath Cranton, 1930, p. 114. 2 man's i d e a l s and a s p i r a t i o n s , and p a r t i c u l a r l y of h i s i d e a l s of human ch a r a c t e r . The d i f f e r e n t v e r s i o n s of the legend not o n l y r e v e a l i n a broad way the standards of the age i n which they were w r i t t e n , but a l s o have g r a d u a l l y deepened the profun-d i t y of the s t o r y by i n c r e a s i n g a n a l y s i s of the psychology of the c h i e f c h a r a c t e r s . The l a t e nineteenth century b e l i e v e d t h a t Tennyson had s a i d the l a s t word, but w i t h i n f i v e years of Tennyson's death Mark Twain c a r r i e d h i s Connecticut Yankee i n t o King Arthur's Court, and used the legend t o condemn a r i s t o c r a t i c i d e a l s . Another American, Edwin A r l i n g t o n Robinson, enriched the legend by under-t a k i n g a minute p s y c h o l o g i c a l examination of the t r a d i t i o n a l c h a r a c t e r s ; he saw t h e i r tragedy re-enacted i n the somber p e r i o d a f t e r World War I . I n the l a s t decade the B r i t i s h n o v e l i s t T.H. White has used A r t h u r i a n m a t e r i a l s to examine the profound prob-lems of hatred and oppression; he has a l s o employed the legend f o r s a t i r e and humor, and has humanized the characters even more, so t h a t they speak l i k e neighbors c h a t t i n g over the back fence. The phase of the legend t h a t has r e c e i v e d the most a t t e n t i o n i n E n g l i s h l i t e r a t u r e i s the adulterous t r i a n g l e i n v o l v i n g A r t h u r , Guinevere, and L a n c e l o t , the c h i e f c h a r a c t e r s . A l l of the best known treatments of the A r t h u r i a d d e a l w i t h i t t o some ext e n t , but no two v e r s i o n s are a l i k e . The approach of f o u r a u t h o r s - — Malory, Tennyson, E.A. Robinson, and T.H. W h i t e - — t o the a d u l t e r y theme w i l l be examined i n d e t a i l i n order to show to what extent these authors c o n t r i b u t e d to the development of the legend by e n l a r g i n g the p s y c h o l o g i c a l p o t e n t i a l of the c h i e f c h a r a c t e r s , 3 and by p r o j e c t i n g the standards of t h e i r r e s p e c t i v e ages i n t o t h e i r v e r s i o n s of the s t o r y . The d i s c u s s i o n s of the i n f l u e n c e of the d i f f e r e n t ages on the ve r s i o n s of the A r t h u r i a d do not pretend t o be exhaustive, but a broad treatment i s a l l t h a t i s necessary i n a mainly l i t e r a r y study. Some attempt w i l l a l s o be made t o summarize other A r t h u r i a n works i n E n g l i s h t h a t t r e a t the a d u l t e r y . CHAPTER I THE BACKGROUND TO MALORI The A r t h u r i a n legend had i t s f i r s t known expression i n the H i s t o r i a Brittonum, f i r s t compiled around 680 and r e v i s e d a t the end of the eigh t h century by Nennius. I n the H i s t o r i a A rthur i s desc r i b e d as a dux bellorum. or B r i t i s h war l o r d , r a t h e r than as a k i n g , who l e d the B r i t o n s i n twelve b a t t l e s a g a i n s t the Saxons. The f i r s t d e t a i l e d account of the legend, however, was not pro-duced u n t i l 1137 when Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote h i s extremely i n f l u e n t i a l H i s t o r i a Regum B r i t a n n i a e « the most important e a r l y source of A r t h u r i a n m a t e r i a l . Geoffrey's work i s a mixture of matter drawn from authors such as G i l d a s , Nennius, and Bede, from the products of h i s own f r e e i n v e n t i o n , and probably from a l a r g e element of legendary l o r e . ^ I n Geoffrey's c h r o n i c l e , Arthur i s no longer a p r i m i t i v e war l o r d , but a noble and c u l t u r e d B r i t i s h k i n g , the C h r i s t i a n con-queror of the Roman world. Guinevere p l a y s a s l i g h t r o l e . She i s not accused of a d u l t e r y p r i o r t o Arthur's Roman campaign, but her chara c t e r i s t a r n i s h e d by her semi-acquiescence i n marriage w i t h Mordred, the t r a i t o r o u s son of A r t h u r , who usurps the kingdom during the king's absence on the c o n t i n e n t . There i s no mention of L a n c e l o t , who was introduced by C h r l t i e n de Troyes t h i r t y years l a t e r . 1. A l b e r t G. Baugh, ed., A L i t e r a r y H i s t o r y of England. p. 170. 5 Geoffrey's h i s t o r y was t r a n s l a t e d i n t o Norman-French poetry ( c . 1155) by Wace, who d e p i c t e d Arthur as the g r a c i o u s , r e f i n e d head of a court governed by the k n i g h t l y r u l e s of c h i v a l r y . Wace was l a t e r t r a n s l a t e d i n t o E n g l i s h verse by Layamon, the f i r s t poet to use the language f o r A r t h u r i a n m a t e r i a l . Neither poet, however, changed the b a s i c p l o t : the p s e u d o - h i s t o r i c a l Arthur remains, w i t h ^ o r d r e d s t i l l the l o v e r of Guinevere. I n 1170 C h r e t i e n de Troyes made a v i t a l a d d i t i o n t o the legend. Encouraged by h i s patron, Marie de Champagne, C h r e t i e n combined the o l d s t o r i e s of war and manly adventure w i t h the s o f t e r 2 themes of lo v e and c o u r t l i n e s s . I n . h i s Le C h a v a l i e r de l a Cha-r r e t t e C h r e t i e n introduced h i s own c r e a t i o n , L a n c e l o t , l o v e r of Queen Guinevere and g r e a t e s t knight of a l l the world. Only once before had L a n c e l o t been mentioned i n Chretien's Erec, w r i t t e n about te n years p r i o r t o the C h a r r e t t e . I n the e a r l i e r poem Lancelot i s ranked t h i r d i n importance among the k n i g h t s , behind the hero Erec, and S i r Gawain, t r a d i t i o n a l l y Arthur's most valued w a r r i o r . What prompted C h r e t i e n t o make such a r a d i c a l departure from the s t o r y ? Why was he encouraged to make a cuckold of a h e r o i c k i n g , an a d u l t e r e s s of h i s queen, and an i l l i c i t and t r a i t o r o u s l o v e r of the man who otherwise was the epitome of c h i v a l r y ? The answers are found i n the work of the French troubadors and i n t h e i r c u l t of amour c o u r t o i s . which had become immensely popular among the k n i g h t l y c l a s s e s on the c o n t i n e n t . 2. Eugene Vinaver, Malory. Oxford, Clarendon P r e s s , 1929, p. 6 When the c o u r t l y l o v e of the troubadors spread to northern France, C h r e t i e n de Troyes had no choice but to accede to the wishes of Marie de Champagne and apply i t t o A r t h u r i a n m a t e r i a l s . There was the a d d i t i o n a l i n c e n t i v e of the popular T r i s t r a m s t o r y , which i n v o l v e d a d u l t e r y between a queen and a famous k n i g h t . I t was c l e a r t h a t Camelot must a l s o have a conventional c o u r t l y l i a s o n between a bachelor knight and a married woman—an absor-bing theme to Marie, and to most high-born l a d i e s of the t w e l f t h century.^ I t was a simple matter f o r C h r e t i e n t o g i v e Guinevere a l o v e r . The o l d m y t h o l o g i c a l s t o r y of Guinevere's abduction gave wide currency t o a t r a d i t i o n of her f a i t h l e s s n e s s . E a r l y Welsh legends make her f i c k l e , i f not u n f a i t h f u l . I n Geoffrey she i s more than semi-acquiescent i n a d u l t e r y w i t h Mordred. I n the l a y s of Marie de France, the notable French poetess and contemporary of C h r e t i e n , Guinevere i s g r o s s l y u n f a i t h f u l . ^ " Apart from a l l these reasons, however, she was s t i l l the l o g i c a l candidate. She was the g r e a t e s t l a d y i n the l a n d , wife of the noblest and most powerful k i n g of Christendom, and a l t o g e t h e r worthy of the a s p i r a t i o n s of the m i g h t i e s t knight t h a t a r o m a n t i c i s t could conceive. Chretien's c h i e f problem was the i d e n t i t y of the l o v e r . Gawain? He was t r a d i t i o n a l l y Arthur's f i r s t k n i g h t , but a t the same time was a symbol of p h y s i c a l p u r i t y , and so was d i s q u a l i f i e d . Mordred? Again, as a well-entrenched symbol of cunning e v i l he 3. A.B. T a y l o r , op. c i t . . p. 64. 4 . Howard Maynadier, The Arthur of the E n g l i s h Poets. Boston; Houghton, M i f f l i n ; 1907, p. 97. 7 was i n a p p r o p r i a t e f o r the r o l e of the c o u r t l y l o v e r , who must be handsome, c l e a n , w e l l - d r e s s e d , w i t t y , courteous, even-tempered, humble and meek. I t was thus immediately apparent t h a t t o change suddenly the c h a r a c t e r of e i t h e r of these knights would be too r a d i c a l . C h r e t i e n s o l v e d the problem by i n v e n t i n g the f i g u r e of L a n c e l o t . I t i s r a t h e r i r o n i c t h a t t h i s man who was t o become the most popular and e x a l t e d of a l l the members of Arthur's Round Table should have appeared so c a s u a l l y to s t e a l the l i m e l i g h t from so many t r a d i t i o n - r i p e n e d f i g u r e s . Where C h r e t i e n found h i s model has never been e s t a b l i s h e d . Lancelot i s not mentioned i n any of the c h r o n i c l e s , i s the s u b j e c t of no known popular t r a d i t i o n . I n the b a s - r e l i e f of the c a t h e d r a l ' o f Modena ( c . 1130), which represents many famous A r t h u r i a n k n i g h t s , he has no p l a c e . I n the l i g h t of present evidence s c h o l a r s have been f o r c e d t o con-clude t h a t Lancelot was Chretien's personal c r e a t i o n , embodying a l l of the v i r t u e s of the flowerhood of c h i v a l r y , and w e l l q u a l -i f i e d t o l o v e the f i n e s t l a d y of the kingdom.^ I n Chretien's Le C h a v a l i e r de l a flharrette. o r The Knight  of the C a r t . A r t h u r i s unimportant, s i n c e the i n t e r e s t revolves around Lancel o t ' s s e r v i c e to and a d o r a t i o n of Guinevere, who admits him t o her f a v o r s , but expects him to perform many r a t h e r debasing deeds i n order t o show h i s devotion. She a n g r i l y scolds him because he h e s i t a t e s to endure the disgrace of r i d i n g i n a hangman's c a r t w h i l e h u r r y i n g t o rescue her, and l a t e r orders him t o l o s e d e l i b e r a t e l y i n a tournament as a t e s t o f h i s obedience. 5. See Howard Maynadier, The Arthur of the E n g l i s h Poets, p. 97; A.B. T a y l o r , An I n t r o d u c t i o n to Medieval Romance, pp. 64, 78; and Augustus J . App. Lancelot i n E n g l i s h L i t e r a t u r e , p. 4 . App does not l i k e L ancelot i n t h i s r o l e of the p e r f e c t c o u r t l y l o v e r : L a n c e l o t i n t h i s romance seems to be nothing more than a puppet intended t o prove t h a t a g r o v e l l i n g , s e l f - e f f a c i n g , adulterous devotion and l o v e f o r one l a d y c o n s t i t u t e s the i d e a l l o v e r . 5 I t i s t r u e that i n no other treatment of the legend does the modern reader have l e s s admiration f o r L a n c e l o t , but to go so f a r as to condemn him as a " l o v e - s i c k simpleton"^ i s to judge too h a r s h l y , and to ignore the h i g h l y a r t i f i c i a l nature of the c u l t conventions t h a t guided Chretien's treatment. The adulterous t r i a n g l e continued i t s development i n the French prose romances of the f i r s t q uarter of the t h i r t e e n t h century, w i t h Lancelot s t i l l h o l d i n g the center of i n t e r e s t . In the prose Lancelot he i s s t i l l the p e r f e c t c o u r t l y l o v e r , whose s i n f u l but f a i t h f u l l o v e i s h i s c h i e f g l o r y . I n La Queste  de S a i n t G r a a l . however, the f i r s t suggestion of a sense of g u i l t appears. During h i s search f o r the Holy G r a i l , Lancelot confesses h i s s i n to v a r i o u s h e r m i t s , and c a n d i d l y admits t h a t h i s f a i l u r e to achieve the quest i s due to h i s i n a b i l i t y t o f e e l s i n c e r e repentance f o r h i s i l l i c i t r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h Guinevere. I n a t h i r d romance, the Mort A r t u . the s y n t h e s i s of the c o u r t l y love and m o r a l i t y themes i s complete; L a n c e l o t i s a r e l a t i v e l y human and t r a g i c f i g u r e as he s t r u g g l e s w i t h h i s g u i l t . The a d u l t e r y i s now viewed as the primary cause of the f i n a l catastrophe of the d i s s o l u t i o n of the Round Table and Arthur's death . 6. Augustus J . App, L a n c e l o t i n E n g l i s h L i t e r a t u r e . Washington, D.C., C a t h o l i c U n i v e r s i t y of America, 1929, p. 11. 7o I b i d . , p. 46. 9 Of the many Middle E n g l i s h romances w r i t t e n on the A r t h u r i a n legend between Geoffrey and Malory, only one, the s t a n z a i c Le Morte Darthur,. m e r i t s a t t e n t i o n as f a r as the a d u l t e r y theme i s concerned. W r i t t e n i n the l a t t e r h a l f of the f o u r t e e n t h cen-t u r y , the poem represents the l a s t stage i n the e v o l u t i o n of the A r t h u r i a d before Malory. I t f o l l o w s the romantic t r a d i t i o n , but although the Guinevere-Lancelot love s t o r y p r e v a i l s , "the s p i r i t of the a b j e c t devotion of a g r o v e l l i n g knight t o a c a p r i c i o u s , unreasonable l a d y " has l a r g e l y disappeared. One of the poem's c h i e f a d d i t i o n s to the romantic theme i s the s t o r y of the l i l y -maid, E l a i n e , whose l o v e f o r Lancelot means her death. A change, i n s p i r i t from the c u l t of c o u r t l y love i s immediately apparent when Lancelot soundly rebukes Guinevere f o r her s u s p i c i o n s about h i s f i d e l i t y . Such reproach to the object of a d o r a t i o n would 9 have been completely a l i e n to the s p i r i t of C h r e t i e n de Troyes. Although Ghaucer was c e r t a i n l y f a m i l i a r w i t h the A r t h u r i a n legend, he wrote p r a c t i c a l l y nothing about I t . Why he was not a t t r a c t e d t o i t i s , of course, imp o s s i b l e t o say; the suggestion t h a t he was too i n t e r e s t e d i n r e a l i s t i c p o r t r a i t u r e i s not r e a l l y s a t i s f a c t o r y , s i n c e most of Chaucer's work outside of the Canterbury 8. App. op. c i t . , p. 3 6 . 9. Another contemporary poem was the a l l i t e r a t i v e Morte Arthure, based on the p s e u d o - h i s t o r i c a l t r a d i t i o n of Geoffrey's c h r o n i c l e , i n which the main inte_re§& i s epic r a t h e r than romantic. Arthur i s the noble champion of E n g l i s h honor, w i t h Gawain h i s f i r s t l i e u t e n a n t and Guinevere a minor background f i g u r e . There i s no a d u l t e r y w i t h L a n c e l o t , who. b e a r s . f a i n t l i k e n e s s to the romantic French f i g u r e . A p e r s o n a l f a v o r i t e of the k i n g , he i s depicted as a b o a s t f u l young war-lord who d i e s i n the f i n a l b a t t l e . 10 Tales i s highly romantic. That he conceived Lancelot as a rather light-minded c a v a l i e r d e l i c a t e l y adept i n the a r t of f l i r t a t i o n i s suggested i n The Squire' s Tale: Who kbude t e l l e yow the forme of daunces So uhkouthe, and swiche fresshe contenaunces, Swich s u b t i l lookyng and dissymulynges For drede of jalouse mennes aperceyvynges? No man but Launcelot, and he i s deed. . , n (11. 283-87) By the time that Sir,Thomas Malory undertook h i s compilation and condensation of the various strands of the Arthurian legend, i n the middle of the f i f t e e n t h century, the creative age of Arthurian romance had long passed. Like Milton, he came to his great work almost too l a t e ; except f o r h i s Morte Darthur. which synthesized the story i n t o a single narrative, the Matter of - B r i t a i n might have escaped the notice of l a t e r w riters. Malory r e l i e d mainly on the thirteenth-century French prose cycle and the a l l i t e r a t i v e Morte Arthure i n English, t r a n s l a t i n g h i s sources in t o an unadorned, prose that has delighted readers f o r centuries and given i n s p i r a t i o n to a l l subsequent e f f o r t s to rework the legends. His version includes the continental cam-paigns of Arthur, and stresses the glory and prowess of the English power, but the main i n t e r e s t of Malory's Morte Darthur i s romantic, not h i s t o r i c a l . Lancelot i s the r e a l protagonist of the story, and Malory i s extremely interested i n the adultery as a prime ca t a l y s t i n the process leading to the f i n a l tragedy. 10. F.N. Robinson, ed., The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. Boston, Houghton M i f f l i n . 1957. Further evidence of Chaucer's attitude i s found i n 11. 4402-03 of the Nun's P r i e s t ' s  Tale, i n which he r e f e r s to the book of Launcelot de Lake, That wommen holde i n f u l greet reverence. 11 With Malory the A r t h u r i a n c y c l e i n the Middle Ages i s complete. Geoffrey and the other chroniclers had used the legend to g l o r i f y the t r a d i t i o n s of B r i t i s h r o y a l t y . The c o u r t i e r s of France had employed i t as a background f o r the new conventions of c h i v a l r y and c o u r t l y l o v e . Malory.hoped t o e s t a b l i s h a model of honor and c h i v a l r y f o r h i s contemporaries t o f o l l o w . There was nothing new to be added to the b a s i c s t o r y a f t e r Malory; f u t u r e generations would simply p l a y v a r i a t i o n s on the theme, i n t e r p r e t i n g the A r t h u r i a d according t o the standards of the p a r t i c u l a r age. 12 CHAPTER II M A L O R Y Malory's times were chaotic, both p o l i t i c a l l y and s p i r i t u a l l y . The f i f t e e n t h century, which saw the death struggle of the med-i e v a l feudal system, was f i l l e d with exhausting wars, economic i n s t a b i l i t y and s p i r i t u a l disillusionment. The Wars of the Roses, producing v i r t u a l anarchy i n England, destroyed or impov-erished most of the noble f a m i l i e s of the country. The t r a d i t i o n a l unity of Christendom had become no more than a pious f i c t i o n ; c e r t a i n l y the crusading impulse was dead, and any former bond between European Christians had disappeared i n the face of eccles-i a s t i c a l indolence, the Great Schism at the end of the fourteenth century, and the growing national f e e l i n g that overshadowed a sense of r e l i g i o u s brotherhood. Huizinga sketches a s t r i k i n g picture of the age: Is i t s u r p r i s i n g that the people could see t h e i r fate and that of the world only as an endless succession of e v i l s ? Bad government, exactions, the cupidity and violence of the great, wars and brigandage, s c a r c i t y , misery and pertilence to t h i s i s contem-porary h i s t o r y nearly reduced i n the eyes of the people. The feeMng of general i n s e c u r i t y , which was caused by the chronic form wars were apt to take, by the constant menace of the dangerous classes, by the mistrust of j u s t i c e , was further aggravated by the obsession of the coming end of the world, and by the fear of h e l l , of sorcerers and of d e v i l s . The back-ground of a l l l i f e i n the world seems black. Every-where the flames of hatred ari s e and i n j u s t i c e reigns.^ 1. J . Huizinga, The Waning of the Middle Ages. New York, Doubleday, -1956, p.30. : 13 By the end of the f i f t e e n t h century the armoured knight was no longer powerful, and c h i v a l r y was decadent* Gunpowder and the long-bow of the yeoman had. made the knight obsolete, while chivalr y had become rather an excuse f o r ceremony and pageant than a pattern of behaviour f o r the a r i s t o c r a t . I t was true, of course, that pure chival r y had r a r e l y been practised at any time, but i t had c e r t a i n l y been a s p i r i t u a l force which had • 2 given i t s value to the i n s t i t u t i o n s and deeds of feudalism. However a r t i f i c i a l some of the conventions of chi v a l r y were, i t had been important as a tempering influence i n the v i o l e n t and often barbarous Middle Ages: The t i n e knight gave up a l l thought of himself. At the moment of i n v e s t i t u r e he swore to renounce the pursuit of material gain; to do nobly f o r the mere love of goodness; to be generous of his goods; to be courteous to the vanquished; to redress wrongs...to keep hi s word; to respect oaths; and, above a l l things, to protect the helpless and to serve women...truly a consecra-t i o n to high u n s e l f i s h aims f o r l i f e . ^ The whole chivalrous culture of the l a s t days of the Middle Ages was marked by an unstable equilibrium between sentimentality and mockery. Honor, f i d e l i t y and love were treated with unim-peachable seriousness, but the honor was often mere vanity, and f i d e l i t y to the overlord and to the Church had less s i g n i -ficance a f t e r the breakdown of feudalism and the disappearance of C h r i s t i a n unity. Inspired by the fading ideals of c h i v a l r y a f t e r t r a n s l a t i n g The Book of the Ordre of Chyvalry around 1485, 2. William H. Schofield, Chivalry i n English L i t e r a t u r e . Cambridge Univ e r s i t y Press, 1925, p. 4. 3. I b i d . , p. 4. 14 W i l l i a m Caxton exclaimed: 0 ye knyghts of England / where i s the custome and usage of noble c h y v a l r y t h a t was used i n tho days / what do ye now / but go t o the baynes and playe a t t dyse. And some not wel aduysed use not honest and good r u l e ageyn a l l e ordre of knyghthode / leue t h i s / leue i t and rede the noble volumes of saynt g r a a l of l a n c e l o t of galaad / of Trystram...Ther s h a l l e ye see manhode / curtosye and gentylenesse.^ Again i n h i s preface t o Malory's Morte Darthur i n the same year, Caxton reminded the n o b i l i t y t h a t the book was more than a s t o r y : And I...have doon s e t t e i t i n enprynte to the entente t h a t noble men may see and l e r n e tha noble a c t s of c h y v a l r y e , the j e n t y l and vertuous dedes t h a t somme knyghtes used i n tho dayes, by whyche they came t o honour, and how they t h a t were vycious were punysshed and o f t e put t o shame and rebuke; humbly bysechyng a l noble l o r d e s and l a d y e s . . . t h a t they take the good and honest actes i n t h e i r remembraunce, and t o folowe the same.^ The a r i s t o c r a c y of the f i f t e e n t h century was not c h i v a l r o u s , but c o r r u p t , proud and p r i v i l e g e d . Contemporary c h r o n i c l e s say t h a t many major nobles were r e c k l e s s , dishonest, sensual and b r u t a l ; s o - c a l l e d gentlemen committed robbery, rape, s a c r i l e g e 6 and murder. I t i s a g a i n s t t h i s background of p o l i t i c a l , s p i r i t u a l , and s o c i a l d i s o r d e r t h a t the Morte Darthur must be judged. L i k e Caxton, the conservative Malory saw the l a c k of n a t i o n a l moral f i b r e i n h i g h p l a c e s ; perhaps he hoped t h a t h i s book, recounting Arthur's wars and the n o b i l i t y of h i s Round Table, would i n j e c t some n a t i o n a l p r i d e and personal v i r t u e i n t o 7 the a r i s t o c r a t s , by whose example s o c i e t y might be improved. 4 . W i l l i a m Caxton, The Book of the Ordre of Chyvalry, ed. A l f r e d B y l e s , London, Oxford U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , 1926, p. 122. 5. Eugene Vi n a v e r , ed., The Works of S i r Thomas Malory, London., 195J A l l subsequent quotations from the Morte Darthur are from t h i s e d i t i o n . 6. S c h o f i e l d , op_. c i t . , p. 44. 7. I b i d . . p. 94. The Morte Darthur and Caxton's preface suggest t h a t Malory regarded c h i v a l r y as a p r a c t i c a l code of e t h i c s . On the other hand, what we know of Malory r e v e a l s t h a t h i s 15 The Morte Darthur i s not a l o v e s t o r y . The s t r e s s i s not so much on romantic passion as on p h y s i c a l prowess and f i r m l e a d e r s h i p . That the l i s t s are more important than the bedcham-ber is,-not s u r p r i s i n g i n view of Malory's p o s i t i o n as an a r i s -t o c r a t i c man o f a c t i o n , w r i t i n g t o t e l l a l i v e l y s t o r y and t o remind h i s contemporaries of the good o l d days when men had stronger l o y a l t i e s than a s e l f i s h devotion t o personal g a i i j . Malory's l a c k of i n t e r e s t i n the theme of passion r e f l e c t s h i s a c t i v e background of s e r v i c e under Richard Beauchamp, E a r l of Warwick, considered the f l o w e r of c h i v a l r y i n an u n c h i v a l r o u s age. On the other hand, he was two c e n t u r i e s removed from the French c u l t of c o u r t l y l o v e , probably d i d not f u l l understand i t , and c e r t a i n l y d i d not approve of i t s g l o r i f i c a t i o n of i l l i c i t l o v e . A study.of the characters of A r t h u r , Guinevere and L a n c e l o t , and of t h e i r r e l a t i o n s h i p s i n the Morte Darthur, must focus on the i n f l u e n c e of the c h i v a l r i c code on the t h i n k i n g of Malory; on Malory's a t t i t u d e towards the c o u r t l y l o v e convention which o r i g i n a l l y prompted the a d u l t e r y , and on the extent to which f i f t e e n t h century moral standards d i c t a t e d Malory's s t r e s s on the g u i l t of the l o v e r s . own a c t i v i t i e s , which p o s s i b l y i n c l u d e d rape and robbery, were q u i t e u n c h i v a l r o u s . I t i s g e n e r a l l y accepted, however, t h a t Malory wrote h i s book i n h i s d e c l i n i n g y ears, while imprisoned f o r these offenses; the apparent discrepancy between h i s l i f e and h i s p r i n c i p l e s . i n the Morte Darthur might have been the r e s u l t of mature years, or c o n t r i t i o n , o r b o t h i See E.K. Chambers, " S i r Thomas Malory," The E n g l i s h A s s o c i a t i o n Pamphlets, January, 1922; see a l s o Eugene Vinaver's Malory f o r a defence of Malory, i n which he casts doubt on some of the charges a g a i n s t the k n i g h t . 16 The f i g u r e of King Arthur i s important i n an assessment of Malory's a t t i t u d e towards the a d u l t e r y . A prominent A r t h u r i a n c r i t i c f e e l s t h a t Malory intended Arthurt&o be the p e r f e c t E n g l i s h k i n g , h i s r e i g n the embodiment of the past g l o r i e s of England, 0 This i s going a l i t t l e f a r , because Malory's k i n g , both m o r a l l y and i n t e l l e c t u a l l y , i s f a r from p e r f e c t , Malory, i t i s l i k e l y , saw i n the r i s e and f a l l of Camelot atesson f o r h i s own age, and as a. r o y a l i s t he c e r t a i n l y b e l i e v e d i n the s a n c t i t y of the r o y a l t i t l e as a d i k e a g a i n s t the power of the barons and the m i s f o r -tunes of c i v i l . w a r and s e d i t i o n , but the A r t h u r he c u l l e d from h i s sources i s no superhuman h e r o — d e f i n i t e l y not an i d e a l f i g u r e as i n Tennyson—-but i s a r a t h e r a strong man of simple good w i l l who 'sometimes d i s p l a y s more personal weaknesses than the c h i e f members of h i s Round Table. Arthur's r u i n i s , t o some degree, the r e s u l t of h i s own stubbornness, l u s t and f e a r ; he engages i n i l l i c i t passion which produces the t r a i t o r o u s Mordred, attempts t o drown a s h i p l o a d of babies a f t e r M e r l i n has p r e d i c t e d t h a t one of them would e v e n t u a l l y destroy him and h i s realm, and marries Guinevere i n s p i t e of M e r l i n ' J warnings. These do not sound l i k e the a c t i o n s of a great k i n g , but t h i s unevenness i n c h a r a c t e r i z a t i o n i s probably caused by d i f f e r e n c e s i n the sources from which Malory worked. Perhaps he d i d not n o t i c e the d i s c r e p a n c i e s ; i n any case, i t i s u n l i k e l y t h a t he would have cared too much. Malory was p r i n c i p a l l y i n t e r -ested i n s k e t c h i n g a hearty comrade and an i n s p i r i n g l e a d e r , and Arthur's character i n these respects i s q u i t e c o n s i s t e n t . V inaver, op. c i t . , p. 3 . 17 Although he f a i l s t o remove some of the most incongruous flaws i n A r t h u r , Malory takes pains t o d e p i c t him as a l o v i n g and f a i t h -f u l husband. The s t r e s s on the king's l o v e f o r Guinevere i s heavier than i n Malory's sources, and he omits the t r a d i t i o n a l m a r i t a l i n f i d e l i t i e s of Arthur so prominent i n the French roman-ces. These are perhaps s m a l l changes, but they are important. Malory knew th a t the E n g l i s h reader would have l i t t l e sympathy f o r a cuckolded playboy, and t h a t an e s s e n t i a l l y v i r t u o u s Arthur was necessary i f the g u i l t and sorrow of Lancelot and Guinevere were to have any genuine m o t i v a t i o n . More important, i n f i d e l i t y i n marriage would s e r i o u s l y damage h i s s t a t u r e as a c h i v a l r i c l e a d e r and k i n g . Malory's King Arthur i s a f o r t h r i g h t , simple, almost naive person, who i s a courageous w a r r i o r and a beloved l e a d e r . A some-times l u s t y man of uneven temper, he i s o f t e n t a c t l e s s , impetuous and u n c h i v a l r o u s . His views on love are l i b e r a l , and he expresses d i s t a s t e f o r the pomp andjoeremony of k i n g s h i p . Above a l l - — a n d t h i s i s v i t a l i n an examination of h i s marriage he i s passion-a t e l y devoted t o law and order, to the w e l f a r e of h i s realm, and to the good f e l l o w s h i p of h i s Round Table. Although the morals of Malory's Arthur are b e t t e r than they had ever been, i t i s sometimes d i f f i c u l t f o r the reader to sympa-t h i z e w i t h a husband who i s stubborn and even downright s t u p i d about the p o s s i b i l i t y of h i s w i f e ' s i n f i d e l i t y . Before h i s marriage, Arthur t e l l s M e r l i n t h a t he w i l l not marry without the o wizard's counsel and a d v i c e . * M e r l i n warns him t h a t Guinevere i s 9. Morte Darthur. (Book I I I , 1). 18 not "holsom" because "Launcelot scholde love h i r , and sche hym agayne." But when a man's heart i s s e t , adds M e r l i n , there i s ho use i n arguing w i t h him. Arthur agrees, and marries, her anyway—-in other words, he does not care what M e r l i n ' s advice i s . Modern w r i t e r s tend t o omit t h i s b i t of prophecy; i n a s k e p t i c a l age the l e s s magic the b e t t e r . Because Arthur has foreknowledge of the a d u l t e r y , i t i s d i f f i c u l t t o sympathize w i t h him when he i s wronged by Guinevere. What i s even more s u r p r i s i n g i s t h a t he seems to f o r g e t the prophecy e n t i r e l y , and i s not reminded of i t l a t e r when he r e c e i v e s a slanderous l e t t e r from the e v i l King Mark which b l u n t l y r e v e a l s the a f f a i r ; furthermore, when the king's s p i t e f u l s i s t e r , the w i t c h Morgan Le Fay, sends T r i s t r a m to Camelot w i t h a s h i e l d d e p i c t i n g a knight standing on the heads of a k i n g and queen, Arthur i s the only person present who i s unaware of the i n s i n u a t i o n . He dismisses Mark as a venomous l i a r , and puzzles: v a i n l y f o r hours over the s h i e l d . No k i n g should be so ingenuous. Malory was anxious t o teach h i s contemporaries some lessons about c h i v a l r y , but i t i s Lancelot r a t h e r than the k i n g who i s a model of gentlemanly conduct. I n f a c t , on a t l e a s t t h r e e sep-ara t e occasions i n the l i s t s , Arthur's k n i g h t l y courtesy leaves much to be d e s i r e d . During one tournament Arthur asks? Lancelot to encounter S i r Gareth, who has beaten many of the'Round Table k n i g h t s ; L a n c e l o t refuses because Gareth i s t i r e d and deserves the honor. Perchance, suggests Arthur's c h i e f l i e u t e n a n t , the knight i s f i g h t i n g f o r h i s l a d y ' s grace, and i t would be a shame to crush h i s e f f o r t s on behalf of l o v e . Arthur's impetuousness and passion f o r v i c t o r y l a n d him i n the dust when he i s hot enough t o challenge T r i s t r a m . Even though an anonymous Tri s t r a m 19 has been f i g h t i n g a l l day, the k i n g i n s i s t s on j o u s t i n g because T r i s t r a m w i l l not t e l l h i s name, T r i s t r a m r o a r s , "Ye a r no valyaunte knyght to aske batayle of me, consyderynge my grete t r a v a y l e . " ^ The unhorsed k i n g regains sympathy by a d m i t t i n g t h a t p r i d e and arrogance prompted h i s c h a l l e n g e . He does not l e a r n h i s l e s s o n , however; l a t e r he wants to do b a t t l e w i t h T r i s t r a m and Palomides, who are f a t i g u e d a f t e r r o u t i n g many of the Round Table. Lancelot again reminds him of the code of c h i v a l r y , but he i n s i s t s on h i s w i l l and i s once more defeated. Although Arthur gives Guinevere no j u s t i f i c a t i o n f o r her behavior on the grounds t h a t her husband i s a l s o promiscuous, the k i n g has a h e a l t h y i n t e r e s t i n feminine charms. His stubborn i n s i s t e n c e on marrying the b e a u t i f u l Guinevere i s a v i c t o r y of passion over judgment. L a t e r he i s f a s c i n a t e d by the charm of Isoud, and on one occasion h i s rashness again f o r c e s Lancelot i n t o an embarrassing s i t u a t i o n . Struck by I s o u d 1 s beauty when he sees her r i d i n g i n t o the f o r e s t w i t h T r i s t r a m and Palomides, he wants t o meet. her. Lancelot warns him t h a t i t may mean t r o u b l e i f he rushes up t o the group unawares. Arthur ignores the a d v i c e , s n o r t i n g t h a t he does not care whom he offends. Lancelot shrugs and f o l l o w s . Palomides knocks Arthur down, and poor La n c e l o t must go through the motions of beating.Palomides t o s a l v e the king's i n j u r e d p r i d e . An i n t e r e s t i n g scene occurs when Arthur and Lancelot are guests of T r i s t r a m and Isoud at Joyous Garde. The k i n g s a l u t e s Isoud: "Madame, h i t i s many a day ago s y t t h y n I desyred f y r s t to 10. Morte Darthur. ( X , l ) . 20 se you...now I dare say ye a r the f a y r y s t e t h a t ever I sawe, and S i r Trystram ys as f a y r e and as. good a knyght as ony t h a t I know. And t h e r e f o r e mesemyth y_e a r w e l l besett t o g y d i r . " ^ " Perhaps Arthur's words are o n l y c o u r t l y hyperbole, but i t i s questionable whether Guinevere would have been pleased w i t h h i s u n q u a l i f i e d f i a t t e r y . Arthur's approval of the T r i s t r a m - I s o l t a d u l t e r y can h a r d l y be l i k e w i s e dismissed as r o u t i n e courtesy. E a r l i e r , he p r a i s e d Lancelot f o r g i v i n g the l o v e r s refuge i n h i s c a s t l e . The o n l y p o s s i b l e c o n c l u s i o n i s t h a t Arthur i s condoning an i l l i c i t p a s s i o n ; a f t e r a l l , no matter how h a t e f u l a v i l l a i n Mark i s , he i s s t i l l Isoud's husband, and the l o v e r s , f o r a l l the aura of romance and magic t h a t surrounds them, are s t i l l a d u l t e r e r s . Did Malory r e a l i z e t h a t h i s k i n g was here adopting the credo of the o l d c u l t of c o u r t l y love? A$d has a man who countenances a d u l t e r y elsewhere much b a s i s f o r i n d i g n a t i o n when h i s own wife s t r a y s ? Perhaps such questions appear t o be an attempt to defame Arthur and t o j u s t i f y , or at l e a s t excuse, the s i n of Lancelot and Guinevere. They are not. Malory c e r t a i n l y would not have cared p a r t i c u l a r l y what h i s readers thought about Ar t h u r as a wronged husband. He was not w r i t i n g a l o v e s t o r y f o r l a d i e s of a t w e l f t h century French c o u r t , but an adventure s t o r y about k i n g s h i p , law, order, and the comradeship of c h i v a l r y . Malory r e a l i z e d t h a t i t does not r e a l l y matter whether Arthur deserves t o l o s e h i s w i f e ; what matters i s whether Arthur deserves t o l o s e h i s kingdom, to see i t s l i p away i n t o chaps. 11. Morte Darthur. (X, 7#. I t a l i c s mine). 21 The l i f e dream of Arthur i s to b u i l d not a happy marriage, but a happy realm. His fellowship of the Round Table, which maintains the r i g h t i n B r i t a i n , i s dearer to him than a dozen queens. Lancelot i s a greater loss than Guinevere. After Lance-l o t rescues the queen from the f i r e , Arthur exclaims: "And therefore...syte you w e l l , my harte was never so hevy as. h i t ys now. And much more I am soryar f o r my good knyghtes losse than f o r the losse of my fayre quene; f o r quenys I myght have inow, but such a f e l y s h i p of good knyghtes s h a l l never be togydirs i n no company. And now I dare sey...there was never Crystyn kynge that ever hylde such a felyshyp togydyrs. And a l a s , that ever s i r Launcelot andl I shulde be at debate."-^ Later, during the siege of Lancelot's c a s t l e , Lancelot refuses to fight:; "God deffend me...that ever I shuld encounter wyth the moste noble king that made me knyght." Arthur answers, "Now, fye uppon thy fayre langaygel...for wyte thou .well and truste h i t , I am thy mortall foo and ever woll to my deth-day; f o r thou haste slayne my good knyghtes and f u l l noble men of my blood, that s h a l l I never recover agayne. Also thou haste layne be my quene and holdyn her many wynters, and sytthyn lyke a traytoure, taken her away f r o me, by f o r s . " - ^ Arthur i s not sincere here i n his hatred of Lancelot, but i s simply putting up a half-hearted show f o r the benefit of the vengeful Gawain. After Lancelot d u t i f u l l y spares h i s l i f e on the f i e l d of b a t t l e , Arthur immediately breaks into tears, "thynkyng of the grete curtesy that was i n s i r Launcelot more than i n ony other man."^ I t i s also notable that his major complaint i s again the loss of his knights; the loss of his wife i s almost an afterthought. Certainly i t does not prey on his mind. 12. Morte Darthur, (XX, 9) 13. Ibid . , ( X X ~ 1 ) . 14. I b i d . , (XX, 13). 22 Whatever are Arthur's weaknesses i n h i s minor personal r e l a -t i o n s h i p s , h i s k i n g s h i p i s never i n doubt. He r e c e i v e s nothing but p r a i s e and obedience from a l l but the most e v i l of the k n i g h t s . He i s a great f e u d a l monarch the Flower of C h i v a l r y , as T r i s t r a m calls him-~who b r i n g s peace and p r o s p e r i t y to the country, d r i v e s out the power of Rome, and i s roundly admired by h i s f o l l o w e r s because he i s ever w i l l i n g to j e o p a r d i z e h i s r o y a l person by v e n t u r i n g f o r t h as a knight e r r a n t "as other poor knyghtes ded." H i s d e s i r e f o r peace a t any p r i c e i s evident i n h i s agreement t o subordinate personal p r i d e and happiness by t a k i n g back Guin-evere at the command of the Pope. Malory's scorn f o r the "hew f a n g l e " people who l a t e r s i d e w i t h the t r a i t o r o u s usurper Mordred i s t y p i c a l of a c o n s e r v a t i v e man l i v i n g i n an age when everywhere there were u p s t a r t s whose "new f a n g l e " ideas threatened t o upset every value of the medieval order. Malory's handling of the moral theme i n the Morte Darthur can be understood only as l o n g as i t i s remembered th a t m o r a l i t y was not h i s c h i e f i n t e r e s t , but was of importance only i n s o f a r as i t r e f l e c t e d on the s o c i a l and p o l -i t i c a l h e a l t h of King Arthur's realm. Malory was two c e n t u r i e s removed from the days when the c u l t of c o u r t l y love enjoyed i t s g r e a t e s t p o p u l a r i t y , and i t i s c e r t a i n t h a t a hardy f i f t e e n t h century Englishman would have l i t t l e under-standing o f , or sympathy f o r , the a r t i f i c i a l and immoral philosophy o f a remote French a r i s t o c r a c y . S i n c e , however, Malory was work-i n g w i t h prose romances s t r o n g l y i n f l u e n c e d by C h r e t i e n de Troyes, i t was i n e v i t a b l e t h a t elements of the c o u r t l y conventions would appear i n h i s v e r s i o n of the A r t h u r i a d . Committed to an a d u l -terous s i t u a t i o n , what d i d Malory" t h i n k of t h i s l i a s o n between 23 a knight and the queen of the g r e a t e s t realm of Christendom? The f a c t i s t h a t he was extremely sympathetic t o i t . Admittedly he ennobled Arthur and s t r e s s e d the l o v e r s 1 awareness of g u i l t i n s t e a d of g l o r i f y i n g t h e i r d e s i r e , but he d i d not condemn them. I n f a c t the l o v e r s emerge from the d i s a s t e r r a t h e r b e t t e r than p r a c t i c a l l y any other members of the c o u r t ; both are granted .. p e a c e f u l , h o l y deaths by Malory. Malory's sympathy f o r the l o v e r s i s the n a t u r a l outcome of h i s admiration f o r c h i v a l r y as a p r a c t i c a l code of behavior. At the core of the c h i v a l r i c i d e a l i s the v i r t u e of f i d e l i t y , and i n an age t h a t seaned to have f o r g o t t e n l o y a l t y , which i s v i t a l to law, order and progress, Malory was f o r c e d to admire the unwavering bond between Lancelot and Guinevere, even i f i t was s i n f u l . However much he might have r e c o i l e d from the a f f e c -t a t i o n s of c o u r t l y l o v e , he was c e r t a i n l y i n f u l l agreement w i t h i t s I n s i s t e n c e t h a t p r o m i s c u i t y was the worst of s i n s . I n one of the r a r e prolonged passages i n the Morte Darthur apparently o r i g i n a l w i t h Malory, he mourns the loss, of s t a b i l i t y i n l o v e : But nowadayes men cannat l o v e sevennyght but they muste have a l l t h e i r desyres...And ryght so f a r y t h the l o v e nowadayes, sone hote sone colde.. Thys ys no s t a b y l y t e . But the olde l o v e was nat so. For men and women coude love t o g y d i r s seven y e r y s , and no lycoures l u s t i s was betwyxte them, and than was l o v e , trouthe and f a y t h e f u l n e s . And so i n l y k e : wyse was used such love i n kynge Arthurs , dayes. Wherefore I lykken love nowadayes unto somer and wynter: f o r , l y k e as the tone ys colde and the o t h i r ys hote, so f a r y t h love nowadayes. 15. Morte Darthur. ( X V I I I , 25) 24 I f there i s any doubt t h a t he i s t h i n k i n g of Lancelot and Guin-evere, i t i s immediately d i s p e l l e d by h i s concluding t r i b u t e : And t h e r e f o r e a l l ye t h a t be l o v e r s , c a l l e unto youre remembraunce the monethe of May, l y k e as ded quene Gwenyver, f o r whom I make here a l y t y l l mencion, t h a t whyle she l y v e d she was a trew l o v e r , and t h e r e f o r she had a good e n d e . ^ Furthermore, no c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of the a d u l t e r y i s so s t r o n g l y emphasized as the mutual f i d e l i t y of the l o v e r s . App misunder-stands Malory's i n t e n t i o n s when he says t h a t Malory countenances 17 and excuses the s i n : both Lancelot and Guinevere have good ends because they are " t r u e " , not because they are l o v e r s . Lancelot i n p a r t i c u l a r i s t o r t u r e d by an awareness of g u i l t , w h i l e Guinevere takes her f i n a l leave of him w i t h these words: Therefore, s i r Launcelot, wyte thou w e l l I am s e t t e i n suche a p l i g h t t o gete my soule h e l e . And yet ;- -I t r u s t e thorow Goddis grace and thorow Hys Passion of Hys woundis wyde, th a t a f t i r my deth I may have a syght of the b l y s s e d face of Cryste Jesu,.and on Doomesday t o s y t t e on Hys ryght syde j f o r as syitfu s y n f u l l as ever I was> now a r seyntes i n hevyh.-^g L i v i n g a more re g u l a t e d court l i f e , Guinevere has l i t t l e . o p p o r tunity f o r i n f i d e l i t y . There i s , of course, the weight of Malory's p r a i s e on her b e h a l f , and c e r t a i n l y she i s l o y a l and courageous duri n g Mordred's i n s u r r e c t i o n when she f l e e s t o the Tower and withstands a siege r a t h e r than g i v e h e r s e l f up to the usurper. Often petulant, jealous and s p i t e f u l i n the s t y l e of grand and passionate l a d i e s , she nevertheless commands respect and admiration. The handsome and famous Lan c e l o t i s faced w i t h many f u r t h e r t r i a l s of t h e " f l e s h during h i s adventures as a k n i g h t - e r r a n t . When f o u r l e e r i n g enchantresses capture him and t h r e a t e n death 16. Morte Darthur, ( X V I I I , 2 5 ) . 1 7 . App, op. c i t . , p. 8 5 . 18. Morte Darthur, (XXI, 9 ) . 25 unless he chooses one of them as h i s paramour, he r e j e c t s t h e i r t h r e a t s and t h e i r j e a l o u s i n s u l t s t o Guinevere: 'This i s an harde case,' seyde s i r Launcelot, 'that other I muste dye other to chose one of you. Yet had I l e v e r dye i n t h i s preson w i t h worshyp than to have one of you to my peramoure, magre myne hede. And t h e r e f o r e ye be answeryd: I w o l l none of you, f o r ye be f a l s e ehchauntresses. And as f o r my l a d y , dame Gwenyvere, were I at my l y b e r t e as 1 was, I wolde prove h i t on youres t h a t she i s the treweste l a d y unto h i r l o r d e lyvynge.'^ L a n c e l o t ' s anger and h o r r o r when he d i s c o v e r s t h a t Dame B r i s e n has t r i c k e d him i n t o the b e g e t t i n g of Galahad w i t h E l a i n e are evidence of h i s d e s i r e f o r complete f i d e l i t y . I n the convent at Almsbury during t h e i r f i n a l p a r t i n g , Guinevere encourages Lancelot to go t o France, take a w i f e , and l i v e w i t h her i n joy and b l i s s ; but he r e f u s e s because he has promised never to be f a l s e t o her. He w i l l r a t h e r accept the same f a t e as she does by becoming a r e c l u s e to h e a l h i s s o u l . When T r i s t r a m leaves Isoud of I r e l a n d and marries Isoud of the White Hands i n B r i t t a n y , Lancelot i s enraged. I t i s cer-t a i n l y more d i f f i c u l t f o r a modern reader to sympathize w i t h h i s anger, but h i s i n d i g n a t i o n i s p e r f e c t l y n a t u r a l f o r the i d e a l c o u r t l y l o v e r . Gnce a man has committed hi m s e l f to one l a d y , be she married or s i n g l e , he must be l o y a l u n t i l r e j e c t e d . That T r i s t r a m leaves an a d u l t e r y f o r a marriage does not excuse him i n the eyes of L a n c e l o t : 'Fye uppon hym, untrew knyght to h i s l a d y I That .so noble a knyght as s i r Tristrames i s sholde be founde to h i s f y r s t l a d y and l o v e untrew, t h a t i s the quene of Cornwaylel But sey ye t o hym thus,' seyde s i r Launcelot, 'that of a l l knyghtes i n 19. Morte Darthur, ( V I , 3 ) . 26 the worlde I have loved hym moost and had moost joye of hym, and a l l was f o r h i s noble dedys. And l e t t e hym wete th a t the l o v e betwene hym and me i s done f o r ever, and t h a t I g y f f hym warnyng: from t h i s day f p r t h e I w o l l be h i s ^ m o r t a l l enemy.' 2Q A c t u a l l y , on h i s wedding night T r i s t r a m had remembered Isoud of I r e l a n d , and had taken no pleasure w i t h h i s w i f e but "clyppyng and kyssyng." He l a t e r e x p l a i n s t h i s t o L a n c e l o t , begging h i s pardon, and the i n c i d e n t i s f o r g i v e n . While i t i s t r u e t h a t the i m m o r a l i t y of c o u r t l y love i s l e s s o b j e c t i o n a b l e t o the G a l l i c than to the B r i t i s h temperament, Malory was not the o n l y prominent E n g l i s h w r i t e r to admire i t s s t r e s s on f i d e l i t y . The i l l i c i t l ove i n Chaucer's T r o i l u s and Criseyde i s not t r e a t e d as a crime; the c a p i t a l s i n of the s t o r y i s Criseyde's i n f i d e l i t y t o her oath of l o y a l t y to her l o v e r . What Malory c a l l e d " s t a b y l y t e " , Chaucer termed " s t e d f a s t n e s s e " , and many of h i s s h o r t l y r i c s bemoan i t s absence i n E n g l i s h soc-, i e t y a century before Malory. Indeed, even i n the enlightened t w e n t i e t h century,are found those who w i l l excuse p h i l a n d e r i n g on the grounds of f i d e l i t y : And i n our own country today, i f t h e r e i s t o be love outside marriage, steady f a i t h f u l n e s s to one person puts i t i n an e n t i r e l y d i f f e r e n t category from t h a t of p r o m i s c u i t y . Though i n both cases i t may be s i n f u l , the f i r s t i s , a t l e a s t i n one of mature y e a r s , the more r e s p e c t a b l e . 2 ^ Whether Malory would have agreed t h a t age has anything to do w i t h i t , i s hard to say. 20. Morte Darthur, ( V I I I , 36).:, 21. R.T. Davies, "Malory's Lancelot and the Noble Way of the World, Review of E n g l i s h S t u d i e s , V I , 1955, p. 463. 2 7 I f i t i s remembered, f i n a l l y , that' the code of courtly love, which was f i r s t responsible f o r the creation of Lancelot as lover of the queen, defined " f i d e l i t y " i n love i n a rather s p e c i a l i z e d way, one of the major paradoxes of the Morte Darthur can be r e s o l -ved, Lancelot repeatedly protests that Guinevere i s " f a y t h f u l l unto h i r lorde." How, many c r i t i c s have asked, can a man who i s ostensibly the epitome of c h i v a l r y t e l l such bare-faced l i e s about what i s obviously a carnal relationship? And i s i t not a l u d i -crous lack of consistency i n characterization when Malory allows some of the h o l i e s t members of the Round Table to side with Lance-l o t , and even to o f f e r t h e i r a i d i n promoting the a f f a i r ? Normally f i d e l i t y i n marriage implies l o y a l t y to the part-ner, and a denial of a l l promiscuous behavior. Under courtly love, however, to take a single lover was acceptable, and was 22 not r e a l l y adultery. When judged by twentieth century standards, Lancelot i s a l i a r ; when judged by the standards of cou r t l y love, which strongly influenced the morality of Malory's sources, Lancelot speaks the t r u t h . Such t e c h n i c a l i t i e s are not necessary to explain why so many of the noblest k n i g h t s - ~ S i r Bors, f o r instance side with Lancelot a f t e r he f l e e s from court. To the conventional chiv-a l r i c l o y a l t i e s to God, the King, and the lady might be added a fourth f i d e l i t y to a f r i e n d , to a comrade. These men were c h i e f l y warriors who admired co urage and hardihood before any-thing e l s e ; when faced with a man l i k e Lancelot, a l i t t l e weak-ness of the f l e s h would not be enough to lessen t h e i r admiration and love f o r h i s s u p e r i o r i t y i n every other capacity. Hut t h i s 2 2 . A.J. Denomy, "Courtly Love and Courtliness,"., Speculum. IXVII. 1953. P. 154. 28 does not e x p l a i n why a h o l y knight l i k e S i r Bors, one of the few granted a glimpse of the Holy G r a i l , should countenance and a i d the a d u l t e r y . A f r a i d of s c a n d a l , Lancelot t r i e s t o a v o i d the company of Guinevere, who accuses him of i n f i d e l i t y and orders him from the c o u r t ; L a n c e l o t turns to S i r Bors, who promises to help him t o r e g a i n h i s lady's f a v o r . ^ The answer again i s simply t h a t , i n terms, of the c o u r t l y code, there never was any a d u l t e r y . I t would c e r t a i n l y be an e r r o r t o c a l l the adulterous t r i a n g l e i n the Morte Darthur a t r a d i t i o n a l c o u r t l y romance. Although he o b v i o u s l y admires the f i d e l i t y of the l o v e , and the c h i v a l r i c q u a l i t i e s of L a n c e l o t , Malory i s s t r o n g l y i n f l u e n c e d by the m o r a l i t y o f h i s age.to l a y s p e c i a l s t r e s s on the e s s e n t i a l g u i l t of the l o v e r s , p a r t i c u l a r l y on the remorse of Lancelot t h a t f i r s t appears when he undertakes the G r a i l quest. Malory under-l i n e s the moral g u i l t i n a v a r i e t y of ways: Lancelot's s e l f -a c c u s a t i o n s , the s c o l d i n g s of the h o l y hermits, the warnings of supernatural v o i c e s , Lancelot's f a i l u r e to achieve the G r a i l , and h i s admitted i n f e r i o r i t y to Galahad as the g r e a t e s t knight i n the world. When h i s quest seems t o be v a i n , Landelot confesses to a , hermit: 'And a l l my grete dedis of armys t h a t I have done f o r the moste p a r t y was f o r the quenys sake, and f o r h i r sake wolde I do batayle...And never dud I batayle a l l only f o r Goddis sake, but f o r to wynne worship and to cause me the b e t t i r t o be beloved, and l i t i l l or nought I thanked never God of h i t . ' .*4 23. Morte Darthur. ( X V I I I , 2) . 24. I b i d . , ( X I I I , 20). 29 He i s human and honest when he admits that 'My synne and my wyckedness hath brought me unto grete dishonoured For whan I sought worldly ad-ventures f o r worldely desyres I ever, encheved them and had the b e t t i r i n every place...And , . now I take uppon me the adventures to seke of holy thynges, now I se and undirstonde that myne olde synne hyndryth me and shamyth me, that I had no power to s t i r r e nother speke • whan the holy bloode appered before me.'^^ In h i s despair Lancelot complains of his s p i r i t u a l barren-ness to another holy, man, who i s frank i n reply: . '...there i s no knyght now lyvynge that ought to yelde God so grete thanke os ye, f o r He hath yevyn you beaute, bownte, semelynes, and grete strengthe over a l l other knyghtes• And therefore ye ar the more beholdyn unto God than ony other man to love Hym and drede Hym, f o r youre stren-gthen and your manhode woll l i t i l l avayle you and God be agaynste you.' 2 o Shortly Lancelot hears a voice i n the a i r describing him as ".•.more harder than ys the stone, and more b i t t e r than ys the woode, and more naked and barer than ys the l y e f f of the fygge-t r e . " This i s harsh c r i t i c i s m f o r a man who has experienced no-thing but praise throughout h i s l i f e , but he su bmits meekly because he i s honest enough to admit that the immorality of an a r t i f i c i a l courtly code i s a l i e n to pure C h r i s t i a n i t y . Malory places further emphasis on the one moral flaw i n the character of his protagonist by devoting considerable space to the g l o r i e s of Galahad, who i s allowed to displace his father as the greatest knight i n the world. Galahad i s probably not p h y s i c a l l y superior, but he i s able to defeat Lancelot i n a 25. Morte Darthur. (XIII, 19). 26. I b i d . . (XIII, 19). 30 j o u s t because of h i s p u r i t y of s o u l , Lancelot accepts even.this ' 27 ' shame w i t h p e r f e c t h u m i l i t y , ' That Malory was a t t r a c t e d t o the s p i r i t u a l l y chastened Lance-l o t i s evident i n h i s r e l u c t a n c e t o resume the main story, of a d u l t e r y a f t e r the r e t u r n of the knights t o Camelot, With an unusual concern f o r c r e d i t i n g h i s sources, i n the two sentences d e s c r i b i n g the resumption of the passion a t the beginning of Book X V I I I he t w i c e adds, "as the booke seyth"; perhaps t h i s i s c o i n c i d e n c e , but i t seems more l i k e l y t hat Malory e i t h e r wants to make i t c l e a r t h a t t h i s i s not h i s s t o r y , or intends t o suggest s u b t l y t h a t h i s sources may have e r r e d , Malory, remem-ber,' b e l i e v e d i n the. h i s t o r i c a l t r u t h of most of what he com-p i l e d , and f r e q u e n t l y when an event placed too great a s t r a i n on c r e d u l i t y , he r e s o r t e d t o "as the booke seyth," as a s o r t of crude f o o t n o t e . Probably h i s love of c h i v a l r y and h i s b e l i e f : i n c o n v e n t i o n a l m o r a l i t y made the s p i r i t u a l r e l a p s e of Lancelot a sad occasion indeed. , The i n f l u e n c e of what was s t i l l e s s e n t i a l l y an Age of F a i t h i s evident i n the l a r g e amount of space t h a t Malory devotes to the s p i r i t u a l r e generation theme of the G r a i l quest. That Malory was a t t r a c t e d toward mysticism i s a d i r e c t r e f l e c t i o n of the 27. App's determined attempt to defame Malory's Lancelot as a : c o n c e i t e d , h y p o c r i t i c a l s e n s u a l i s t leads him i n t o a blunder ;; i n t h i s connection. When Galahad i s a b l e t o p u l l the sword out of the stone because he i s purest of a l l k n i g h t s , a woman t e l l s Lancelot t h a t he i s no longer the best k n i g h t i n the world. "I know w e l l I was never the beste," he r e p l i e s . App says t h i s i s f a l s e h u m i l i t y because i n (XX, 17) L a n c e l o t says he can defeat anybody, and rehearses h i s past deeds. Obviously L a n c e l o t uses "best" i n the s p i r i t u a l sense, not the p h y s i c a l , but App chooses to ignore t h i s d i s t i n c t i o n i n h i s eagerness to support h i s extremely unorthodox i n t e r -. p r e t a t i b n of the c h a r a c t e r . 31 C h r i s t i a n c i v i l i z a t i o n i n which he l i v e d . This emphasis i s even of greater s i g n i f i c a n c e when one notes that the other three Arthurian works under consideration give s l i g h t attention to t h i s major i n t e r e s t of Malory. Vida Scudder suggests why t h i s i s so: During the centuries of reaction a f t e r the Renascence, as the desire grew to penetrate Nature's secrets instead of scorning them, mediaeval mysticism ceased to make any appeal. Even the romantic r e v i v a l ignored i t , and people who delight i n the p i c t u r -esqueness of the Middle Ages, as shown by Scott or William Morris, would yet turn with contempt from t a l e s of contemplatives i n t h e i r rapts or ascetics i n t h e i r agonies...Our distaste f o r asceticism i s a cause of our f a i l u r e to under-stand with sympathy the more mystical phases of mediaeval imagination a f a i l u r e conspicuous i n the work of some Arthurian scholars. 2g Most judgments on the philosophy and intent of Malory i n his Morte Darthur must necessarily be tentative. His work was b a s i c a l l y t r a n s l a t i o n , and no matter how free or s e l e c t i v e such t r a n s l a t i o n i s , i t i s unjust and u n f a i r to hold the t r a n s l a t o r as responsible f o r the r e s u l t s as he would be i f he were creating o r i g i n a l material. Unhappily, none of Malory's other writing i s a v a i l a b l e as a basis f o r comparison. I t i s also u n r e a l i s t i c to seek complete consistency i n the characters, who are derived from a semi-barbarous C e l t i c myth-ology, refined by the influences of chivalr y and courtly love, and chronicled much l a t e r by a man l i v i n g when the values on which the s t o r i e s were based were i n e c l i p s e . Each stage of the development of the Arthuriad up to Malory's time l e f t i t s pec u l i a r stamp, and Malory was sometimes unable to reconcile the differences. A student of the Morte Darthur must give d e t a i l s 26*. Vida Scudder, The Morte Darthur of S i r Thomas Malory. London, Dent, 1921, p. 260. "~ " : 32 only the attention they deserve, and must look for general trends of emphasis that roughly indicate how t h i s fifteenth century knight was influenced by his background to assemble the many strands of the legend into a work of interest and significance to his age. 33 CHAPTER I I I SURVEY: MALORY TO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY Not a s i n g l e piece of f i r s t r a t e w r i t i n g i n E n g l i s h on any aspect of the A r t h u r i a n legend was produced i n the f o u r hun-dred years between Malory and Tennyson. 1 I n a m a j o r i t y of the treatments Lancelot and Guinevere appear only i n c i d e n t a l l y , o f t e n not a t a l l . They are r a r e l y l o v e r s , because the romantic t r a -d i t i o n of the French romances, adopted by Malory, s u f f e r e d a prolonged e c l i p s e i n p o p u l a r i t y i n f a v o r of the p s e u d o - h i s t o r i c a l v e r s i o n of Geoffrey of Monmouth. Perhaps i t was an i n c r e a s i n g l y s t r o n g n a t i o n a l p r i d e t h a t chose to d e p i c t Arthur as a noble and v i c t o r i o u s B r i t i s h monarch, and not as the deceived husband, a p e r e n n i a l object of comedy. Malory, indeed, compiled h i s master-piece almost too l a t e , as i s evidenced by h i s d e s i r e t o remind h i s contemporaries of the f o r g o t t e n i d e a l s of c h i v a l r y , and on the h o r i z o n were the Renaissance, w i t h i t s r e v i v a l of c l a s s i c a l l e a r n i n g , and the Reformation w i t h i t s m i l i t a n t f e r v o r f o r r e l -i g i o u s independence. Both were developments a l i e n t o f e u d a l c h i v a l r y and humble mystic d e v o t i o n , two of the basic elements of the A r t h u r i a d . The mist was t h i c k e n i n g over the v a l e s of Avaloh. 1 . Spenser's F a e r i e Queehe can not p r o p e r l y be considered as d e a l i n g w i t h the A r t h u r i a d . Although i t i s a romance of c h i v a l r y , and employs some f a m i l i a r A r t h u r i a n names, i t does not attempt to t e l l any of the t r a d i t i o n a l s t o r y . 34 Before the work of Tennyson, Robinson and White i s c o n s i -dered i n d e t a i l , i t i s necessary to review the A r t h u r i a n w r i t i n g s between Malory and the t w e n t i e t h century which i n v o l v e the a d u l t e r y . 3 A fragmentary. S c o t t i s h m e t r i c a l romance, Lancelot of the L a i k , ' a loose paraphrase of the f i r s t t hree volumes of the French prose L a n c e l o t , i s contemporary w i t h Malory. I t s main i n t e r e s t l i e s i n i t s d e s c r i p t i o n of Lancelot's i n i t i a l meeting w i t h Guinevere, an episode ignored by Malory. While r i d i n g t o help Arthur i n a l o c a l war, Lancelot sees the queen l o o k i n g down from a parapet, -and i s stunned by her beauty. He s t r i v e s i n every way t o please her, even t o the po i n t o f r e f u s i n g to help the k i n g u n t i l she bids him do so. Perhaps i t i s w e l l t h a t the p a i r have t h e i r b r i e f happiness, f o r i t w i l l be a long time before authors w i l l again permit them t o l o v e . How d i s t a s t e f u l , w a s the a d u l t e r y theme to the generations a f t e r Malory i s seen i n John Leland's A s s e r t i o I n c l y t i s s i m i 4 A r t u r i i Regis. P u b l i s h e d i n 1554 i t o f f e r s v a r i o u s proofs o f the e x i s t e n c e of an h i s t o r i c a l Arthur. Leland says t h a t "Guen-hera" was c e r t a i n l y b e a u t i f u l , and wishes t h a t he could honestly spare "the impayred honor and fame of noble women," but " h i s t o r i e pluckes him by the eare," and he must f a i t h f u l l y r e p o r t what the Auncient Authors have s a i d of her l a c k of c h a s t i t y and her c a r n a l knowledge w i t h Mordred the P i c t . Leland i s , of course, r e f e r r i n g to the p s e u d o - h i s t o r i c a l A r t h u r , not to the l a t e r v e r s i o n s of French romance. 2. Some major A r t h u r i a n authors, notably Charles W i l l i a m s and C S . Lewis, are omitted, s i n c e t h e i r work does not concern the a d u l t e r y . 3 . W.W. Skeat, ed., London, Trubner & Co., I865. 4. John Leland,. The A s s e r t i o n of Arthur, t r a n s l . R ichard Robinson, London, Oxford U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s , 1925• 35 Leland knew of L a n c e l o t , who i s described as the king's warmest and t r u e s t f r i e n d , and i t i s i r o n i c t h a t the author n a i v e l y uses the knight t o cast doubt on Guinevere's r e p u t a t i o n f o r i n f i d e l i t y w i t h Mordred. L a n c e l o t , says Leland, b u r i e d the dead Guinevere near Arthur's grave: would he have done t h i s i f she was an a d u l t r e s s ? I t seems i n c r e d i b l e t h a t Leland would be ignorant of Lancelot's r o l e i n the French romances and i n Malory; i f he was f a m i l i a r w i t h i t , he should have had b e t t e r judgment than to present Lancelot as evidence of her f i d e l i t y . I n any case, the A s s e r t i o was designed to whitewash the r e p u t a t i o n of the h i s t o r i c a l Arthur and h i s c o u r t . The r e a c t i o n a g a i n s t romance i n the l a s t h a l f of the s i x -teenth century i s evident i n Roger Ascham's d i s g u s t i n h i s Scholemaster (1570). Because he o b v i o u s l y has no t r u e under-standing of the s p i r i t of medieval romance, Ascham i s completely r e v o l t e d by Malory's Morte Darthur, which i s based on ...slaughter and b o l d bawdrye; i n which booke those be counted the noblest knightes t h a t do k i l l t)\ the most men without any q u a r r e l l , and commit fo w l e s t a d o u l t e r i e s by s u t l e s t s h i f t e s . 5 Only one other author of note has chosen to t r e a t the legend i n the b i t t e r s$>irit of Ascham; there was, however, a quick a n t i -dote f o r Mark Twain's venom i n the poetry of Edwin A r l i n g t o n Robinson. Unhappily, there was not anyone to answer Ascham. The only p l a y on the A r t h u r i a n theme produced by the E l i z -abethan t h e a t r e was Thomas Hughes' The M i s f o r t u n e s of A r t h u r , a Senecan tragedy acted before the Queen i n 15^7* The author r e v e r t s to the v e r s i o n of Geoffrey and the e a r l y E n g l i s h romances. 5. Roger Ascham, The Scholemaster, ed. Edward Arber, London, 1&70, p. 80. 36 Mordred, the son of Arthur by h i s h a l f - s i s t e r , i s the l o v e r of a f a i t h l e s s Guinevere, who gives f u l l support t o the coup of Mordred during Arthur's absence on the Roman campaign, Arthur i s the u s u a l h e r o i c k i n g , but has no Lanc e l o t to help him. Why Shakespeare ignored the s t o r y i s a major puzzle t o A r t h u r i a n s c h o l a r s . He most c e r t a i n l y must have known the legend — t h e r e were, f o r i n s t a n c e , s i x e d i t i o n s of Malory between 14^ 5 and 1634—-and Spenser's F a e r i e Queene. although o n l y remotely connected w i t h the t r u e A r t h u r i a d , a t l e a s t employed the name and a s i m i l i a r romantic s e t t i n g . Shakespeare was c e r t a i n l y a t t r a c t e d by the concept of k i n g s h i p , and the excuse t h a t Arthur was too remote and vague a monarch f o r h i s t a s t e seems r a t h e r weak. Conjecture, however, i s f r u i t l e s s , f o r Shakespeare, u n l i k e M i l t o n , l e f t p o s t e r i t y no h i n t s of h i s reasons f o r s i l e n c e . I n . h i s F a e r i e Queene Spenser returned t o the age of k n i g h t -hood and c h i v a l r y , and borrowed the name of Arthur w i t h i t s r i c h overtones, but he i n no way attempted to r e c o n s t r u c t the genuine legend. P r i n c e A r t h u r , u n l i k e the s l i g h t l y blemished k i n g of Malory, i s a p e r f e c t l y i d e a l i z e d f i g u r e who o c c a s i o n a l l y takes time out from h i s search f o r the Queen of F a i r y l a n d to render some v a l u a b l e s e r v i c e to someone i n t r o u b l e - — r a t h e r l i k e a med-i e v a l deus ex machina. Speanser intended t o i n s t r u c t , t o mor-a l i z e , t o improve h i s readers through the use of a l l e g o r y . Arthur i s , i r o n i c a l l y , found defending p r o t e s t a n t i s m against the o l d church, whose t r a d i t i o n a l champion he had always been: 6. App, oj>. c i t . , p. 39. . 37 •..we may see t h a t , i n s p i t e of the author's g l o r i f i c a t i o n of o l d and dead i d e a l s , he i s too much a c h i l d of h i s own time not t o make h i s hero i n h i s d o c t r i n e s and maxims an E l i z -abethan nobleman.y I t i s Spenser's avoidance of the a d u l t e r y theme r a t h e r than h i s treatment of i t t h a t i s of i n t e r e s t i n a survey of the E n g l i s h A r t h u r i a d . The a l l e g o r y a b s o l u t e l y prevented Spenser from b o r r -owing much more than Arthur's name and f o r c e d him, by the way, to demote the k i n g t o the s t a t u s of a p r i n c e i n order t o obscure f u r t h e r the a s s o c i a t i o n . Since i t was Spenser's de c l a r e d i n t e n t i o n t h a t the F a e r i e Queene, the o b j e c t of P r i n c e Arthur's l o v e , should represent Queen E l i z a b e t h , i t was o b v i o u s l y impossible t o i n t r o -duce Guinevere. T r a d i t i o n a l s o barred L a n c e l o t , f o r he would immediately be coupled w i t h the beloved of A r t h u r . One can imagine the i m p l i c a t i o n s , f o r i n s t a n c e , i f Tennyson had declared 8 t h a t h i s Arthur represented V i c t o r i a ' s P r i n c e Albert'. Christopher Middleton's H i s t o r y of Chinon of England, a prose romance pub l i s h e d i n 1597, does not d e a l w i t h the c e n t r a l A r t h u r -i a n tragedy, but i s of i n t e r e s t i n t h a t the author takes some freedoms w i t h the r o l e of L a n c e l o t , who has a chaste love f o r a v i r g i n maid, Laura, and has no connection w i t h Guinevere. Lancelot s u f f e r s from l o v e - s i c k n e s s i n the o l d c o u r t l y f a s h i o n , but otherwise i s c o n v e n t i o n a l l y brave, courageous and generous. He wins the g i r l , but she i s not h a l f so e x c i t i n g as the pass-i o n a t e queen of A r t h u r . 7. E l i s e Van der Ven-Ten B e n s e l , The Character of King Arthur  i n E n g l i s h L i t e r a t u r e . Amsterdam, H.J. P a r i s , 1925, p. 165. 8. Tennyson d i d , i n f a c t , a l l o w t h a t the v i r t u e s of Arthur were those of A l b e r t , but even then he was on d e l i c a t e ground. By the end of the f i r s t quarter of the seventeenth century, there were increasing doubts about the authenticity of the Matter of. B r i t a i n . In his Polyolbion (1622) Michael Drayton says that . . • o hi s age "scarce believes that Arthur ever was." I t was the beginning of the barren age i n Arthurian l i t e r a t u r e , whose themes and characters were a l i e n a l i k e to the standards of puritanism and the growing c l a s s i c i s m . The decay i n prestige which was to put the mystery and beauty of the myths and legends at a discount continued f o r well over a century, culminating i n Fielding's Tom Thumb i n the early eighteenth century. This was to be the point of lowest disgrace, a f t e r which Arthur would begin h i s preparations to return from Avalon once again to swell the hearts of the B r i t i s h people. There has always been profound regret among Arthurian sch-olars that i n the middle of his l i t e r a r y desert, Arthur just f a i l e d to win the grandest champion of them a l l . John Milton's consideration of the Arthuriad as a subject f o r an epic poem i s well known, c h i e f l y from h i s l i n e s at the beginning of Book IX of Paradise Lost: Since f i r s t t h i s subject f o r heroic song Pleased me, long choosing and beginning l a t e ; Not sedulous by nature to i n d i t e Wars, hitherto the only argument Heroic deem'd, ehief mast'ry to d i s s e c t With long and tedious havock fabled knights Or t i l t i n g f u r n i t u r e , amblazon'd s h i e l d s , Impresses quaint, caparisons arid steeds; Bases and t i n s e l trappings, gorgeous knights At joust and tournament. 9. Cited i n M.W. MacCallum, Tennyson's I d y l l s of the King  and the Arthurian Story from the XVI Century. Glasgow, James Macleohose & Sons, 1894, p. 62. 39 In h i s l i s t of p o t e n t i a l epic subjects he l i s t e d the Arthurian materials; that he was early attracted to them i s evidenced i n his "An Apology f o r Smectymnuus": Next,..that I may t e l l ye whether my younger feet wandre'd; I betook me among those l o f t y Fables and Romances, which recount i n solemne canto's the deeds of Knighthood founded by our v i c t o r i o u s Kings;,..There I read i t i n the oath of every Knight, that he should defend to the dxpence of his best blood...the honor and chastity of V i r g i n or Matron. From whence even then I.learnt what a noble vertue chastity sure must be,- to the defense of which so many worthies by such a deare adven-ture of themselves had sworne.-^ Was Milton, l i k e Ascham, shocked and repelled by such knights as Lancelot, Tristram and Gawain, who were not always f a i t h f u l to t h e i r oaths of chastity? Would be have roundly condemned the a f f a i r of Lancelot and Guinevere? Probably not. In his sole comment on the subject he sounds r e g r e t f u l and disappointed, l i k e Leland, that such admirable people should reveal any base-ness: And i f I found i n the story afterward any of them by word or deed breaking that oath, I judg'd i t the same f a u l t of the Poet, as that which i s a t t -ributed to Homer; to have written undecent things of the gods...So that even those books which to many others have bin the f u e l l of wantonnesse and loose l i v i n g , I cannot thinke how unlesse by divine indulgence prov'd to me so many incitements as you have heard, to the love and stedfast observation of that vertue which abhorres the society of Bor-d e l l o ' S.-Q In the l a s t decade of the century there were three attempts to resurrect the Arthuriad, a l l of.them miserable f a i l u r e s be-cause of the wide divergence between the standards of the Augus-tan Age the the s p i r i t of medieval romance. The f i r s t was Dryden's pastoral opera King Arthur, produced i n 1691, followed 10. John Milton. The Complete Prose Works. Yale Uni v e r s i t y Press, 1953, v o l . I, p. 891. 11. I b i d . . p. 891. 40 by S i r Richard Blackmore's two lengthy e p i c s i n c o u p l e t s , P r i n c e Arthur (1693) and King Arthur (1697). Dryden at f i r s t considered an epic treatment of the m a t e r i a l , but s e t t l e d f o r what i s now an obscure l i g h t opera, f u l l of mel-odramatic e f f e c t s , i n c l u d i n g M e r l i n i n a f l y i n g c h a r i o t p u l l e d 12 by dragons and attended by s p i r i t s . F u l l of p r e t t y c o n c e i t s and.conventional wordplay, the piece borrows l i t t l e more than the A r t h u r i a n names.^ There i s some s l i g h t i n t e r e s t , however, i n Dryden 1s treatment of A r t h u r , who i s described as " v o i d of a l l . . . f a u l t s , " and who f o r g i v e s "as a f o r & i v i n g God." 1^ Such comparisons w i t h the Almighty were t o be made by Tennyson i n h i s famous i d e a l i z a t i o n of A r thur. Furthermore, Arthur t e l l s the abductor, Oswald, t h a t f o r c e w i l l not win a maiden: "You should have made a conquest of her mind," he says, which i s c e r t a i n l y a more modern philosophy than t h a t of Tennyson's Ar t h u r , who takes i t f o r granted t h a t Guinevere loves him without ever seeing him. 12. John Dryden, The Dramatic Works, ed. Montague Summers, London, Nonesuch P r e s s , 1932. 13. Over a century l a t e r a t r u e t r a d i t i o n a l i s t , S i r Walter S c o t t , had t h i s t o say about Dryden's c a v a l i e r handling of great names: Dryden i n immortal s t r a i n Had r a i s e d the Table Round again, But t h a t a r i b a l d k i n g and c o u r t , Bade him t o i l on t o make them s p o r t ; Demanded f o r t h e i r niggard pay, F i t f o r t h e i r loose s o u l s , a l o o s e r l a y . L i c e n t i o u s s a t i r e , song and p l a y , The world defrauded of the high d e s i g n , Profaned the God-given s t r e n g t h and marred the l o f t y l i n e . (Marmion: I n t r o . Canto I ) 14. r (Act I , scene 1). 41 The end of the seventeenth century was not a favorable period f o r a work of high imagination, and although Dryden had genius, . he was too much a c h i l d of the times.not to succumb to popular tastes. The influence of the age, however, did not deter S i r Richard Blackmore from producing two long, d u l l d i d a c t i c epics which enjoyed a c e r t a i n f l e e t i n g popularity but which now are 15 quite j u s t l y forgotten. Blackmore's poems are p o l i t i c a l allegory, celebrating the triumphs of the Revolution, and the achievements of the new king at home and abroad. Arthur i s William, who f i g h t s Octa the Saxon (James II) and Clotar the Frank (Louis XIV) and marries the Saxon Princess Ethelina" (Mary). The Christians are the Protestants, the pagans are Catholics. Because of the allegory Blackmore i s forced to depart r a d i c a l l y from the t r a d i t i o n a l story: he obviously cannot have any adul-tery, and indeed must e n t i r e l y omit such key figures as Guin-evere, Lancelot and Mordred. As evidence that the r a t i o n a l i s t i c temper of the early eighteenth century p r a c t i c a l l y d i s q u a l i f i e d contemporary wri-ters from dealing with romantic themes, Henry Fiel d i n g ' s The Tragedy of Tragedies or The L i f e and Death of Tom Thumb  the Great (1731) w i l l serve. The play i s a mock-heroic tragedy, a travesty of current high dramatic s t y l e , and f a i n t l y resembles the o r i g i n a l Arthuriad. Arthur's wife i s D o l l a l o l l a , his f i r s t lieutenant Tom Thumb, the t i n y hero of juvenile f i c t i o n . Arthur loves a captive giantess, while h i s queen desires amours with 15. Cited i n MacCallum, op_. c i t . . p. 153. 42 Tom. I t i s amusing f a r c e , but Arthur's boorishness, h i s Queen's s t u p i d i t y , the suggestion of a p a r a l l e l between Tom and L a n c e l o t arid the crude l i c e n t i o u s n e s s of everyone concerned i s a f a r c r y from the noble s p i r i t of Malory. Perhaps MacCallum most e f f e c t i v e l y sums up the a n t i t h e s i s between romance and the N e o - C l a s s i c a l p e r i o d : I t was an age of prose, which e x a l t e d common sense as the i d o l of c u l t u r e , and p a i d no great heed to the s p i r i t u a l or the picturesque. Hence ev e r y t h i n g w i t h the cachet of the Middle Ages was remote from i t s sympathies. Their dim r e l i g i o u s h a l f - l i g h t s were y i e l d i n g to a g l a r e of I l l u m i n a t i o n . Gothic, the d e s c r i p t i o n of t h e i r noble a r c h i t e c t u r e , had the secondary meaning of barbarous, and romantic was used as a term of reproach...The p i t y and t e r r o r of Arthur's story...would have been as uncongenial i n the saeculum r a t i o n a l i s t i c u m as the apparation of E a r l G o r l o i s * ghost i n a company o of bewigged and bepowdered beaux. The t y p i c a l hero of imaginative f i c t i o n i s not now King Arthur but Tom Jones...It seems n a t u r a l t h a t t o such a time, on account of i t s strengths no l e s s than of i t s weakness, the personages of A r t h u r i a n t r a -d i t i o n , i f they were r e c a l l e d a t a l l , should pre-sent themselves i n a l u d i c r o u s l i g h t . ^ A f t e r F i e l d i n g there was nowhere f o r the A r t h u r i a n legend to go. but up, and indeed the gradual movement away from an a r t i -f i c i a l and u n n a t u r a l c l a s s i c i s m , so at odds w i t h the romantic E n g l i s h temper, boded w e l l f o r Arthur and h i s k n i g h t s . In 1776 W i l l i a m H i l t o n produced an i n d i f f e r e n t tragedy, A r t h u r , Monarch  of the B r i t o n s , which i n s p i t e of i t s l a c k of merit was s i g n i -f i c a n t i n i t s f i d e l i t y t o the o r i g i n a l s t o r y of G e o f f r e y . ^ . A f t e r a long absence, Guinevere reappears as Mordred's l o v e r . Richard Hole i n 17^9 f i n i s h e d a p o e t i c a l romance, Arthur. or 16. MacCallum. op. c i t . , pp. 160-61. . 17. C i t e d i n MacCallum, op_. c i t . , p. I 6 3 . 43 The Northern Enchantment, 1 8 which i s unusual i n that Lancelot i s depicted as the commander of the B r i t i s h forces and dear f r i e n d of Arthur but before Arthur has yet won h i s kingdom. Naturally, Guinevere i s absent, so Hole has no adultery to man-age; however, there i s a renewed reverence f o r the t r a d i t i o n -a l l y elevated positions and noble p e r s o n a l i t i e s of the p r i n c i p a l f i g u r e s . By the beginning of the nineteenth century Arthurian s t o r i e s were again well established as legitimate subject matter. Hence-f o r t h writers were usually to show considerable respect f o r the incidents and s p i r i t of the ancient legends, to seek i n them a deeper lesson f o r t h e i r own times, and to make greater e f f o r t s to get at the motives of the characters. The f i r s t major poet of the romantic age to tre a t the Arthuriad, however, belies t h i s judgment; S i r Walter Scott, i n h i s The B r i d a l of Triermain (1813), takes r a d i c a l freedoms with the story. The B r i d a l of Triermain i s a rather incongruous potpourri of the Arthuriad and the Sleeping Beauty legend. Scott wants an explanation f o r the long sleep of the heroine Gyneth, so he u t i l i z e s Arthur and his court, p a r t i c u l a r l y the enchantments of Merlin . Arthur leaves h i s court i n search of adventure, because he loves the "crash of a foeman's spear" better than the perfumed bowers of Guinevere: And the frank-hearted Monarch f u l l l i t t l e did wot That she smiled, i n his absence, on brave L a n c e l o t . 2 Q The king i s ingenuous as ever about the passion of his wife and 18. Cited i n MacCallum, o_p_. c i t . , p. 164. 19. S i r Walter Scott, P o e t i c a l Works, ed. J.L. Robertson, Oxford E d i t i o n , 1904. 20. The B r i d a l of Triermain, (Canto I, x i ) . c h i e f k n i g h t , but any i n d i g n a t i o n of the reader over the decep-t i o n i s q u i c k l y d i s p e l l e d when Arthur comes t o the c a s t l e of the seductive w i t c h Gwendolen, who f i n d s Arthur w i l l i n g to go t o bed w i t h almost indecent haste. He d a i l i e s f o r some weeks: He t h i n k s not of the Table Round; I n l a w l e s s l o v e d i s s o l v e d h i s l i f e , He t h i n k s not of h i s beauteous wife.21 Guendolen has done what b e a u t i f u l Guinevere could not do: make Arth u r f o r g e t the heathen crests-and pagan swords and be content w i t h her brown t r e s s e s and perfumed bosom. He f i n a l l y comes to h i s senses and leaves the pregnant w i t c h , r a s h l y promising t h a t i f the c h i l d i s a son he w i l l i n h e r i t the kingdom, i f a g i r l she w i l l marry the f i n e s t knight i n a Round Table tournament. Many years l a t e r , Gyneth, the f r u i t of the union, appears before Arthur and a l l h i s _cburt t o ask the King to make good h i s promise. He i s not i n the l e a s t embarrassed, but proudly pro-claims her. as h i s bastard daughter: Then, conscious, glanced upon h i s queen: But she, u n r u f f l e d at the scene, Of human f r a i l t y construed m i l d , Look 1d upon Lancelot and smiled.22 The Queen i s t o l e r a n t ; she understands human weakness. I t i s f u r t h e r evident t h a t S c o t t ' s Guinevere i s r a t h e r smug and con-descending when she d i s c o v e r s her husband's i n f i d e l i t y . She.is c e r t a i n l y not angry, but r a t h e r r e l i e v e d t o f i n d mutual g u i l t . No doubt i n the f u t u r e her- glances at Lancelot w i l l be f a r l e s s f u r t i v e . ' . T h i s A r t h u r i a n segment i n the B r i d a l i s b a s i c a l l y the o l d s t o r y of past s i n s r e t u r n i n g t o e x t r a c t r e t r i b u t i v e j u s t i c e . 21. The B r i d a l of Triermain. (Canto I I . i i ) . 22. I b i d . , (Canto I I , x v ) . 45 I t s main i n t e r e s t l i e s i n S c o t t ' s handling of the a d u l t e r y r e l -a t i o n s h i p ; Arthur i s no longer the wronged husband, but a l u s t y w a r r i o r who surrenders r a t h e r too q u i c k l y i n temptation, and who l a t e r i s r a t h e r proud, not a p o l o g e t i c , when h i s s i n i s re v e a l e d . From the great Romantic poets, who would be expected to breathe new v i g o u r i n t o the legends, p r a c t i c a l l y nothing i s heard. Co l e r i d g e thought t h a t the legend would be a p r o f i t a b l e source 23 f o r a great n a t i o n a l e p i c , but d i d not d e a l w i t h i t h i m s e l f ; n e i t h e r d i d Byron, S h e l l e y or Keats. I n h i s d e c l i n i n g years Wordsworth brushed the m a t e r i a l i n h i s The Egyptian Maid (1S30), t e l l i n g the s t o r y of a drowned maid touched by a s e r i e s of knights who seek a s i g n from God to i n d i c a t e who w i l l r e s u r r e c t and marry her. S e v e r a l f a i l before Lancelot makes the attempt: from Heaven's grace A s i g n he craved, t i r e d slave of v a i n c o n t r i t i o n ; The r o y a l Guinever looked passing g l a d When h i s touch f a i l e d . E v i d e n t l y Wordsworth thought of Lan c e l o t as plagued by a con-science too weak t o break the bonds of the f l e s h , and of Guin-evere as a proud queen jealous of her h o l d over him. Maynadier 2^ suggests t h a t perhaps the great Romantics di d not w r i t e on the legend because i t was by then v i r t u a l l y unknown, and i t s p o p u l a r i t y as a theme was not proved. There are two immediate o b j e c t i o n s t o t h i s judgment; f i r s t , i t creates a r a t h e r absurd p i c t u r e o f the p o e t i c genius of the age s i t t i n g around wondering what would s e l l q u i c k e s t on the current market, and a f r a i d to experiment i n case the grocery b i l l s should go unpaid. Second, t h a t there were two e d i t i o n s of Malory i n 18:16, 23. Henry A l f o r d , "The I d y l l s of the King," The Contemporary Review, January, I876. 24. Mayhadier, op. c i t . , p. 343. 46 and a t h i r d e d i t e d by Southey i n 1817 i s ample evidence t h a t the s t o r i e s enjoyed some p o p u l a r i t y a t the time. Before Tennyson there are two treatments of the main a d u l -t e r y theme t h a t i n d i c a t e the growing d e l i c a c y of moral conscious-ness i n the nineteenth century. I n 1841 Reginald Heber's Morte  A r t h u r , an u n f i n i s h e d poem i n Spenserian stanzas, was p u b l i s h e d , and i n 1848 appeared Bulwer-Lytton's poem King A r t h u r . Both authors admire A r t h u r , who i s o b v i o u s l y the wronged p a r t y , but they a l s o f e e l the u s u a l a t t r a c t i o n f o r Lancelot and Guinevere. To accept the t r a d i t i o n a l s t o r y and s t i l l m aintain such sympa-thy f o r the a d u l t e r e r s would be contrary to conventional moral standards, so both authors c o n t r i v e r a t h e r f l i m s y extenuating circumstances. Heber d e p i c t s Guinevere as a country maid, not a king's daughter, who has f a l l e n i n l o v e w i t h L a n c e l o t , d i s -guised as a f o r e s t e r , long before her marriage t o Arthur; i n the meantime, Lancelot has disappeared and Guinevere has pre-sumed him dead. I t i s a c r u e l s t roke of fortune t h a t her f i r s t and o n l y r e a l l o v e should t u r n out to be her husband's best f r i e n d . Bulwer-Lytton i n g e n i o u s l y e x p l a i n s away the scandal by assuming t h a t there were two l a d i e s , beloved by Lancelot and Arthur r e s -p e c t i v e l y , c a l l e d Genevra and Genevieve;. i n other words, there i s r e a l l y no a d u l t e r y a t a l l I I t was Tennyson who f i n a l l y r e a l i z e d t h a t there i s no need to seek excuses f o r the immorality of the A r t h u r i a d . The ess-ence of the s t o r y i s how moral c o r r u p t i o n leads t o f i n a l tragedy and t o the s h a t t e r i n g of a\system b u i l t on the i d e a l i s t i c premise 25i C i t e d i n MacCallum, op_. c i t . , p. 1 8 2 . 2 6 . I b i d . , p. 1 8 3 . 47 that, human nature w i l l always s t r i v e f o r the Good i f i t i s pointed out: Tennyson.•.effected f i n a l l y the r e c o n c i l i a t i o n between the Lanc e l o t s t o r y and the modern moral consciousness...by p l a c i n g the f o l l o w i n g c o n d i t -i o n s : a great r e s i s t a n c e but a greater tempta-t i o n , a great s i n , but the s i n n e r ' s great remorse, the author's severe condemnation of the s i n , but understanding and sympathy f o r the sinner.2 7 Tennyson's I d y l l s of the King; was the f i r s t s i n c e r e attempt to d elve i n t o the psychology of the c h a r a c t e r s , to face t h e i r g u i l t squarely, and thus, by an examination of the motives and consequences, t o draw from the A r t h u r i a d some lessons f o r con-temporary man. Thiahas been the p a t t e r n of most major t r e a t -ments of the a d u l t e r y s i n c e Tennyson, a p e r i o d of s p l e n d i d f r u i t i o n f o r the A r t h u r i a n legend. The tremendous success of Tennyson's I d y l l s discouraged any f u r t h e r lengthy treatments i n the nineteen t h century of the cen-t r a l a d u l t e r y of the A r t h u r i a n legend. Authors turned r a t h e r to the T r i s t r a m and I s e u l t s t o r y , which Tennyson had not developed to any extent, or t o more minute a n a l y s i s of s i n g l e characters and episodes. A r t h u r remains a shadowy background f i g u r e , while Lancelot and Guinevere monopolize the a c t i o n . With the excep-t i o n of Swinburne, the general tendency was to recognize the g u i l t o f the adultery, and t o s o f t e n the judgment of the reader and to encourage h i s sympathy f o r the l o v e r s by s t r e s s i n g t h e i r remorseful awareness of g u i l t . E x c l u d i n g the T r i s t r a m - I s e u l t legend, the most famous poem on a genuine A r t h u r i a n theme i n the century i s W i l l i a m M o r r i s ' 27. Appv op., c i t . , p. 1168. 48 The Defence of Guenevere. which w i t h t y p i c a l Pre-Raphaelite f i d e l i t y to p i c t o r i a l and p s y c h o l o g i c a l d e t a i l , presants Guin-evere at the stake before her rescue by L a n c e l o t . In t h i s mod-i f i e d dramatic monologue, Guinevere, whose p e r s o n a l i t y through the c e n t u r i e s had been c o n v e n t i o n a l l y passionate, suddenly becomes an extremely i n t e r e s t i n g woman, weeping and even sweating i n her defiance and desperation. M o r r i s allows the Queen to excuse h e r s e l f by l e t t i n g her speak of her r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h Lancelot i n d e l i b e r a t e l y vague and ambiguous terms. Not once does she acknowledge a d u l t e r y , but t h e r e i s a t a c i t admission of g u i l t i n her d e f i a n t j u s t i -f i c a t i o n of her warm f r i e n d s h i p w i t h L a n c e l o t , who simply s u p p l i e d the f l a s h e s of warmth and c o l o r t h a t her marriage l a c k e d . She i s e s s e n t i a l l y the l o v e - s t a r v e d Guinevere of Tennyson when she complains: I was bought By Arthur's great name and h i s l i t t l e l o v e , and when she r e f e r s t o her wedding vows as a l i t t l e word Scarce ever meant at a l l . Her c o l d l i f e w i t h a k i n g who knows nothing about p l e a s i n g the d e l i c a t e t a s t e s of h i s w i f e i s suggested i n her w i s t f u l comment: For no man cares now t o know why I s i g h ; And no man comes to s i n g me pleasant l a y s , Nor any b r i n g s me the sweet flowers t h a t l i e So t h i c k i n the gardens. "King Arthur's Tomb," another l y r i c by M o r r i s , i s set at the Glastonbury convent d u r i n g the f i n a l meeting between Guin-evere and L a n c e l o t . Lancelot here i s , more sens u a l , and d e s i r e s a renewal of the a f f a i r , but the c o n s c i e n c e - s t r i c k e n queen r e -p e l s him; Lancelot remembers when he had k i s s e d her f e e t . 49 Guinevere desires to kiss the feet of Christ and humbly repent her s i n s . She fondly remembers Arthur as a noble king, but her mention of his "kingly k i s s " again suggests t h e i r passionless marriage. In " S i r Galahad, A Christmas Mystery," Morris has Christ speak i n a v i s i o n to Galahad about the adultery: Lancelot i n good time s h a l l be my servant too, Meantime, take note whose sword f i r s t made him knight, And who has loved him alway, yea, and who S t i l l trusts him alway, though i n a l l men's sight, He i s just what you know, 0 Galahad, This love i s happy even as you say, But would you f o r a l i t t l e time be glad, To make ME sorry l<5ng day a f t e r day? Her warm arms round his neck h a l f - t h r o t t l e Me, The hot love-tears burn deep l i k e spots of lead. This judgment of the adultery from the divine rather than from the human point of view i s unique, and adds a f r e s h note of s p i r i t u a l profundity to the theme of moral g u i l t . In 1862 James Knowles produced his Legends of King Arthur. a popularized abridgment of Malory which avoids any mention of the adultery. After the G r a i l quest Lancelot i s worried because he does his feats of arms f o r his lady rather than f o r his Crea-tor; conventionally, i t i s his love a f f a i r that plagues him. A.D. Gordon was more honest i n his Rhyme of Joyous Garde (1868), a s o l i l o q u y by Lancelot a f t e r the deaths of Guinevere and Arthur. F u l l of self-reproach, the knight r e f l e c t s on h i s absence at the f i n a l b a t t l e : And the oncel loved knight, was he there to save The knightly king who that knighthood gave? Ah C h r i s t ! w i l l he greet me as knight or knave In the day when the dust s h a l l quicken?30 28. 0ited i n App, op. c i t . , p. 183. 29. Ibid., p. 192. - ~ 30. App c i t e s two other obscure poems of the same decade: Hawker Quest of the Sangraal (1864), i n which Lancelot c a r r i e s a 50 Although Swinburne's main i n t e r e s t l a y i n the T r i s t r a m -I s e u l t s t o r y , h i s T r i s t r a m of Lyoness (1882) touches on the Gam-e l o t a d u l t e r y i n a way t h a t r e v e a l s the author's r e b e l l i o n a g a i n s t the m o r a l i t y o f V i c t o r i a n s o c i e t y . Tennyson, f o r i n s t a n c e , had ignored the incestuous r e l a t i o n s h i p of Arthur w i t h h i s h a l f -s i s t e r , Queen Morgause of Orkney, i n order to maintain an unblem-i s h e d f i g u r e of i d e a l manhood. Swinburne r e t u r n s t o Malory's v e r s i o n , i n which t h i s s i n of the king's youth r e t u r n s t o r u i n him i n l a t e r l i f e . Swinburne's approach to the. L a n c e l o t -Guinevere a d u l t e r y i s s i m i l a r to t h a t of the e a r l y French roman-ces i n t h a t he not on l y refuses to f i n d excuses f o r the l o v e r s , but even i n s i s t s t h a t t h e i r g u i l t y l o v e i s t h e i r g r e a t e s t g l o r y ; Swinburne's a t t i t u d e i s l i k e t hat of the c o u r t l y l o v e c u l t the i o v e r s are not great i n s p i t e of t h e i r a d u l t e r y , but because of i t . Swinburne's r e v e r s i o n to the amoral philosophy of the med-i e v a l French romance had no i n f l u e n c e on subsequent treatments of the theme before the end o f the century, or indeed on any i n the t w e n t i e t h . Comyns Carr's p l a y King A r t h u r , f o r i n s t a n c e , produced i n London i n 1895, ennobled the p r i n c i p a l characters 31 a f t e r the f a s h i o n of Tennyson. Lancelot meets E l a i n e before Guinevere, and would have loved her except f o r the g r e a t e r charm 32 of the queen. s h i e l d c r e s t e d by a l i l y w i t h a broken stem, symbolizing the l o s t c h a s t i t y of adultery;, and Westwood's Quest of the S a n c g r e a l l (1868) which i s of i n t e r e s t o n l y because of i t s f a n c i f u l d e p i c t i o n of Lancelot as l u r e d away to sensual pleasures by sea syrens. C i t e d i n App, 0£. c i t . , p. 195* This a t t r a c t i o n of Lancelot f o r E l a i n e foreshadows Lord Ernest Hamilton's novel Lancelot (1926), i n which Lancelot loves not Guinevere,, but E l a i n e , , and f i n a l l y marries her. 31. 32 . 51 The f i n a l work of note i n the century was John Davidson's The Last B a l l a d , an a n a l y s i s of the mental s t a t e of L a n c e l o t , who f e e l s a s t e r n sense of duty t o the King, but whose waking h o u r s — e v e n d u r i n g the G r a i l q u e s t — a r e haunted by sensual v i s i o n s of the Queen: He saw her brows, her l o v e l i t f a c e , And on her cheeks one passionate t e a r ; He f e l t i n dreams the r i c h embrace, The beating heart of Guinevere.33 Davidson suggests t h a t h i s devotion, although a d u l t e r o u s , enn-obles the k n i g h t , who spares h i s foe i n b a t t l e when he t h i n k s of her. This touch of c o u r t l y l o v e philosophy, however, i s sec-ondary to L a n c e l o t ' s d e s p a i r and shame, which d r i v e him mad: The exceeding anguish of h i s mind Had broken him. "King Arthur's t r u s t , " He c r i e d : " i g n o b l e , f a t e f u l , b l i n d ! ' Her l o v e and my l o v e , noxious l u s t ! " S h o r t l y before the t u r n of the century, Mark Twain took up the A r t h u r i a d and produced A Connecticut Yankee i n King Arthur's Court, the author's death wish on European a r i s t o c r a c y , a t o r r e n t of hate and r i d i c u l e f o r knighthood, c h i v a l r y , the C a t h o l i c r e l -i g i o n and monarchy, a l l the elements which compose the very essence of the Matter.of B r i t a i n . ^ I n s p i t e of h i s l a c k of sympathy w i t h the Middle Ages, however, Twain i s f i n a l l y drawn to conventional admiration of at l e a s t two of the three p r i n c i p a l f i g u r e s of A r t h u r , Lancelot and Guinevere. 33* John Davidson, The L a s t B a l l a d and Other Poems, London, John Lane, 1899. 34* The only l a t e r author to f o l l o w Twain's path was P h i l i p Lindsay, whose novel The L i t t l e Wench (1935) d e p i c t s the k n i g h t s of the Round Table as murderers and r a p i s t s . . A drunken La n c e l o t seduces E l a i n e and beats Galahad i n a s t o r y t h a t shows a general contempt f o r m o r a l i t y and the t r a d i t -i o n a l n o b i l i t y of Camelot. 52 E a r l y i n the book Twain describes the court as . • • j u s t a s o r t of polished-up court of Comanches, and there i s n ' t a squaw i n i t who doesn't stand ready...to desert to the buck w i t h the biggest s t r i n g of s c a l p s at h i s belt.35 This view of the moral l e v e l of the Round Table i s coarse enough, but Twain d e a l s w i t h the a d u l t e r y much more g e n t l y . Although everyone a t court knows of the queen's s i n , A r t h u r i s not s u s p i c -i o u s simply because he i s not capable of t h i n k i n g e v i l of a f r i e n d . Such n o b i l i t y i s i n the best Tennysonian t r a d i t i o n , but i s extrem-e l y naive i n view of the f a c t t h a t Arthur h i m s e l f says of h i s queen, "Where Lancelot i s , she noteth not the going f o r t h of the king,, nor what day he r e t u r n e t h . " The Yankee t h i n k s t h a t Guin-evere i s " p r e t t y s l a c k " because she i s f o r e v e r f r e t t i n g about Lancelot's whereabouts. The Yankee l i k e s L a n c e l o t , who i s c o n s i s t e n t l y brave, p o l i t e and magnanimous: He was a b e a u t i f u l man, a l o v e l y man, and was j u s t intended t o make a w i f e and c h i l d r e n happy. But, of course, Guenever-—however, i t ' s no use to c r y over what's done and can't be helped.36 Here Twain i s understanding enough of the human c o n d i t i o n t o s t r i k e a t the core o f pathos that has always been inherent i n the Guinevere-Lancelot-Elaine r e l a t i o n s h i p : the l o s t p o t e n t i a l of Lancelot as a f i n e husband and f a t h e r . The i n s i s t e n c e of the t w e n t i e t h century on r e a l i s m i n s i t u -a t i o n and a c t i o n , and on p r o f u n d i t y of c h a r a c t e r a n a l y s i s , would suggest t h a t the past f i f t y years should have been a new waste-35. Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee i n King Arthur's Court. New York, Harper fc Bros., 1917, p. 119. 36. Twain, op_. c i t . , p. 237. 53 l a n d f o r the A r t h u r i a n legend. The m a t e r i a l had the added d i s -advantage of being sympathetic to a r i s t o c r a c y and p r i v i l e g e an unpopular sentiment i n a democratic age. The e n t i r e Middle Ages, f i n a l l y , , are somewhat i n d i s c r e d i t — - t h e word "medieval" i s commonly used as i n v e c t i v e . What chance f o r p o p u l a r i t y and respect had the Matter of B r i t a i n i n such an a l i e n atmosphere? I f a contemporary w r i t e r i s t o handle the A r t h u r i a d succ-e s s f u l l y , he must have a t l e a s t one of two q u a l i f i c a t i o n s : e i t h e r the a b i l i t y t o probe the p e r s o n a l i t i e s of the t r a d i t i o n a l c h a r a c ters so as t o make them f r e s h e r and more v a r i e d , or an ex-t e n s i v e knowledge of medieval l i f e p l u s the a b i l i t y t o reproduce the humor and pathos of along dead age, so as to make them f t s people seem as f a m i l i a r and human as close neighbors. Because Edwin A r l i n g t o n Robinson saw the p s y c h o l o g i c a l p o t e n t i a l , and T.H.. White the humanity, both have been eminently s u c c e s s f u l i n r e - c r e a t i n g the legends f o r contemporary man. Robinson's A r t h u r i a n t r i l o g y c o n s i s t s of r a t h e r sombre i n t r o s p e c t i v e s t u d i e s which see Camelot and i t s champions beset -by e s s e n t i a l l y the same s o c i a l and s p i r i t u a l problems as face modern man. Robinson's approach i s conventional i n s o f a r as the main a c t i o n i s concerned, but i s s t r i k i n g l y o r i g i n a l i n h i s de-p i c t i o n of a Hamlet-like L a n c e l o t , an unusually i n t e l l e c t u a l ;? Guinevere, and an extremely human A r t h u r , who i s f i n a l l y rescued from h i s stock r o l e s as e i t h e r an i d e a l i z e d f i g u r e of super-human p r o p o r t i o n s , or as a wronged husband of s l i g h t i n t e r e s t . Between Robinson and White, three i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s of the l o v e a f f a i r m e r i t some mention. Laurence Binyon's drama Ar t h u r . 54 37 p u b l i s h e d i n 1923 i s t r a d i t i o n a l ; John M a s e f i e l d ' s c o l l e c t i o n 3& o f poems, Midsummer Might (1928) i s extremely unconventional, and Maurice Baring's Dead L e t t e r s (1935) i s humorous. In Binyon's p l a y Lancelot i s the p r o t a g o n i s t , an a d u l t e r e r who i s nevertheless noble, and who e v e n t u a l l y manages t o break o f f the a f f a i r i n s p i t e of the advances of Guinevere. In the f i n a l b a t t l e he confesses p u b l i c l y to Arthur and asks f o r exe-c u t i o n which, of course, i s not given. M a s e f i e l d takes considerable freedoms w i t h character and p l o t . L ancelot i s Arthur's c o u s i n , a s p i r e s t o the k i n g s h i p , and gives Guinevere a c h i l d . The king even hides the l o v e r s a f t e r the ambush, and a i d s t h e i r escape. A deathbed message from L a n c e l o t , f i n a l l y , causes Guinevere t o break her r e l i g i o u s vows and rush v a i n l y t o h i s s i d e . I n attempting t o i n j e c t new i n t e r e s t i n t o the s t o r y , M a s e f i e l d warped and: d i s t o r t e d i t beyond l e g i t i m a t e bounds. He f a i l e d t o see, as Robinson and White d i d see, t h a t the s t o r y w i l l h o ld i t s own without severe p l o t manipulations. Baring's Dead L e t t e r s contains a chapter of supposed l e t t e r s between Guinevere, L a n c e l o t , Arthur and I s e u l t . The humor i s heavMy i r o n i c , as i n a l e t t e r from Guinevere to Arthur concer-ning who w i l l s t ay a t the c a s t l e during the b i g j o u s t s : I thought i t was no use asking poor l i t t l e E l a i n e because she never goes anywhere now and hates the Jousts...OhI I q u i t e f o r g o t . There's L a n c e l o t . S h a l l we ask him t o stay? He's been so o f t e n , so i f you would r a t h e r not have him we can.quite w e l l leave him out t h i s time. I don't want him to t h i n k he's i n d i s p e n s a b l e t o you./^o 37. C i t e d i n App, op_. c i t . , p. 219. 38. C i t e d i n Nathan C§mfort S t a r r , King A r t h u r Today. U n i v e r s i t y of F l o r i d a P r e s s , 1954, p. 166. 39. Maurice B a r i n g , Dead L e t t e r s . S u f f o l k , Clay & Sons, 1935. 40. I b i d . , p. 86. 55 With h i s u s u a l n a i v e t e Arthur r e p l i e s t h a t he "cannot seeaany p o s s i b l e o b j e c t i o n to h i s coming," and Guinevere answers t h a t she e n t i r e l y " g i v e s i n " about L a n c e l o t . The Queen then w r i t e s t o I s e u l t of I r e l a n d about Tristram's wedding to I s e u l t of B r i t t a i n y : ...she was a dream of beauty. T r i s t r a m was l o o k i n g q u i t e w e l l and i n t e a r i n g s p i r i t s . He's grown q u i t e f a t . I s n ' t t h a t funny? iy_ But I s e u l t can h o l d her own in. the c a t t y exchange: I s n ' t Lancelot competing foq the diamond t h i s year? I hear he's a f r a i d of being beaten. I s n ' t i t absurd. People are so s p i t e f u l . . . By the way, i t i s n ' t t r u e t h a t Lancelot i s engaged to Elaine?...She i s q u i t e l o v e l y , but I never thought t h a t Lancelot cared f o r young, g i r l s . 4 2 When Lancelot wears E l a i n e ' s sleeve i n the tournament, the Queen i s her t r a d i t i o n a l l y j e a l o u s and tempermental s e l f : I must say I d i d not suspect you of p l a y i n g t h i s k i n d of double game. I do hate l i e s and l i a r s , and, above a l l , s t u p i d l i a r s . I t i s . . . very h u m i l i a t i n g t o make such a mistake atoout a man. But I hope you w i l l be happy w i t h E l a i n e , and I pray Heaven she may never f i n d you out.^3 The success of Terence Hanbury White's novels about the A r t h u r i a n legend i s due p r i n c i p a l l y t o two t h i n g s : h i s s c h o l a r l y a t t e n t i o n to. d e t a i l that makes d a i l y l i f e i n medieval c a s t l e s very r e a l , and h i s humanizing of the e p i c characters so t h a t they t h i n k , t a l k and behave very much l i k e the people t h a t the reader meets every day. A. confirmed t r a d i t i o n a l i s t , White never deviates from the v e r s i o n of Malory as long as he i s d e a l i n g 41. B a r i n g , 0£. c i t . , p. 87. 42. I b i d . , p. 88. 43. I b i d . , p. 88. 56 w i t h i t ; the genius of White's approach i s t h a t he i s able t o give new lifefcto the legend by c r e a t i n g whole s e c t i o n s of back-ground to the main s t o r y , p a r t i c u l a r l y i n h i s e n t i r e l y o r i g i n a l sketches of the boyhoods of the main c h a r a c t e r s . White has w r i t t e n a f i n e s t o r y , but the h i s t o r y of the A r t h u r i a d makes i t r a s h to say th a t not much more can be done w i t h the l e g e n d . ^ 44« Lerner and Lowe, the American song w r i t e r s , have r e c e n t l y completed the stage musical Camelot, based on White's n o v e l . Best known f o r t h e i r adaption of Shaw's Pygmalion as a musical comedy, Lerner and Lowe have never produced tragedy. What they have done w i t h the a d u l t e r y and death o f the A r t h u r i a d i s as yet unknown. I n any case, White's s t o r y i s a r i c h f i e l d f o r t h e i r considerable t a l e n t s , and the musical i s a f u r t h e r demonstration of the f l e x i b i l i t y of the legend. 57 CHAPTER IV T E N N Y S O N A l f r e d Tennyson, who r e f l e c t e d the i d e a l s and f e a r s of h i s age p o s s i b l y more p r e c i s e l y than d i d any other w r i t e r i n E n g l i s h l i t e r a t u r e , f e l t t h a t i f a man was t o maintain and improve the standard of l i f e t h a t hie had achieved, he must l e a r n s e l f - c o n t r o l , f u l f i l h i s s o c i a l and moral d u t i e s , and increase h i s reverence f o r h i m s e l f as the most precious of God's c r e a t u r e s , possessed of a s o u l and a s p i r i t u a l d e s t i n y . As a r e s u l t of d i s c o v e r i e s i n b i o l o g y i n the nineteenth century, the coinage "human animal" had become cu r r e n t ; i t was against the assumption th a t man was no more than a p h y s i c a l being that Tennyson p r o t e s t e d . I n s i s t i n g t h a t man had a s o u l , a d i v i n e s p i r i t u a l q u a l i t y w i t h i n h i m s e l f , Tennyson declared t h a t mankind must " l e t the ape and t i g e r d i e " by r e s i s t i n g the brute passions and pursuing a l l t h a t i s pure and noble. I f man surrenders t o h i s baser i n s t i n c t s , then only chaos and decay i n c i v i l i z a t i o n can r e s u l t . This i s the b e l i e f t h a t prompted the w r i t i n g of The I d y l l s of the King and d e t e r -mined the manner i n which Tennyson would handle the A r t h u r i a n a d u l t e r y . 58 The V i c t o r i a n confidence t h a t s o c i e t y was s t e a d i l y pro-g r e s s i n g f o r the b e t t e r i n a l l spheres of human endeavor had a m a t e r i a l b a s i s i n the s o l i d a r i t y of E n g l i s h p o l i t i c a l , s o c i a l and commercial i n s t i t u t i o n s , and a b i o l o g i c a l and e t h i c a l b a s i s i n t h e o r i e s of p h y s i c a l and moral e v o l u t i o n . Order, s t a b i l i t y and c a u t i o n were necessary i f progress was t o be maintained; the h i g h e s t duty of the statesman or p a t r i o t was to c o n t r o l the aimless impulse and reduce chaos to order. The w e l l - r o o t e d t r a -d i t i o n behind the monarchy, the parliamentary system., the Church, the l e g a l and banking systems, and the u n i v e r s i t i e s had taken hundreds of years to mature, while Nature had e v i d e n t l y r e q u i r e d s e v e r a l m i l l i o n to l i f t man from the p r i m o r d i a l slime to an E n g l i s h drawing room. The V i c t o r i a n s saw u n i t y and harmony transcending d i v e r s i t y , and were confident t h a t the process would continue as l o n g as people d i d not l e t ambition or impatience goad them i n t o r a s h demands f o r r a p i d and sweeping changes. Because Tennyson reverenced s t a b l e i n s t i t u t i o n s , f i r m l e a d e r -s h i p , and the t r a d i t i o n a l C h r i s t i a n v i r t u e s , he would n a t u r a l l y be a t t r a c t e d to t h a t champion of Christendom who Fought, and i n twelve great b a t t l e s overcame The heathen hordes, and made a realm and r e i g n ' d . ^ Although i n Malory's account Arthur had been sometimes s t u p i d and r a s h , even h o m i c i d a l , nevertheless t r a d i t i o n had g e n e r a l l y c r e d i t e d him w i t h feeing an upholder of order, j u s t i c e , l o y a l t y and p i e t y . Tennyson r e a l i z e d t h a t f t would r e q u i r e o n l y s l i g h t a l t e r a t i o n s i n Arthur's Character t o t u r n him i n t o the i d e a l man, 1. The Coming of Arthur. (11. 517-18). 5 9 i n t o a man who c o n s t a n t l y f o l l o w e d the d i c t a t e s of h i s reason and conscience* Perhaps i t was w i t h the d e s c r i p t i o n of Words-worth's "Happy Warrior" before him that- Tennyson i d e a l i z e d Arthur as Soul p e r s o n i f i e d , the human p e r f e c t i o n towards which every man should struggle. Guinevere was to be the F l e s h , t o which the Soul must be j o i n e d i f i t i s t o accomplish i t s work on e a r t h . The d e f e c t i o n of Lancelot and the Queen, the subsequent c o r r u p t i o n of the Round Table, and the f a l l o f C a m e l o t — A r t h u r ' s C i v i t a s Dei were t o i l l u s t r a t e the consequences of man's f a i l u r e to f o l l o w high p r i n c i p l e s . 2. "Who i s the happy w a r r i o r ? . Who i s he / That every man i n arms should wish t o be?" asks Wordsworth. This p e r f e c t man i s one Who, w i t h a n a t u r a l i n s t i n c t t o d i s c e r n What knowledge can perform, i s d i l i g e n t t o l e a r n ; Abides by t h i s r e s o l v e , and stops not tSaere, But makes h i s moral being h i s prime care. More s k i l f u l i n self-knowledge, even more pure, As tempted more; more able to endure, As more exposed to s u f f e r i n g and d i s t r e s s ; He labours good on good to f i x , and owes To v i r t u e every triumph t h a t he knows. Because Tennyson's Arthur i s b i t t e r about the l o s s of h i s kingdom, he does not f u l f i l Wordsworth's l a s t q u a l i f i c a t i o n : Who, whether p r a i s e of him must walk the e a r t h For ever, and to noble deeds g i v e b i r t h , Or he must f a l l , t o sleep without h i s fame, And leave a dead u n p r o f i t a b l e name Finds comfort i n h i m s e l f and i n h i s cause; And, w h i l e the mortal mist i s g a t h e r i n g , draws His breath i n confidence of Heaven's applause. I t i s not e n t i r e l y f a i r , of course, t o apply Wordsworth's i d e a l to Tennyson's Arthur, whose chagrin has as much a l l e g o r i c a l as l i t e r a l s i g n i f i c a n c e . Considered as a man, Arthur f a l l s short of Wordsworth's standard, but such a standard i s i n a p p l i c a b l e to the King's t r a n s -cendental r o l e as S o u l . 60 I t was a noble aim, but Tennyson's f a i l u r e to maintain the s t o r y a t an a l l e g o r i c a l l e v e l has encouraged e n t i r e l y l i t e r a l r e adings, w i t h the i r o n i c r e s u l t t h a t Lancelot and Guinevere i n v i t e sympathy, while Arthur's c o l d s e l f - r i g h t e o u s n e s s a l i e n a t e s the reader u n t i l the f i n a l book, Tennyson's f i n a l c o r r e c t i o n of the I d y l l s was the a d d i t i o n i n the Epilogue of a d e s c r i p t i o n of Arthur as I d e a l manhood cl o t h e d i n r e a l man. i This i s tantamount to saying t h a t Arthur represented p e r f e c t i o n i n i m p e r f e c t i o n , which i s i m p o s s i b l e . Tennyson wanted t o make the " r e a l humanity"^ of the k i n g p e r f e c t l y c l e a r , but because there i s no such t h i n g as a p e r f e c t man the i n t r o d u c t i o n of such a transcendental Arthur i n t o the legend confuses h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h Guinevere and L a n c e l o t . I t i s w e l l t h a t Tennyson d i d not i n s i s t on the a l l e g o r y , t h a t he f a i l e d to make i t convincing; i t would be d i f f i c u l t t o imagine an a b s t r a c t i o n as a wronged hus-band, or t o sorrow f o r the death of a man who, a f t e r a l l , i s only Soul l e a v i n g a c r u e l world and r e t u r n i n g to a happier Ayalon. I t i s s u f f i c i e n t t o say tha t Tennyson sublimated Malory's Arthur by removing most of h i s weaknesses of character i n order to adapt the t a l e to h i s purpose of "shadowing Sense at war w i t h Soul," so t h a t i t might p o i n t a moral t o h i s own gene r a t i o n . ^ Guinevere, and p a r t i c u l a r l y L a n c e l o t , are as admirable as ever, but the i r r e s p o n s i b i l i t y o f t h e i r great passion prevents them from acceding* to the demands of duty, from f u l l y accepting t h e i r obligations,, and from e x e r c i s i n g enough w i l l power to keep t h e i r r e s p e c t i v e l o y a l t i e s uncompromised. A p p l i c a t i o n t o duty, s e l f -3. Hallam Lord Tennyson, A l f r e d Tennyson, a Memoir, London, Macmillan, 1897, v o l . 2, p. 129. 4. Conde Benoist P a l l e n , The Meaning of the " I d y l l s of the King". New York, American Book Co., 1904, p. 107. 6 1 c o n t r o l and f i d e l i t y : these were the e t h i c s of a V i c t o r i a n middle c l a s s i n f l u e n c e d by the m o r a l i t y of e v a n g e l i c a l C h r i s t -i a n i t y ; i f such grand and noble people as Lancelot and Guin-evere and indeed, M e r l i n and the members of the Round Table could f a i l t o meet' such standards, how much more d i l i g e n t must Tennyson's readers be i n shunning temptation and a s p i r i n g to c i v i l and moral goodness! Because Tennyson chose to i d e a l i z e Arthur by o m i t t i n g M e r l i n ' warnings about marrying Guinevere, a n d . p a r t i c u l a r l y by a v o i d i n g the i n c e s t theme i n which Mordred i s the avenging agent i n a tragedy of Nemesis, a l a r g e r p o r t i o n of the g u i l t f o r the r u i n of the Round Table was bound to f a l l on the l o v e r s . Tennyson does not d w e l l much on Guinevere, She does l i t t l e except l o v e , then repent p a t h e t i c a l l y during her f i n a l p a r t i n g w i t h Arthur.. During the a f f a i r she e v i d e n t l y s u f f e r s from no s p i r i t u a l con-f l i c t . I t i s d i f f e r e n t w i t h L a n c e l o t , who emerges as the most i n t e r e s t i n g and human p e r s o n a l i t y i n the I d y l l s . Through Malory Tennyson i n h e r i t e d from the French romances an immoral s i t u a t i o n t h a t was d i s t a s t e f u l by V i c t o r i a n standards. Any j u s t i f i c a t i o n once s u p p l i e d by the mores of c o u r t l y love was now untenable, yet Tennyson's purpose would not have been served by defaming L a n c e l o t i n the same way that he dismissed T r i s t r a m and Gawain as ignoble s e n s u a l i s t s . . Tennyson developed Lancelot as a conventional t r a g i c hero, possessed of a l l the v i r t u e s and graces, and yet b l i g h t e d s p i r i t u a l l y by a s i n g l e weakness of character which l e d e v e n t u a l l y to d i s a s t e r . V i c t o r i a n m o r a l i t y s t r e s s e d the n e c e s s i t y of strengthening the w i l l , so t h a t the i n d i v i d u a l might r e a d i l y s a c r i f i c e s e l f -62 i n t e r e s t to the commondgood, and l a y aside animal s e n s u a l i t y i n f a v o r of the demands of duty. Each r i g h t choice makes the next e a s i e r , u n t i l c o r r e c t behavior becomes a h a b i t of mind. I f everyone were w i l l i n g t o make such s a c r i f i c e s , the human race would a r r i v e sooner at s p i r i t u a l p e r f e c t i o n . I f . L a ncelot and Guinevere had been able to conquer the baser tendencies w i t h i n themselves oh t h a t f i r s t Maytime r i d e through the f l o w e r s , they might have s p i r i t u a l i z e d t h e i r l o v e and turned i t i n t o an agent of g l o r y f o r themselves, and of noble i n s p i r a t i o n f o r o t h e r s . This type of l o v e i s described i n B a l i n and Balan: But t h i s worship of the Queen, That honor too wherein she holds him t h i s T h i s was the sunshine t h a t hath given Lancelot A growth, a name t h a t branches o'er the r e s t , And s t r e n g t h against a l l odds. (11. 170-74) Such a v i r g i n l o v e would have been the e q u i v a l e n t of the o l d c o u r t l y i d e a l of "pure l o v e " d e d i c a t i o n and s e r v i c e without c a r n a l knowledge——but the l o v e r s were unequal to i t , amd i n t h e i r s i n encouraged the advent of that c i v i l and s o c i a l d i s -order which, to V i c t o r i a n minds, i n e v i t a b l y f o l l o w e d a d e c l i n e i n moral standards and high i d e a l s . Lancelot i s a noble man who must nevertheless s t r u g g l e hard f o r h i s s a l v a t i o n . I t i s as i f the torment of h i s g u i l t y passion were a cross t h a t he must bear In r e t u r n f o r h i s many g i f t s . He has even aged prematurely: The great and g u i l t y love he bore the Queem In b a t t l e with, the love he bare h i s l o r d , Had marr'd h i s f a c e , and mark'd i t ere h i s time.5 A l e s s e r man, says Tennyson,"who sinned i n such magnificence w i t h the fairest.woman i n the l a n d , might be proud and d e l i g h t e d , but 5. . Lancelot and E l a i n e . (11. 244-46). 6 3 not L a n c e l o t : His mood was o f t e n l i k e a f i e n d , and rose And drove him i n t o wastes and solitudes For agony, who was yet a l i v i n g s o u l . 6 Even E l a i n e n o t i c e d h i s moodiness: She s t i l l took note t h a t when the l i v i n g smile Died from h i s l i p s , across him came a cloud Of melancholy severe. 7 L a n c e l o t ' s i r r a t i o n a l devotion t o the queen debases him when i t prompts him to t e l l what i s perhaps the f i r s t l i e of h i s l i f e . When about to leave w i t h Arthur f o r a tournament to win the l a s t of a s e r i e s of diamonds f o r Guinevere, he t h i n k s t h a t a la n g u i d glance from the queen i s asking him t o s t a y , so he l i e s t o the k i n g about h i s o l d wound, and remains. She chides him f o r h i s t a c t l e s s n e s s , and he r i d e s s a d l y away, c u r s i n g him-s e l f f o r h i s u s e l e s s falsehood, and bemoaning h i s readiness to compromise himself a t her s l i g h t e s t whim. Lance l o t i s f u l l y aware o f h i s vassalage to the pleasures of the f l e s h and h i s u n l a w f u l f i d e l i t y to Guinevere; he i s f u r t h e r tormented by the f e a r t h a t h i s s i n w i l l corrupt the morals of the r e s t of the Round Table. In a p s y c h o l o g i c a l l y profound s o l i l o q u y a f t e r the death of E l a i n e , he considers h i s f a i l u r e to r i s e above the demand of lo v e and a s p i r e to the f u l l goodness of Arthur's p r i n c i p l e s : what p r o f i t s me my name Of g r e a t e s t knight? I fought f o r i t , and have i t . Pleasure t o have i t , none; to l o s e i t , p a i n ; To make men worse by making my s i n known? Or s i n seem l e s s , the s i n n e r seeming great? Alas f o r Arthur's g r e a t e s t k n i g h t , a man Not a f t e r Arthur's h e a r t I g Thus f a r La n c e l o t ' s love f o r t h e queen had c o n t r a d i c t e d only h i s personal and p o l i t i c a l l o y a l t i e s t o the throne; a f t e r the 6 . Lancelot and E l a i n e , • ( 1 1 . 2 5 0 - 5 2 ) 7 . TPra.. (11. 3 2 1 - 2 3 ) . I b i d . . ( I I . 1 4 0 2 - 0 9 ) . 64 G r a i l quest, an added sense of s p i r i t u a l corruption drives him to the point of madness, and he groans his envy of those who can avoid thinking about t h e i r moral duties: 0 King, my f r i e n d , i f f r i e n d of thine I be, Happier are those that welter i n t h e i r s i n , Swine i n the mud, that cannot see f o r slime, Slime of. the ditch.g He and Guinever are eventually able to agree to s a c r i f i c e t h e i r personal happiness i n order to avoid the r u i n of the l i f e work of Arthur, but other e v i l forces have been gnawing at Camelot, and i t i s too l a t e to salvage anything but s p i r i t u a l peace. Lancelot was bound to present something of a dilemma to Tennyson. Although he allowed his sexual i n s t i n c t to compromise what the Vic t o r i a n s considered sacred vows, Lancelot nevertheless possessed to the f u l l e s t degree most of the virtues attributed to a s a i n t . Tennyson could not excuse him, but neither could he shame him. He rather l a i d stress on Lancelot's s p i r i t u a l t u r -moil: . as one That i n a l a t e r , sadder age begins To war against i l l uses of a l i f e , But these from a l l his l i f e a r i s e , and cry, •Thou hast made us lords, and cans's not put us down.' Because Lancelot was f i n a l l y able to put down his brute passions, Tennyson allowed that i t was only just that he should die "a holy man." I t i s curious to note the f i n a l r e l a t i o n s h i p betweeim Arthur and Lancelot. The warmest of personal friends during l i f e , Arthur often c a l l s Lancelot "noblest," and even "blessed" a f t e r he has received his glimpse of the G r a i l . The king t e l l s Lancelot 9. The Holy G r a i l . (11. 766-69). 10. Gareth and Lynette, (11. 1100-04). 65 that the grossest sin,could not stamp oufe a l l of his knightly-v i r t u e s . Yet a f t e r the c r i s i s , when Arthur returns from f i g h t -ing Lancelot i n France, he remarks to Guinevere that Lancelot Had yet the grace of courtesy i n him l e f t , He spared to l i f t h is hand against the King Who made him k n i g h t .n I t i s petty and u n f a i r to damn Lancelot with such f a i n t praise. The reader knows, and Arthur had admitted, that one f a u l t does not mean that Lancelot i s almost e n t i r e l y corrupt. Even i f Arthur i s speaking i n his a l l e g o r i c a l r o l e , i t i s s t i l l a b i t t e r and uncompromising attitude towards a man to whom Arthur owes a trem-eadous debt of gratitude f o r helping him to bring Order out of Chaos, and to est a b l i s h the c i v i l i z e d and s p i r i t u a l reign of the S o u l . 1 2 Arthur's treatment of Guinevere i n the parting scene at Almsbury i s easier to understand. Here i s the one point i n the I d y l l s , as Baum points out, when Tennyson escapes mainly into pure allegory: I f the two speeches i n Guinevere are to be read as the words of a self-righteous husband or a king, charging his Queen f o r the loss of his kingdom, . then they are i n t o l e r a b l e . . . I f they are read as a divine voice condemning e v i l i n the world, as the Soul against the f l e s h , then Arthur's arrogance and s e l f - s a t i s f a c t i o n disappear, and the grove l l i n g of the Queen becomes a symbol. Tennyson probably intended a b i t of both, and loses the effect.^3 11. Guinevere, (11. 433-35) 12. No one, i n c i d e n t a l l y , has thought to ask what Arthur was doing i n France i n the f i r s t place. To recover his queen, who, he thinks, i s being held there? He t e l l s Guinevere l a t e r that he would never take her back. To comply with the wishes of Gawain, as i n Malory, and avenge the deaths of Gareth and Gaheris? Obviously not, since i n Tennyson's version they are not k i l l e d . There seems to be no explan- . ation f o r Arthur's aggressive war against Lancelot. 13. P a u l l Baum, Tennyson Sixty Years After , Richmond, Univer s i t y of North Carolina Press, 1948, p. 185. 6 6 Nowhere e l s e i n A r t h u r i a n l i t e r a t u r e i s the k i n g so b i t t e r toward Guinevere; nowhere e l s e does he blame her e n t i r e l y f o r the r u i n of h i s l i f e ' s work, or heap such u n q u a l i f i e d i n v e c t i v e ' o n her s i n . His s l i g h t i n g reference t o Lancelot shows th a t he f e e l s no l e s s keenly about h i s former f r i e n d . But t o say t h a t the f e e l i n g s of Arthur are the f e e l i n g s of Tennyson i s i l l o g i c a l i n view of the poet's obvious sympathies f o r the l o v e r s everywhere e l s e i n the I d y l l s . This i s not to suggest t h a t Tennyson s i d e s w i t h the l o v e r s against A r t h u r , but to make i t c l e a r t h a t the Almsbury speech does not summarize the poet's a t t i t u d e toward Lancelot and Guinevere on a l i t e r a l l e v e l . I t i s true t h a t elsewhere i n the I d y l l s Tennyson describes tragedy t h a t i s i n d i r e c t l y t r a c e a b l e t o time a d u l t e r y . I n B a l i n  and Balan and P e l l e a s and E t t a r r e . f o r i n s t a n c e , B a l i n and P e l l e a s are f i n a l l y turned i n t o s h r i e k i n g w i l d men when they are d i s i l l u s i o n e d about the p u r i t y of Guinevere. These episodes, h however, are p l a i n l y not intended mainly as i l l u s t r a t i o n s of the e v i l e f f e c t s of bad example. The reader's sympathy remains w i t h the l o v e r s , not w i t h these melodramatic knights whose r u i n i s p r i n c i p a l l y due t o personal weakness. B a l i n , Tennyson makes i t c l e a r , has long been plagued by a s u s p i c i o u s , angry nature t h a t leads him i n t o repeated a c t s of d i s c o u r t e s y and v i o l e n c e . Tor-mented by a sense of unworthiness, and even by the i l l u s i o n t h a t the r e s t of the Round Table d i s l i k e him, he allows h i s judgment to be d i s t o r t e d by "chained rage t h a t ever yelped w i t h i n . " P e l l e a s i s r e c k l e s s and immaturej when he sees E t t a r r e , The beauty of her face abashed the boy, As tho' i t were the beauty of her s o u l . (11. 74-75) 67 His s l a v i s h devotion to t h i s worthless beauty i s p a t h e t i c . He i s the t r u e c o u r t l y l o v e r , w i l l i n g to s u f f e r any i n d i g n i t y f o r even a glimpse of h i s l a d y ' s f a c e . Tennyson c e r t a i n l y frowns on t h i s s o r t of f o o l i s h and degrading p a s s i o n perhaps t h i s i d y l l i s the poet's indictment of c o u r t l y l o v e . When P e l l e a s hears of the l o v e between Lancelot and Guinevere, l i k e B a l i n he goes insane w i t h anger; he runs down a c r i p p l e d s e r f on the road; he shouts t h a t Camelot i s a " b l a c k nest of r a t s " ; he s h r i e k s h y s t e r i c a l l y f o r death when Lancelot overpowers him. When L a n c e l o t , the great s i n n e r (and, Tennyson suggests, the best knight of them a l l ) , c a l l s him a weakling, the reader agrees. The l e s s o n of these two i d y l l s seems to be t h a t one must separate the i n s t i t u t i o n from the supporters, the i d e a l s from the a s p i r a n t s . Weakness i n a f o l l o w e r of a creed does not imply Weakness i n the creed i t s e l f . The o l d e r knights o f the Round Table have always been w i l l i n g to overlook the a d u l t e r y , while a t the same time r e t a i n -i n g a high regard f o r the many v i r t u e s of Lancelot and Guinevere. N e i t h e r B a l i n nor P e l l e a s has any understanding of human weakness, and they a t t a c k the f a i l i n g of Lancelot and Guinevere i n s t e a d of overcoming t h e i r own v i c e s . I f these were noble knights who s u f f e r r e v u l s i o n and d i s i l l u s i o n , then i t would be assumed t h a t Tennyson meant t h e i r s t o r i e s to be c r i t i c i s m s of the a d u l t e r y . The a d u l -t e r y , i t i s t r u e , a c t s as a c a t a l y s t i n the spread of c o r r u p t i o n i n Camelot, but i t i s the weak k n i g h t s , not the v i r t u o u s , who are corrupted. The l o v e r s s i n because they are unable t o reach Arthur's superhuman p e r f e c t i o n , but they f i n a l l y master t h e i r p a s s i o n . I n doing so, they become t r u l y n o b l e - — u n l i k e B a l i n 6a and Pelleas, who l e t t h e i r passions master them. In the end, Lancelot and Guinevere come s t r i k i n g l y close to achieving Arthur's i d e a l . ' The Almsbury speech i s not consistent with the tone of the r e s t of the work because Arthur and Guinevere have suddenly been al l e g o r i z e d into Soul and Flesh. One may c r i t i c i z e Tennyson f o r expecting too great an adjustment from his readers, but t h i s me-chanical deficiency should not be mistaken f o r a lapse by the poet i n t o smug and prudish moralizing. The passage must be. read i n i s o l a t i o n frcm the I d y l l s as a statement of the high s o c i a l and s p i r i t u a l aims to which mart must aspire i f the work of, moral evolution i s to' continue: to love j u s t i c e , t r u t h , and chastity; 14 to hate coarseness, slander, and b r u t a l i t y . The polemical nature of much V i c t o r i a n writing has prompted G.M. Young to conclude that of the many doctrines, creeds and i n s t i t u t i o n s of the period, only two were not at some time widely debated or a s s a i l e d . One of these was the V i c t o r i a n i d e a l of the family, the basic u g i t of s o c i a l organization and a divine i n s t i -15 t u t i o n f o r the comfort and education of mankind. One of the most cherished b e l i e f s of the middle c l a s s was that a pure and stable wedded love and the r a i s i n g of a c l o s e l y - k n i t family were the chief means to perfection of man's s o c i a l l i f e . To break 14. I t has been customary i n recent years to c r i t i c i z e Tennyson as a poet too conscious of his r o l e as teacher and guide to h i s fellow V i c t o r i a n s . I t i s frequently assumed rather than demonstrated that he was overly anxious to cater to the s e n s i t i v i t y and sentimentality of the middle c l a s s . The I d y l l s have been so condemned, and condemned mainly on the basis of Arthur's words to his wife i n Guinevere. One r e p l y to t h i s c r i t i c i s m i s that i t i s hased on a misreading of Tennyson's a l l e g o r i c a l i n t e n t . 15. G.M. Young, V i c t o r i a n England: P o r t r a i t of an Age, New York, Doubleday, 1954, p. 224, 69 the bond of marital a f f e c t i o n and f a i t h was to destroy human society at i t s foundation. Thus Tennyson, eager to i n s p i r e h i s contemporaries with noble i d e a l s , could r e l y on a problem of domestic morality to i n t e r e s t his readers. The necessity f o r pu r i t y and permanence i n family l i f e i s basic to Tennyson's philosophy. The highest i d e a l of love i s thejpure passion of marriage; such love i s the source of man's 16 l o f t i e s t ideas, and the i n s p i r a t i o n of h i s noblest deeds. Although the reaction against Tennyson i n the twentieth century prefers to c a l l V i c t o r i a n domesticity an obsession rather than an i d e a l , the temperate and sympathetic treatment of the Guin-evere-Lancelot adultery i n Tennyson's version of the Arthuriad indicates that he was well able to face the r e a l i t y of human weakness manifest i n even the grossest and most calamitous mar-i t a l i n f i d e l i t y . The only d i r e c t evidence i n the I d y l l s that he abhorred such weakness i s found i n Arthur's f i n a l speech to the shamed and g r o v e l l i n g Guinevere, but that t h i s i s the le a s t t y -p i c a l passage of the work, and that i t may be j u s t l y interpreted mainly i n a l l e g o r i c a l terms, have already been indicated. No sound judgment of the I d y l l s i s possible i f they are assumed to be the product of a priggish Laureate blushing tihrough hi s beard at every l i n e . This excessive s e n s i b i l i t y i s the most durable of V i c t o r i a n phantoms. In defending Tennyion against his c r i t i c s , an apologist i s j u s t i f i e d i n r e j e c t i n g the charge that the poet's view of l i f e was d i s t o r t e d by an a r t i f i c i a l bourgeois morality. I t i s more f r u i t f u l to examine the I d y l l s as the work of a happily married modern English gentleman who was wise enough 16. Nicolsori has, l u d i c r o u s l y , gone so f a r as to suggest that " i t was p a i n f u l f o r him (at le a s t i n h i s published works) to contemplate the idea of [adultery]." In Tennyson. London, Constable. 1923. p. 247. 70 not to apply too strenuously a r e l a t i v e l y r i g i d V i c t o r i a n mor-a l i t y t o a s i t u a t i o n i n h e r i t e d from a completely a l i e n t w e l f t h -century French c o u r t . I t i s a s e r i o u s e r r o r to suppose t h a t Tennyson intended the marriage of Arthur and Guinevere to represent the V i c t o r i a n i d e a l . On the c o n t r a r y , t h e i r union l a c k e d a t l e a s t three e l e -ments considered by Tennyson as g e n e r a l l y e s s e n t i a l to f u l l s a t i s -f a c t i o n i n marriage: romantic l o v e , co-operation between husband and w i f e i n the performance of t h e i r r e s p e c t i v e d u t i e s , and a f a m i l y . To Tennyson, a marriage l a c k i n g any one of these i s s e r -i o u s l y hampered; a marriage l a c k i n g a l l t h r e e i s doomed. Guinevere d i d not l o v e Arthur, nor d i d she have any choice about marrying him. Smitten by a glimpse of the " f a i r e s t under heaven" w h i l e r i d i n g anonymously through the s t r e e t s among h i s k n i g h t s , Arthur promptly served r a t h e r summary n o t i c e upon King Leodogran f o r the hand of h i s daughter: I f I i n ought have served thee w e l l , Give me thy daughtersGuinevere to w i f e . ^ Impressed w i t h the p r e s t i g e of A r t h u r , and overcome w i t h g r a t i t u d e f o r h i s s e r v i c e s , Leodogran acquiesces i n the r o y a l d e s i r e . In the best t r a d i t i o n o f f e u d a l n o b i l i t y , the emotions of Guin-evere are not considered important; indeed, she has never seen her p r o s p e c t i v e bridegroom. A l l of t h i s i s in.keeping w i t h the t r a d i t i o n a l A r t h u r i a n s t o r y , but q u i t e c o n t r a d i c t s e v e r y t h i n g that Tennyson himself b e l i e v e d about the b a s i s of marriage. One of the most important p r i n c i p l e s of h i s philosophy was the freedom W The Coming of A r t h u r . (11. 137-3S). 71 of the w i l l , which i s r e a l i z e d i n choice. If there i s no free choice, an action can have no moral consequences. That Guin-evere had no free choice i n making her marriage, then, i s a primary reason why Tennyson i s lenient i n his f i n a l judgment of her f a i l u r e as a wife. Furthermore, such a cold-blooded marr-iage contract lacked a l l the warmth and passion and romance so v i t a l to the V i c t o r i a n i d e a l . I f Tennyson had expected his rea-ders to sympathize with a wronged Arthur and to condemn Guinevere as severely as does Arthur l a t e r , surely he would have made some changes i n the story at t h i s point. He did not do so, but i n f a c t emphasized the s i t u a t i o n by contrasting the cold remoteness of Arthur at Camelot with the c o l o r f u l immediacy of Lancelot, come as emissary f o r the bride. The V i c t o r i a n insistence on romantic love i s nowhere more apparent than i n Tennyson's repeated stress throughout the I d y l l s on the warmth and lushness of the return of Lancelot and Guinevere to Camelot: And Lancelot past away among the flowers For then was l a t t e r A p r i l — - a n d returned Among the flowers i n May, with Guinevere.2.8 Even a f t e r the catastrophe, when she i s sorrowing i n fear and shame at Almsbury, Guinevere indulges i n reverie of the "golden days" when she f i r s t met Lancelot and rode with him Under groves that look'd a paradise Of blossom, over sheets of hyacinth.-^ At the end of t h e i r i d y l l i c journey Guinevere gets her f i r s t sight of Arthur, and thinks him High, self-contained, cold and passionless, Not l i k e him, 'Not l i k e my Lancelot'. 2Q Id. The Coming of Arthur, (11. 449-51). 19. Guinevere, (11., 386-8?). 2 0 . I b i d . , (11. 4 0 2 - 4 ) . 72 Tennyson again and again i n s i s t s on the c o n t r a s t : For who l o v e s me must have a touch of e a r t h and, I y e a r n 1 d f o r warmth and c o l o u r which I found In Lancelot.2 2 W r i t i n g at the same time, W i l l i a m M o r r i s l i k e w i s e d w e l l s on the grayness of her marriage i n the passages where Guinevere sighs f o r the songs and f l o w e r s . t h a t no one bothers to o f f e r any longer. Tennyson's i n v e n t i o n of the i n i t i a l meeting of the l o v e r s - - -and Guinevere's t r a g i c m i s t a k i n g of Lancelot f o r Arthur was not the r e s u l t of a d e s i r e to c o l o r the n a r r a t i v e w i t h a p a s t o r a l d e s c r i p t i o n ; r a t h e r , i t was a d e l i b e r a t e attempt to u n d e r l i n e the romantic elements of an a d u l t e r y which to Tennyson was h a r d l y graver than the consummation of a u n i l a t e r a l and p a s s i o n l e s s marriage contrary to the r e l i g i o u s and s o c i a l standards of h i s age. Once again , however, one must guard a g a i n s t too great an emphasis on the a t t r a c t i o n of romantic love f o r Tennyson. M o r r i s shows no sympathy f o r the k i n g , and seems ready to excuse Guin-evere on the grounds of passion. Tennyson f a l l s i n t o no such moral e r r o r . In the f i n a l a n a l y s i s , Lancelot and Guinevere were wrong. Tennyson's d e l i b e r a t e degrading of the T r i s t r a m - I s e u l t s t o r y i n d i c a t e s t h a t he d i d not consider passion more important than duty. The reason why he i s e a s i e r w i t h Lancelot and Guinevere than w i t h T r i s t r a m and i s e u l t i s t h a t the l o v e r s i n Camelot p a r t i c u l a r l y L ancelot are conscious of g u i l t ; they do not 21. Lancelot and E l a i n e , (1. 121). 22. Guinevere. (1. 608). 73 r e v e a l the amoral i n d i f f e r e n c e of T r i s t r a m a n d ! I s e u l t , who are much c l o s e r to the o l d t r a d i t i o n of c o u r t l y l o v e , which Tennyson would c e r t a i n l y condemn. The most tha t can be s a i d i s t h a t Tenny-son, c o n s c i o u s l y or not, d i d not f e e l completely happy with the k i n d of marriage f o r c e d on Guinevere, and although he was o b l i g e d t o c h a s t i s e her according t o V i c t o r i a n moral standards, he d i d not do so without q u a l i f i c a t i o n . The V i c t o r i a n wife a d m i t t e d l y had fewer economic and p o l i -t i c a l r i g h t s than does her t w e n t i e t h century counterpart, but she was not the submissive v i c t i m of a masculine autocracy. Then, as now, she could expect co-operation and respect from her hus-band i n s u c c e s s f u l l y b u i l d i n g a marriage, home and f a m i l y . To say t h a t she expected and r e c e i v e d f u l l e q u a l i t y would be a d i s t o r t i o n . Even i n h i s most generous moods, Tennyson i m p l i e s t h a t a c e r t a i n c h i l d - l i k e q u a l i t y i s d e s i r a b l e i n a w i f e , a c e r -t a i n sweet innocence; i t i s not her r o l e t o enter the world arena where l e a d e r s h i p and i n t e l l e c t are, the c h i e f v i r t u e s . The male l e a r n s gentleness and moral f o r t i t u d e from the woman, but does not r e l i n q u i s h h i s p o s i t i o n as guide i n the p r a c t i c a l a f f a i r s of l i f e . I f Guinevere was a f a i l u r e as a w i f e , Arthur was no l e s s a f a i l u r e as a husband. He had sinned by n e g l e c t i n g her, by deny-i n g her the love and a t t e n t i o n i m p l i e d i n the marriage c o n t r a c t . Had Arthur been a b e t t e r husband, Guinevere might.have been a b e t t e r w i f e . I f she needed guidance i n a s p i r i n g to h i s elevated s p i r i t u a l l e v e l j he should have o f f e r e d i t ; r a t h e r he l e f t her to grope alone, and i n doing so, he f a i l e d as a husband by V i c t o r i a n 74 standards. Furthermore, Tennyson b e l i e v e d t h a t a woman should set h e r s e l f t o man, L i k e p e r f e c t music unto noble words,23 i f the hymn of marriage was to be complete. The problem i n the I d y l l s i s tha t A rthur has both the music and words without Guinevere—-she has nothing t o supply. Guinevere i s w i l l i n g to attempt the r e f o r m a t i o n of her c h a r a c t e r , but without her husband sympathy and a s s i s t a n c e , she i s unable t® persevere. Tennyson summed up h i s m a r i t a l i d e a l i n these wise and beau-t i f u l l i n e s from The P r i n c e s s : e i t h e r sex alone I s h a l f i t s e l f , and i n true marriage l i e s Nor equal, nor unequal. Each f u l f i l s Defect i n each, and always thought i n thought, Purpose i n purpose, w i l l i n w i l l , they grow, The s i n g l e pure and p e r f e c t animal. ( v i i , 283-88) Arthur h i m s e l f , as he contemplates marriage with Guinevere, says much the same t h i n g about the n e c e s s i t y f o r the male and female p e r s o n a l i t i e s t o complement each other i n a s u c c e s s f u l marriage: But were I j o i n ' d w i t h her, Then might we l i v e together as one l i f e , And r e i g n i n g w i t h one w i l l i n ever y t h i n g , Have power on t h i s dark land t o l i g h t e n i t » 2 i + I t i s q u i t e apparent that no such communion of s p i r i t s was ever achieved i n the marriage of Arthur and Guinevere. On the a l l e -g o r i c a l l e v e l , of course, i t was i m p o s s i b l e , s i n c e Arthur was p e r f e c t i o n of s o u l and Guinevere the i m p e r f e c t i o n of f l e s h . But a b s t r a c t i o n s do not commit a d u l t e r y , and the a l l e g o r y must 23. The P r i n c e s s . ( V I I , 270). 24. The Coming o f A r t h u r . (11. 89-92). 75 be set aside t o permit an o b j e c t i v e a n a l y s i s of the marriage as one between two human beings. Even a l l o w i n g t h a t Arthur symbolized a l l the highest a s p i r -a t i o n s of the human s p i r i t , there seems t o be no reason why he could not have shown more tenderness, sympathy and guidance to h i s w i f e . Guinevere i s exceedingly b i t t e r about h i s aloofness when she complains, 'Arthur, my l o r d , A r t h u r , the f a u l t l e s s King, That passionate p e r f e c t i o n , my good l o r d But who can gaze upon the sun i n heaven? He i s a l l f a u l t who hath no f a u l t a t a l l ' . ^ Excess of v i r t u e i s not i n i t s e l f a f a u l t , but when i t r e s u l t s i n detachment from the s t r u g g l e s and emotions of d a i l y l i f e , then i t i s a very r e a l f a i l i n g . Guinevere grumbles th a t the k i n g i s so Rapt i n t h i s fancy of h i s Teble Round t h a t he has no time t o spare f o r h i s w i f e . I f he were i n t e r e s t e d i n me, she adds, s u r e l y he would question me about the rumors of my i n f i d e l i t y , but He never spake word of reproach to me, He never had a glimpse of mine u n t r u t h , He cares not f o r me.26 I n the f i n a l scene at the nunnery, Arthur's disappointment is not a personal one; he l o a t h e s her because she has wrecked h i s Round Table, the only object that he has ever r e a l l y l o v e d . In a semi-h y s t e r i a of remorse Guinevere f i n a l l y accepts the f u l l burden of r e s p o n s i b i l i t y f o r the f a i l u r e of the marriage, but the reader 25. Lancelot and E l a i n e . (11. 109-20). 26. I b i d . , (11. 112-14). 76 i s not convinced. Nor would Tennyson expect h i s audience to sympathize w i t h the severe s t r i c t u r e s of Arthur on a l i t e r a l l e v e l . He i s speaking mainly as an a l l e g o r i c a l f i g u r e , but even so, "...a l i t t l e more humanity would have compensated f o r a l i t t l e l e s s p i e t y " 2 ^ the humanity t h a t he had r a r e l y shown during t h e i r years of married l i f e , the humanity without which no s a t i s f y i n g union between man and woman i s p o s s i b l e . Completely devoted t o the a f f a i r s of s t a t e , Tennyson's Art h u r should never have married, because he was not w i l l i n g to assume the r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s of wedlock. He expected Guinevere to climb unaided t o t h a t f i n e a i r , That pure s e v e r i t y of p e r f e c t l i g h t i n which he moved. A V i c t o r i a n f a m i l y man who r e a l i z e d the necess-i t y Jbr mutual co-operation and understanding i n marriage, Tenny-son c o u l d sympathize w i t h her f a i l u r e . The V i c t o r i a n i d e a l of marriage assumed the presence of c h i l d r e n around the hearth. There i s repeated emphasis i n the poetry of Tennyson on c h i l d r e n , p a r t i c u l a r l y b a b i e s , and t h e i r a b i l i t y to touch and s o f t e n the human h e a r t , e s p e c i a l l y t h a t of the female. Even A r n o l d , who cannot be accused of a tendency to s e n t i m e n t a l i z e , does h i s best w r i t i n g i n T r i s t r a m and I s e u l t when he leaves the i l l i c i t l o v e r s and d e s c r i b e s the domestic scenes i n v o l v i n g I s e u l t of B r i t t a i n y and her c h i l d r e n . Since there was no q u e s t i o n i n the V i c t o r i a n mind t h a t p r o c r e a t i o n was the pur-pose of marriage, and.that c h i l d r e n were the cement of a f i r m 27. Henry Van Dyke..The Poetry of Tennyson. New York, S c r i b n e r ' s , 1915, p. 213." 77 domestic.structure, i t i s possible that Tennyson's judgment of the adultery was influenced by the fac t that Guinevere was c h i l d -l e s s . Would Guinevere have been u n f a i t h f u l i f she had a family? I t i s impossible to say whether the question occurred to Tennyson, but a b i t of o r i g i n a l p l o t that he added to The Last Tournament shows that he was extremely sympathetic to the loneliness and f r u s -t r a t i o n of the barren queen as she wore out the years i n her s i l e n t c a s t l e . When Arthur and Lancelot f i n d a baby i n an eagle's nest, they give i t to Guinevere to rear. Reluctant and cool at f i r s t , she i s soon softened, and a f t e r loved i t tenderly, And named i t Nestling; so forgot h e r s e l f A moment and her cares. (11. 24-26) Why should Tennyson add t h i s passage i f not to increase sympathy fo r the woman, and perhaps to intimate that i f she had borne children toward which to di r e c t her love, she would not have thirsted, so a f t e r the warmth and tenderness of Lancelot. Cer-t a i n l y Arthur cannot be excused f o r his cruel cut during t h e i r scene of parting: Well i t i s that no c h i l d i s born of thee. The children born of thee are sword and f i r e , Red r u i n , and the breaking up of laws.28 Arthur's disappointment at the r u i n of h i s l i f e ' s work i s under-standable, but to reduce the p o l i t i c a l s i t u a t i o n to such p a i n f u l personal terms i s too harsh. Guinevere made a good nun, and perhaps would have made a better wife had she been given more of what every woman counts her due, Love, children, happiness.29 23. Guinevere, (11. 421-23). 29. The Princess, ( I I I , 228-29). 78 I n h i s " D e d i c a t i o n " of the I d y l l s Tennyson p r a i s e s Queen V i c t o r i a as a good w i f e , mother and queen; she and A l b e r t represented the V i c t o r i a n i d e a l of marriage. Eminently r e g a l and beloved, Guinevere was a good enough queen, but because she had l e s s chance than V i c t o r i a to be a s u c c e s s f u l w ife and mother, Tennyson does not i n s i s t on a comparison. He does not absolve Guinevere, nor does he condemn her; he does not g a l l a n t l y dismiss her f a i l -ure to strengthen her w i l l against temptation, and her r e l u c t a n c e to assume the moral r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s and d u t i e s of marriage, but he had enough understanding of the human c o n d i t i o n to p i t y her i n her empty and unn a t u r a l marriage, t o understand her weakness, and f i n a l l y , t o grant her a h o l y and peaceful death. Tennyson was immensely a t t r a c t e d t o the s t o r y of the f a t a l love of the l i l y - m a i d E l a i n e f o r L a n c e l o t , a love that has always been one of the most touching and popular episodes i n the legend. Tennyson's treatment i s f a i t h f u l to t h a t of Malory i n i t s broad o u t l i n e , but h i s s p e c i a l emphasis on the c o m p a t i b i l i t y of Lance-l o t and E l a i n e as man and wife shows th a t he was again i n f l u e n c e d by the V i c t o r i a n i d e a l of marriage. He would have agreed that Bradley's d e f i n i t i o n of tragedy a p p l i e s to some extent t o Lance-l o t ' s r e j e c t i o n of E l a i n e : here was p a t h e t i c waste, a l o s t poten-t i a l f o r the most admirable s o r t of f a m i l y and home. At no time d i d Lancelot ever attempt to f u l f i l the l a s t vow r e q u i r e d by Arthur o f h i s Table-Round to love and cleave to one maiden, and t o win her through years of noble deeds. I t i s soph-i s t i c a l to argue t h a t he was t r u e and f a i t h f u l to Guinevere, f o r the vow o b v i o u s l y assumed a pure l o v e . I t i s not u n t i l the E l a i n e i d y l l , however, t h a t h t i s f a i l u r e bears any deadly f r u i t . U n t i l then, the o n l y p a i n i s t h a t i n f l i c t e d on the conscience of the l o v e r s by t h e i r g u i l t . L ancelot i n p a r t i c u l a r i s shaken by the death of the broken-hearted maiden; he had, i n f a c t , had a pre-monition of tragedy when he l e f t her f a t h e r ' s c a s t l e on h i s way to the tournament: Then came on him a s o r t of sacred f e a r , For s i l e n t , tho' he greeted her, she stood Rapt on h i s face as i f i t were a god's. (11. 352-54) Indeed, Lancelot had e v e n t u a l l y come to love her, but not i n passion; he loved her f o r her h u m i l i t y , her f i d e l i t y , her i n n -ocence. I t was o n l y the shackles of h i s d e s i r e f o r Guinevere, says Tennyson, t h a t prevented the knight from surrendering com-p l e t e l y to E l a i n e : And peradventure had he seen her f i r s t She might have made t h i s and t h a t other world Another world f o r the s i c k man. (11. 867-69) Smarting from the stormy excesses of the queen's j e a l o u s y , a remorseful Lancelot r e f l e c t s on the u n s e l f i s h surrender of the l i l y - m a i d to her great p a s s i o n , and he bemoans the t r i c k e r y of the human heart t h a t prevented him from r e t u r n i n g her passion: Know t h a t f o r t h i s most gentle maiden's death Right heavy am I ; f o r good she was and t r u e , But loved me w i t h a love beyond a l l love I n women, whomsoever I have known. Yet to be loved makes not t o love again. (11. 1282-86) Arthur a g r e e s - - — i r o n i c a l l y , i n view of h i s r a t h e r high-handed e l e c t i o n of Guinevere as h i s wife t h a t one can not be forced to l o v e , but he i s f i l l e d w i t h genuine r e g r e t t h a t Lancelot could not have loved 80 t h i s maiden, shaped, i t seems, By God f o r thee alone... Who might have brought thee, now a lonely man Wifeless and h e i r l e s s , noble issue, sons Born to the glory of thy name and fame. (11, 1355-61) In keeping with the mores of his age, Tennyson here voices com-passion f o r a man who possessed fame, honor, power and ric h e s , who was the flower of courtesy and the man most beloved by r i c h and poor, yet whose l i f e was e s s e n t i a l l y empty and meaningless because his one weakness denied him the comforts and joys of a wife, children and home. Tennyson was more interested i n the e f f e c t s of s i n on the in d i v i d u a l and on society than he was i n the passion i t s e l f . He was c e r t a i n l y attracted by the color and romance of the adul-tery, but he avoided almost completely any d i r e c t description of sensuous intimate conversation or physical contact. In the I d y l l s there i s no f a s c i n a t i o n or compromise with passion when i t con-f l i c t s with higher obligations. Tennyson at a l l times i n s i s t s on s t r i c t adherence to noble p r i n c i p l e s ; he stresses duty, and con-t r o l of the w i l l to make f o r righteousness;. The I d y l l s depicts the grand romance of Lancelot and Guinevere as a gentle y i e l d i n g to a great temptation, but accompanied by greater remorse. Lacking the s k i l l of Shakespeare or Browning i n i n d i v i d u a l i z i n g characters, Tennyson f a i l s to achieve any t r u l y t r a g i c e f f e c t , but Lancelot and Elaine i n p a r t i c u l a r are r e a l enough to evoke considerable pathos. As Stopford Brooke says, i t i s the humanity, hot the metaphysics, that i s the i n t e r e s t i n g thing. 30. Stopford A. Brooke, Tennyson; His Art and Relation to Modern L i f e . New Yorkj Putnam's, 1894, p. 265. 31 CHAPTER V . EDWIN ARLINGTON ROBINSON Although they were both born and r a i s e d i n the nineteenth century, Lord Tennyson and Edwin A r l i n g t o n Robinson had l i t t l e i n common. Tennyson was a conservative E n g l i s h r o y a l i s t ; Robin-son was a l i b e r a l American democrat. Tennyson was a t r a d i t i o n a l P r o t e s t a n t C h r i s t i a n ; Robinson was a v i r t u a l a g n o s t i c . Tennyson enjoyed fame, p r o s p e r i t y , and a happy f a m i l y l i f e , was reasonably s a t i s f i e d w i t h h i s age, and f e l t t h a t men could b u i l d a b e t t e r world f o r themselves i f they would do t h e i r duty according t o the d i c t a t e s of a he a l t h y moral sense. Robinson, a l o n e l y bachelor, spent most of h i s l i f e i n poverty and o b s c u r i t y , was s k e p t i c a l about the f u t u r e of western c i v i l i z a t i o n a f t e r the catastrophe of a world war. The most important divergence, however, was i n t h e i r approach to t h e i r s u bject matter. Both wanted to f i n d s o l u t i o n s to the moral and s o c i a l problems of s o c i e t y , but Tenny-son concentrated on a n a l y s i s of the problems themselves, o f t e n through the use of myth and a l l e g o r y , and l a i d . l e s s s t r e s s on p s y c h o l o g i c a l p o r t r a i t u r e . Robinson ignored myth and a l l e g o r y almost e n t i r e l y , and e s t a b l i s h e d h i s reputation' as an a n a l y s t o f human ch a r a c t e r . This d i f f e r e n c e i n technique i s s t r i k i n g l y apparent i n t h e i r r e s p e c t i v e v e r s i o n s of the A r t h u r i a d . 82 Robinson wrote three poems dealing with Arthurian themes:: Merlin (1917), Lancelot (1920), and Tristram (1927). The l a s t poem, deals exclusively with the tragedy of Cornwall, and i s of no importance to a study of the main adultery. The f i r s t two works, which the author intended to be read as a u n i t , trace the f a l l of Arthur's kingdom and the fates of the various p r i n c i p a l f i g u r e s . Robinson's pages, however, contain none of the stock figures of romance, no i d e a l i z e d characters, no allegory. Robin-son has put the stamp, of twentieth-century realism on Camelot. Robinson's Arthurian poems are a series of introspective studies i n which the author attempts to probe to the core of personality so as to trace the v i c i s s i t u d e s of the human soul* He i s not p a r t i c u l a r l y interested i n teaching moral lessons, or i n describing action f o r i t s own sake, but i n populating Camelot with people who t a l k and act i n ways that reveal certain truths about the human heart. What Robinson loses i n pageant and color he gains i n emotional i n t e n s i t y and psychological depth. I t was . well said that Robinson believed that the people of Arthur's court and those i n the New York slums have the same basic mental and emotional conflicts."'" An author's conception of the character of King Arthur i s v i t a l to h i s f i n a l v e r d i c t on the adultery of Lancelot and Guin-evere, and i t was i n his treatment of the king that Robinson was most influence by the p o l i t i c a l events i n Europe during the f i r s t two decades of t h i s century. The Communist Revolution and the World War had resulted i n the d i s s o l u t i o n of several monarchies and i n a general loss of f a i t h in,the a b i l i t y of many p o l i t i c a l , s o c i a l , and r e l i g i o u s i n s t i t u t i o n s to create a better world f o r man. 1. John Drinkwater, "Edwin Arlington Robinson," Yale Review. A p r i l , 1922, p. 475. • S3 Robinson's Arthur was a f a r l e s s admirable man than he had been i n the v e r s i o n s of Malory and Tennyson. Malory allowed some of Arthur's personal weaknesses i n the French romances to stand, but he revered the king's a b i l i t y to command l o y a l t y , b r i n g order to the country, and to• b u i l d a g l o r i o u s Camelot admired by a l l Christendom as a type of Utopia of c h i v a l r y . Tennysdn i d e a l i z e d A r t h u r , and sublimated Camelot as a s o c i a l and s p i r i t u a l kingdom t o which men i n t h e i r weakness were unable long to a s p i r e . Robinson had no such respect f o r r o y a l t y br t h e i r kingdoms, nor d i d he assume t h a t Camelot was f o r a time the best of a l l p o s s i b l e worlds. Arthur h i m s e l f admits.that because of h i s own y o u t h f u l l u s t and p r i d e he thought h i m s e l f a l i t t l e l e s s Than God; a k i n g who b u i l t him palaces On sand and mud, and hears them crumbling now, ' And sees them t o t t e r i n g , as he knew they must.2 I n d i s p e l l i n g the i l l u s i o n of the greatness of A r t h u r and Camelot, Robinson a n a c h r o n i s t i c a l l y turns L a n c e l o t , t h a t t r a d i t i o n a l b u l -wark of monarchy, i n t o a New England r e p u b l i c a n : What are kings? And how much longer are there to be kings? When are the m i l l i o n s who are now l i k e worms To know t h a t kings are worms, i f they are wo rms?3 This q u e s t i o n i n g of the i n t r i n s i c worth of Arthur's realm i s a r a d i c a l l y - n e w note i n the h i s t o r y of the A r t h u r i a n legend. A l t h -ough Robinson admired Tennyson, h i s v e r s i o n of the s t o r y seems to be almost a d e l i b e r a t e r e a c t i o n a g a i n s t the I d y l l s i n t h a t 2. L a n c e l o t , p. 251. A l l quotations are from C o l l e c t e d Poems, New York, Macmillan, 1924. The l i n e s are not numbered. ~ 3 . I b i d . , p. 3^4. 84 Arthur i s so weakened as to become often p a t h e t i c - — a stubborn, jealous, indecisive man who r e a l i z e s that he has b u i l t a vain and empty kingdom f o r whose r u i n he i s c h i e f l y responsible. In se l e c t i n g a framework.for his characters, Robinson i s a l -most completely f a i t h f u l to the t r a d i t i o n a l incidents i n Malory's version, but he goes beyond Malory into the French romances, and revives the rumors of Arthur's immorality; S i r Lamorak, the out-spoken old veteran, growls, The story i s that Merlin warned the king Of what's come now to pass; and I believe i t . And Arthur, he being Arthur and a king, Has made a more pernicious mess than one, We're t o l d , f o r being so great and amorous.^ Lamorak i s not touched by the king's worries about his u n f a i t h f u l wife: As for the King, I say the King, no doubt, Is angry, sorry, and a l l sorts of things, For Lancelot, and f o r his easy Queen, Whom he took knowing she'd thrown sparks already On that same piece of tinder, Lancelot.<j Malory never attempted to explain why Arthur flouted Merlin's warnings about Guinevere; the reason, of- course, Is a very simple and human one, and Robinson disposes of i t i n two l i n e s : Because the King God save poor human reason!-— Would prove to Merlin...that he was wrong.^ Having formerly trusted Merlin absolutely, Arthur allows h i s passion to d i s t o r t his reason i n t h i s case, and he must bear the burden of the consequences. Robinson also returns to the ancient theme of Nemesis as the main cause of the tragedy. Arthur has begotten Mordred by his h a l f - s i s t e r , and the- g u i l t of t h i s early incest returns to destroy 4 . Merlin, p. 2 4 7 . 5 . I b i d . , p . 2 4 8 i 6. Ibid*., p. 248. 35 him': Mordred.lurks as s i l e n t l y and e v i l l y as ever i n the back-ground, a w a i t i n g the o p p o r t u n i t y to say the "one word" t h a t w i l l enable him to p u b l i s h the r o y a l scandal and d i v i d e the kingdom. Because he was immoral during the e a r l y years of h i s r e i g n , because he i n c e s t u o u s l y f a t h e r e d Mordred and l a t e r ignored M e r l i n ' s advice about marrying Guinevere, Arthur prepared the r u i n of h i s kingdom. But the king's g r e a t e s t mistake i s a l l o w i n g h i m s e l f to brood over the consequences of h i s e a r l y l i f e i n s t e a d of exer-c i s i n g h i s mastery as a w a r r i o r k i n g to cure h i s cankerous realm. Rather he indulges i n s e l f - p i t y and lapses i n t o p a s s i v i t y . M e r l i n r e t u r n s from h i s self-imposed e x i l e w i t h V i v i a n i n i d y l l i c Broc-eliande t o warn the l a n g u i s h i n g k i n g t h a t he must f o r g e t Guin-evere 's i n f i d e l i t y and attend t o the d u t i e s of s t a t e : For you are K i n g , And i f you s t a r v e y o u r s e l f , you s t a r v e the s t a t e ; And then by sundry looks and s i l e n c e s Of those you l o v e d , and by the l a x regard Of those you knew f o r fawning enemies, l o u may l e a r n soon t h a t you are King no more.7 M e r l i n i s d i r e c t i n t e l l i n g Arthur where the r e a l danger l i e s : For i t i s Mordred now, not L a n c e l o t , Whose n a t i v e hate plans your a n n i h i l a t i o n — -Though he may smile t i l l he be s i c k , and swear A l l e g i a n c e to an unforgiven f a t h e r .3 "Trust him not," says M e r l i n : For should your f o r c e be slower then than hate, And your r e g r e t be sharper than your s i g h t , And your remorse f a l l h e avier than your sword Then say f a r e w e l l t o Camelot, and the crown. Crusty S i r Lamorak i s disgusted t h a t the k i n g whom he had once admired and f o l l o w e d "through blood and i r o n " w i l l l e t h i s kingdom topple and "go r o l l i n g down to h e l l " because "a p r e t t y 7. M e r l i n , p. 250. 3 . I b i d . , p. 253. 9. Ibid".,. p. 247. 86 woman i s a f o o l " • He asks, " I s the King s i c k ? . . . " I s the King b l i n d w i t h Modred watching him? Does he f o r g e t the crown f o r Lancelot? Does he f o r g e t that every woman mewing S h a l l some day be a handful of s m a l l a s h e s ? " 1 0 Lamorak knows t h a t Arthur had married w i t h h i s eyes open, and th i n k s he i s a f o o l to brood about what he knew to be i n e v i t a b l e : I t ' s t h a t unwholesome and inclement cub Young Modred I'd see f i r s t i n h e l l before I'd hang too high the Queen or L a n c e l o t . I f A r t h u r i s worth h i s s a l t , he w i l l g r a c e f u l l y concede defeat i n l o v e , and accept what M e r l i n suggests i s the w i l l of the gods: This c o i l of Lancelot and Guinevere I s not f o r any mort a l to undo, Or to deny, or to make otherwise.^2 The hopes of Lamorak and the renewed warnings of M e r l i n are v a i n . Arthur i s no longer a noble k i n g , but simply a d i s -appointed and d i s i l l u s i o n e d husband beset by f e a r , doubt and de s p a i r . , He knows t h a t h i s own i n f i r m i t i e s are re s p o n s i b l e f o r h i s p l i g h t , but he hates to admit h i s f a i l u r e . Angry i n h i s woun-ded p r i d e , he f e e l s he can t r u s t no one but Dagonet, the f o o l ; alone i n h i s c o l d , q u i e t room at n i g h t , he v i l i f i e s h i s knights as "dubious knaves" f i l i e d w i t h d i s l o y a l t y and i n g r a t i t u d e . He i s ak i n t o Lear as he r e f l e c t s on h i s i s o l a t i o n and on M e r l i n ' s words concerning the love of Guinevere: 'The love t h a t never was I'...Fool, f o o l , f o o l , f o o l I . This i s an Arthur unknown before i n the development of the A r t h u r i a d . In the past, A r t h u r had always been more concerned f o r the f a t e of h i s Round Table than f o r the l o s s of h i s w i f e ; 10. M e r l i n , p. 243. 11. I b i d . , p. 252. 12. I b i d . , p. 252. 37 Robinson's king loses his wife, and so cares liothing f o r his king-dom. This twentieth-century Arthur i s l e s s admirable, but more human. One of Robinson's chief lessons seems to be that kings are men, and that they and t h e i r kingdoms are subject to a l l the weaknesses inherent i n humanity. This i s not the view of romance, but of r e a l i s t i c psychology and democratic p o l i t i c s . Robinson's insistence on realism of character i s r e f l e c t e d i n his treatment of Guinevere, who had hitherto exhibited l i t t l e more than the stock emotions of love, anger, jealousy and remorse 13 and these i n a s u p e r f i c i a l and uninteresting manner. Robinson was aware of her undeveloped p o t e n t i a l : I don't know whether I deserve a crown or a foolscap f o r t r y i n g to make Guinever i n t e r e s t i n g a f a c t that hasn't to my knowledge been accom-plished heretofore -but she must have had a way with her or there wouldn't have been such an everlasting amount of fuss made over h e r . ^ Robinson devoted as much space to Guinevere as he d i d to any of the male figu r e s , arid endowed the queen with considerable i n t e l l -ectual depth and conversational s k i l l . She has a sharp i n t e l l -igence which sometimes awes Lancelot with the relentlessness of i t s l o g i c . During the siege of Joyous Garde by Arthur and Gaw-aine, f o r instance, she attacks Lancelot f o r h i s tender conscience about f i g h t i n g Arthur: And i f the world Of Arthur's name be now a dying glory, Why bleed i t f o r the sparing of a man Who hates you, and a King that hates himself? 13. William Morris' poem i s , of course, and exception; however, his sketch f a l l s f a r short of a complete p o r t r a i t . 14. E.A. Robinson. Selected L e t t e r s , New York, Macmillan, 1940. 88 I f war be war...why dishonor Time For t o r t u r e l o n g e r drawn i n your slow game. Of empty slaughter? Tomorrow i t w i l l be The King's move, I suppose, and we s h a l l have One more magnificent waste of nameless pawns, And of a few more k n i g h t s . God, how you love This game! to make so l o u d a shambles of i t , When you have only twice to l i f t your f i n g e r To s i g n a l peace, and give to t h i s poor drenched And c l o t t e d e a r t h a time t o h e a l i t s e l f . Twice over I say to you, i f war be war, Why p l a y w i t h i t ? - ^ One of the f r u i t s of the modern emancipation of woman i s her freedom to choose a husband without undue p a r e n t a l pressure. Because of the a l l e g o r y and h i s conception of Arthur's p e r s o n a l i t y , Tennyson avoided d i s c u s s i o n of what must have been to him the r a t h e r d i s t a s t e f u l summons of Arthur t o Guinevere's f a t h e r . Malory, of course, never considered i t a problem at a l l . I n es-t a b l i s h i n g m o t i v a t i o n f o r the a d u l t e r y , Robinson s u p p l i e s a graphic p i c t u r e of the young p r i n c e s s who must be a r e l u c t a n t pawn i n t h i s vCgame of kings:' I wronged him, but he bought me w i t h a name Too l a r g e f o r my k i n g - f a t h e r to. r e l i n q u i s h Though I prayed him, and I prayed God aloud To spare t h a t crown. I c a l l e d i t crown enough To be my f a t h e r ' s c h i l d u n t i l you came. And then there were no crowns or kings or f a t h e r s Under the s k y 0 ^ 0 Robinson has r e t a i n e d Tennyson's, i n n o v a t i o n of u s i n g Lancelot as emissary: when Guinevere sees him, she recognizes the great pass-i o n of her l i f e , and i s ready to abandon a l l duty and l o y a l t y i n surrender to her i n s t i n c t ; the darkness has suddenly been made l i g h t : For me there was no dark u n t i l i t came, she t e l l s Lancelot much l a t e r , When the King came, and w i t h h i s heavy shadow Put out the sun t h a t you made shine again.-yj 15. L a n c e l o t , p. 405. 17. I b i d . . p.424« 16 . I b i d . , p. 423• 89 Guinevere loves Arthur "something l e s s than cats l o v e r a i n , " as Gawain says; a f t e r he v e n g e f u l l y sentences her to be burnt, she loa t h e s him. When the Pope orders Lancelot t o r e t u r n her to Cam-e l o t where Robinson's very human Arthur i s q u i t e ready to r e c e i v e her she passes through the p a t h e t i c phases of love's agony: f u r y , reproach, f r a n t i c s u p p l i c a t i o n , d e s p a i r . I s there no house i n France where she may hide? She could l o v e the bats and owls there b e t t e r than herhhusbandl She could never f o r g i v e the k i n g perhaps she might k i l l him: Homel Free! Would you l e t me go there again To be a t home? Be f r e e ? To be h i s wife? To l i v e i n h i s arms always, and so hate him That I could heap around him the same faggots That you put out w i t h blood? Go home, you say? Home? — where I saw the black post w a i t i n g f o r me That morning?.^ In t h i s scene Guinevere i s a creature of emotion and impulse. She i s not i n t e r e s t e d i n what the Pope commands, what Arthur ex-pec t s , what duty impels or what conscience d i c t a t e s . She d e s i r e s r a t h e r to s e i z e the present hour i n s t e a d of d e f e r r i n g the i s s u e u n t i l some dark time i n the f u t u r e . F u l l of f e a r , she l o s e s a l l d i g n i t y and g r o v e l s at the f e e t of L a n c e l o t , begging him t o c a r r y her away t o France. The scene i s p e c u l i a r l y s i m i l a r t o the famous some would say i n f a m o u s - — p a r t i n g i n the I d y l l s when the queen's golden h a i r i s spread a t the f e e t of the k i n g . There i s no repen-tence here, however; Arthur i s a l l too human, the v i r t u e of h i s Camelot a l l too que s t i o n a b l e , to work remorse i n t h i s woman who now d e s i r e s o n l y a few years of calm happiness w i t h the one man she has lov e d . But Lancelot knows t h a t they could never hide from the world: 18. L a n c e l o t , p. 422. 90 He shook h i s head, Slowly, and r a i s e d her s l o w l y i n h i s arms, Holding her t h e r e ; and they stood long together. And there was no sound then of anything, Save a low moaning of a broken woman, And the c o l d r o a r i n g down of t h a t long r a i n . - ^ Guinevere's f i n a l d e c i s i o n to embrace a p h y s i c a l l y arduous l i f e of penance and prayer at Almsbury r e f l e c t s Robinson's p h i l -osophy that f o r t i t u d e and endurance are the g r e a t e s t v i r t u e s i n l i f e ; even a f t e r a l l hope i s gone, one must continue to meet the f l u c t u a t i o n s and harshness of f a t e . C r i t i c s have v a r i o u s l y t r a c e d Robinson's s t o i c i s m t o h i s New England background or to h i s personal sorrows and p r i v a t i o n s . Whatever the source, the poet leaves the queen,"shorn of her h a i r and dressed i n b l a c k , her o l d enemy, to work out her s a l v a t i o n . Robinson d i d succeed i n h i s attempt to make Guinevere e m o t i o n a l l y and i n t e l l e c t u a l l y " i n t e r -e s t i n g , " and the legend i s the r i c h e r f o r i t . I n p s y c h o l o g i c a l r e a l i s m and i n t r o s p e c t i v e d e t a i l , Robinson's approach to the character of Lancelot i s s i m i l a r to t h a t employed f o r Guinevere. In essence, the p e r s o n a l i t y and r e a c t i o n s of t h i s n oblest of the' knights aresunfchanged from the v e r s i o n s of Malory and Tennyson. Lancelot i s s t i l l the s p l e n d i d l y morose hero, unable to act according.to h i s c o n v i c t i o n s , and aware of h i s weak-ness. Robinson, however, has changed the d i r e c t i o n of h i s sorrow. Lancelot f e e l s l e s s g u i l t y about h i s d i s l o y a l t y to the k i n g than he does about h i s f a i l u r e to work out some ki n d of personal s a l -v a t i o n . He does not f e e l t h a t he and Guinevere are much respon-s i b l e f o r the decay of Camelot, nor does he care t h a t Arthur's world i s passing away. 19. L a n c e l o t , p. 426. 91 Two s t r a i n s of Robinson's thought are evident i n his sketch-ing of the mental turmoil of Lancelot: he was an agnostic, and was attracted to a rather vague transcendentalism, Malory and Tennyson had no trouble explaining what i t was that Lancelot was seeking: the s i n f u l knight wanted enough moral strength to break with Guinevere, atone f o r h i s sins, and die a good C h r i s t i a n i n order to gain heaven. Robinson rejected formal C h r i s t i a n i t y , and i n doing so he created a problem that he f a i l e d to solve. What i s i t that Lancelot hopes to achieve by renouncing Guinevere? Certain-l y not a clean conscience about Arthur.and Camelot, f o r he has sa i d that both are ripe to d i e . Not a sense of having done his duty: duty to what or whom? Robinson i s i r r i t a t i n g i n h i s avoidance of any exact statement about the nature of Lancelot's aspirations, and f a l l s back weakly on a fuzzy mysticism which has the knight following a Light, or a V i s i o n , and l i s t e n i n g to the c a l l of some Voice. The commentators have been ready with explanations of 20 what Robinson means. One says that the Light i s self-knowledge a meaningless c l i c h e i n that Lancelot knew himself quite well, but s t i l l went to bed with the queen. Another says that Lancelot 21 desires an encounter with higher and more permanent i d e a l s . Ideals based on what? Not on Camelot. Not on the revealed wishes of God. Here i s a knotty problem which shows the danger of l i f t -ing the characters of the legend too much out of t h e i r h i s t o r i c a l context. The Arthuriad as i t came to maturity i n the twelfth century was intimately bound to a C h r i s t i a n atmosphere. To deny 20. . Yvor Winters,, Edwin Arlington Robinson. Norfolk, New Directions, 1946, p, 81, 21, Charles Cestre, An Introduction to Edwin Arlington Robinson. New York, Macmillan, 1930, p.12. . .92 . t h i s r e l i g i o u s element i s to rob both Guinevere and Lancelot of t h e i r main m o t i v a t i o n f o r remorse. The L i g h t t h a t Lancelot wishes to f o l l o w seems to be some-how bound up w i t h the G r a i l quest, f o r when Lancelot returns from h i s G r a i l adventures he t e l l s Gawain: When I came back from seeing what I saw, I saw no place f o r me i n Camelot. There i s no place f o r me i n Camelot. There i s no place f o r , me save where the' L i g h t May l e a d me; and t o t h a t place I s h a l l go«22 From t h i s one might, conclude t h a t Robinson does indeed i n t e n d Lancelot to be a C h r i s t i a n seeking conventional s a l v a t i o n ; the t r o u b l e i s t h a t Robinson has not d e f i n i t e l y s a i d what t h i s G r a i l symbolizes. I f i t represents a l l t h a t i s pure and h o l y and sacred i n C h r i s t i a n i t y , does Robinson mean the t r a d i t i o n a l C a t h o l i c C h r i s -t i a n i t y , or a modern Protestantism? Apparently he does not i n t e n d a C a t h o l i c i n t e r p r e t a t i o n , f o r Guinevere t e l l s L a n c e l o t , ' * - The L i g h t you saw Was not the L i g h t of Rome; the word you had Of Rome was not the word of God.g^ * I s Lancelot a P r o t e s t a n t , then? Since Robinson h i m s e l f was not a P r o t e s t a n t , why should he wish to convert Lancelot? F u r t h e r -more, i t would be f o o l i s h to assume t h a t a modern P r o t e s t a n t i n t e l l e c t u a l would r i d e o f f i n search of a glimpse of an extreme-l y m y s t i c a l and medieval C a t h o l i c symbol. Whatever t h i s L i g h t means, i t i s apparent t h a t Guinevere stands between i t and L a n c e l o t ; as he says, Once I had gone Where the L i g h t guided me, but the Queen came, And then there was no L i g h t .,2^ 22. Lancelot., p. 369. • 23. I b i d . , p. 419. 24. I b i d . , p. 437. 93 To f i n d the L i g h t r e q u i r e s some s o r t of s p i r i t u a l death and r e -b i r t h ; c o n v e n t i o n a l l y , i t would be.the r e n u n c i a t i o n of a sensual l i f e i n f a v o r of a holy r e l i g i o u s l i f e , but i t i s u n l i k e l y t h a t Robinson means anything so simple. A f t e r l e a v i n g Guinevere f o r the l a s t time, Lancelot r i d e s away: and a Voice w i t h i n him s a i d : 'Where the L i g h t f a l l s , death f a l l s ; a world has died •For you t h a t a world may l i v e . ThBre i s no peace.' • ••••••••••••••• But the Voice w i t h i n him s a i d : "You are not f r e e . You have come t o the world's end, and i t i s best You are not f r e e . Where the L i g h t f a l l s , death f a l l s ; And i n the darkness comes the Light.'' _ In a general way, Arthur and Camelot represent the c i v i l i -z a t i o n of Europe a f t e r World War I . The European Camelot t h a t Robinson saw f a l l i n g t o ashes was one based on.hereditary s o c i a l and p o l i t i c a l p r i v i l e g e , r i g i d c l a s s s t r u c t u r e and unjust d i s t r i -b u t i o n of wealth. Commenting on M e r l i n i n 1916*, the poet makes an unusual statement about the f i g u r e of La n c e l o t : " I f one i n s i s t s , Lancelot...may be taken as a r a t h e r d i s t a n t symbol of Germany." What Robinson probably meant was t h a t the a c t i o n s of both Lance-l o t and Germany p r e c i p i t a t e d a war which was to l e a d t o the f a l l of a system t h a t was already passing. When Arthur and Gawain go to France to f i g h t L a n c e l o t , the f r i e n d s of the e x i l e d knight beg him t o k i l l the k i n g and h i s vengeful l i e u t e n a n t , and thus end a u s e l e s s war tha t i s c o s t i n g many l i v e s . S t r i c k e n i n con-s c i e n c e , Lancelot cannot b r i n g . h i m s e l f t o the deed. I n the same way, perhaps Germany could have obtained i t s o b j e c t i v e s without such wholesale carnage. I t i s a. r a t h e r s t r a i n e d i n t e r p r e t a t i o n , 2 5 . L a n c e l o t , pp. 443-49 . 2 6 . L e t t e r s , p. 126. 94 of course, but i t i s nevertheless a f u r t h e r r e f l e c t i o n of a modern mind seeing i n the legend c e r t a i n p a r a l l e l s to contempor-ary events. Edwin A r l i n g t o n Robinson has made a major c o n t r i b u t i o n to the development of the A r t h u r i a n s t o r y . His modern i n t e r e s t i n psychology gives the "characters g r e a t e r p r o f u n d i t y . Afcthur, Guinevere and Lanc e l o t are f i n a l l y made worthy of a t t e n t i o n f o r what they t h i n k as w e l l as f o r what they do. • Their, speech, how-ever, i s a b i t too i n t e l l e c t u a l l y p r e c i s e to convince the reader t h a t they are r e a l , because r e a l people do not speak w i t h such c o n s i s t e n t l y e l e v a t e d thought or vocabulary. The lon g speeches l a c k the quickness of o r d i n a r y l i f e , and the d i s p l a y s of i n t e l l -e c t u a l cleverness are a l i e n to the more simple, c o l l o q u i a l t a l k of the average man. What Robinson's characters l a c k i s a b i t of the e a r t h to give them some of the warmth, humor and i n c i s i v e 2' pathos necessary r e a l l y to humanize these misty f i g u r e s of legend. Robinson a l s o f a i l e d to achieve much v a r i e t y of tone, nor d i d he come t o g r i p s w i t h the problems of hatred, oppression, and war t h a t are common both to the A r t h u r i a n legend and t o the t w e n t i e t h century. He assumed th a t Camelot was c o r r u p t , and monarchy out-dated, but he made no r e a l attempt t o e x p l a i n the reasons f o r Arthur's f a i l u r e . I t remained f o r T.H. White to undertake a more complex and s u b t l e treatment. 27 . This i s hot t o suggest t h a t r e a l i s m u i s n e c e s s a r i l y the major c r i t e r i o n f o r judging the q u a l i t y of l i t e r a t u r e . The po i n t i s t h a t the prime c o n t r i b u t i o n of the t w e n t i e t h century to the A r t h u r i a d i s a more minute a n a l y s i s of fo r m e r l y conven-t i o n a l f i g u r e s of romance, w i t h g r e a t e r s t r e s s on r e a l i s m o f thought, a c t i o n and s e t t i n g . Robinson achieved much, but W h i t e — p a r t l y because prose i s a b e t t e r medium f o r r e a l i s t i c w r i t i n g - — d i d more. Whether White's book i s b e t t e r than Robinson's poems i n v o l v e s a comparative judgment that i s outside the scope of t h i s t h e s i s . 95 CHAPTER VI T. H. WHITE' There i s a temptation f o r a student of the Arthurian legend to lapse into superlatives when discussing. Terence Hanbury White's 1 The Once and Future King. Anyone acquainted with the history of the legend i s bound to be even more impressed and delighted than the general reader with t h i s book about (as one reviewer of Robin-son's poems c a l l e d them) "that over-worked and much over-poeticized Camelot crowd." White's tetrology of novels i s an extraordinary achievement i n that he has t o l d the f a m i l i a r story with almost complete f i d e l i t y to the main plot and characters 'of Malory,, and yet has made the well-worn Matter of B r i t a i n more e x c i t i n g , and the tragedy more apparent, than they have ever been before. His success i s due to a happy blend of Imagination, scholarly research, psychological i n s i g h t and humor. Unlike most authors who have taken up Arthurian materials, White does not r e l y s o l e l y on l i t e r a r y sources mainly Malory f o r his subject matter. He i s q u a l i f i e d not only as an a r t i s t , but also as a scholar who i s intimately acquainted with medieval 1. T.H. White. The Once and Future King, New York, Putnam's, 1958. 2. H..M., "Mr. Robinson i n Camelot." Poetry. July. 1917, p. 213. 9 6 l i f e . His i m a g i n a t i o n has enabled him t o invent background which more f u l l y e x p l a i n s the motives of the c h a r a c t e r s , but which a t the same time i s e n t i r e l y f a i t h f u l to the s p i r i t of the e a r l y legend. His academic.interest i n the minutiae of medieval c i v i l -i z a t i o n has kept h i s s t o r y rooted i n r e a l i s m . This unique blend of c r e a t i v e imagination and" s c h o l a r s h i p , which makes the legend much r i c h e r , i s the main reason f o r White's success. More important to a study of the a d u l t e r y i s the author's awareness t h a t the p r i n c i p a l characters of the legend, i f they are to be acceptable to a twentieth-century reader, must r e v e a l normal emotional and i n t e l l e c t u a l r e a c t i o n s . Malory made no attempt to analyze the characters or t o e x p l a i n the i n c o n s i s t e n c i e s of h i s i d e a l i z e d c h i v a l r i c heroes; Tennyson robbed h i s characters of most o f ' t h e i r r e a l i t y by making them s e m i - a l l e g p r i c a l ; Robinson indulged i n profound i n t r o s p e c t i o n of c h a r a c t e r , but h i s Camelot was too somber and i n t e l l e c t u a l to be r e a l l y human. White has not adopted the stereotyped Middle Ages of most f i c t i o n ; h i s characters are simple, but not q u a i n t , nor are they i m p o s s i b l y noble or i m p o s s i b l y e v i l . This "Camelot crowd" g o s s i p s , changes f a s h i o n s , serves on j u r i e s , s u f f o c a t e s i n cumbersome armor, pays f e u d a l dues as tokens of homage to the k i n g , and b u i l d s great c a t h e d r a l s as t r i b u t e s t o an i n t e n s e l y personal God. The men grow o l d , and the women plump. , This r e a l i s m of a c t i o n i s balanced by t r u t h of p s y c h o l o g i c a l i n s i g h t . White succeeds w i t h h i s characters because he has not attempted to f a s h i o n them i n h i s own image.. They do not judge, l i f e through the eyes of a medieval f i g u r e of romance, of a nineteenth century m o r a l i s t , or of a twentieth-century i n t e l l -9 7 e c t u a l . Although White's work r e v e a l s the i n f l u e n c e of h i s age i n other respects i n c l u d i n g i t s n a t u r a l i s m of" speech, i t s l e a n -i n g to Freudian psychology, and i t s concern w i t h the problem of w a r — - h i s characters are u n i v e r s a l i z e d i n s o f a r as they consider . t h e i r problems and r e l a t i o n s h i p s w i t h a s i m p l i c i t y of emotion c common to average human beings i n every age; as a r e s u l t , the reader can share t h e i r joys and woes, because he i d e n t i f i e s h i m s e l f w i t h them on a b a s i s of common humanity. I t would be g r o s s l y u n j u s t to c a l l White a mere humorist. On the other hand, i n s p i t e of the s e r i o u s i n t e n t and e s s e n t i a l l y t r a g i c i m p l i c a t i o n s of the t e t r a l o g y , one of the c h i e f impress-ions l e f t w i t h the reader i s t h a t t h i s i s the work of a man w i t h a p u c k i s h , sometimes broad and f a r c i c a l , o f t e n s a t i r i c humor. Judging by the nature of A r t h u r i a n m a t e r i a l over the past seven c e n t u r i e s , one would t h i n k t h a t nothing funny ever happened i n 3 the Middle Ages. Malory, Tennyson, and Robinson t r e a t e d the s t o r y w i t h i n t e n s e s e r i o u s n e s s . ^ But l a u g h t e r i s a c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of l i f e anywhere, and no s o c i e t y l a c k i n g i t i s t r u l y c r e d i b l e . White's wise and s u c c e s s f u l evocation of l a u g h t e r i n Camelot, i n c l u d i n g h i s p l a y f u l use of anachronism, i s a d i s t i n g u i s h e d c o n t r i b u t i o n t o A r t h u r i a n l i t e r a t u r e . 3. Dryden, F i e l d i n g arid Twain, of course, used A r t h u r i a n m a t e r i a l f o r comedy, but they made no attempt to t e l l any of the t r a d i t i o n a l s t o r y . 4. Some of the best w r i t i n g i n Robinson's A r t h u r i a n t r i l o g y i s found In the passages i n v o l v i n g the rough and garrulous Lamorak, whose outspoken and earthy roars the amused reader leaves w i t h r e g r e t a f t e r the f i r s t few pages of M e r l i n . 9a White has heightened the r e a l i s m by a v o i d i n g archaisms of speech except,for humor. His characters speak i n simple, even c o l l o q u i a l terms• They do not, furthermore, e x h i b i t t h a t t u r n f o r s u b t l e i n t e l l e c t u a l a n a l y s i s which, in.some of Robinson's passages, suggests a remoteness from r e a l l i f e . A f t e r a l l , there never were any very profound i n t e l l e c t s i n A r t h u r i a n romance. I n an age,that has managed to s u r v i v e two world wars, and i s preparing f o r a t h i r d , White attempts to f i n d i n the A r t h u r i a n legend, some answer to the puzzle of how mankind can achieve a 1 s t a b l e , progressive s o c i e t y . Malory s a i d t h a t men must be c h i v -a l r o u s ; Tennyson s a i d t h a t men must subdue t h e i r animal i n s t i n e t s ; and behave l i k e C h r i s t i a n s which i s v i r t u a l l y what Malory meant by c h i v a l r y . Robinson suggested t h a t man must f o l l o w the beck-onings of some h i g h e r ; l i f e , of the L i g h t , but he f a i l e d to make h i s meaning c l e a r . White's message i s t h a t f o r c e never so l v e s anything, and t h a t might i s not the means to the end of a peace-f u l c i v i l i z a t i o n c h a r a c t e r i z e d by l i b e r t y , e q u a l i t y , and a w e l l -formulated code of C h r i s t i a n law. White i s ah Englishman, proud of h i s B r i t i s h h e r i t a g e , proud of the t r a d i t i o n s of the Crown, and proud of the Law as-the foun-d a t i o n of democracy. L i k e Tennyson, he b e l i e v e s t h a t f i r m l y estab-l i s h e d i n s t i t u t i o n s are v i t a l t o order and progress. This i s not to say t h a t he i s a n t a g o n i s t i c to change. As a conservative demo-c r a t , however, he i s s u s p i c i o u s of any movement t h a t threatens t o s u b s t i t u t e group i n t e r e s t f o r n a t i o n a l i n t e r e s t , or v i o l e n c e and oppression f o r the p e a c e f u l working of j u s t laws. The t a s k 99 of King Arthur i n White's book i s e s s e n t i a l l y the same as i t was i n Tennyson's I d y l l s : to r a i s e men above a b e s t i a l c o n d i t i o n o f bloody anarchy, and to create a well-ordered c i v i l i z a t i o n out of s o c i a l and p o l i t i c a l chaos. Tennyson s a i d t h a t men must f o l l o w the d i c t a t e s of conscience and duty i f they hoped to b e t t e r them-s e l v e s ; White says much the same t h i n g , but i n a more p r a c t i c a l way. As an h i s t o r i a n he I s aware t h a t the Law has been the g r e a t -est s i n g l e c i v i l i z i n g I n f l u e n c e i n B r i t i s h h i s t o r y , so he d e p i c t s Arthur as i t s o r i g i n a l champion, a man whose l i f e ' s work i s to c o n t r o l f o r c e and b r u t a l i t y by s u b j e c t i n g them to a c o d i f i e d s y s -tem of j u s t i c e . This theme of C i v i l Law as the b a s i s of Arthur's kingdom i s new i n the h i s t o r y of the legend. There have always been vague references t o the "law", but the law of Camelot has u s u a l l y been a per s o n a l and a r b i t r a r y system of the k i n g , used to punish those who had committed some offense against the throne. Robinson d e p i c t s Arthur as u s i n g the law f o r purposes of s p i t e and revenge: I t i s -- i t must be f i r e . The law says f i r e . And I , the King who made the law, say f i r e I For they are new t o law and young to j u s t i c e ; But what they are to see w i l l harden them With wholesome, admiration of a realm Where treason's "end i s ashes. Ashes. AshesI Now t h i s i s b e t t e r . I am King again.^ Apparently Robinson's Arthur equates the law w i t h h i s personal d e s i r e s i t i s h i s to employ or d i s m i s s . Tennyson's k i n g i s a l s o able t o l a y the law aside i f he f i n d s i t o f f e n s i v e ; he says to Guinevere: . . . The wrath which f o r c e d my thoughts on that f i e r c e law, The doom of treason and the f l a m i n g death,—•-When f i r s t I l e a r n t thee hidden here, i s past.5 5. L a n c e l o t . p. 391-92. 6. Guinevere. Oil . 534-37). 100 White's Ar t h u r , however, cannot be so a r b i t r a r y . He i s a c o n s t i -t u t i o n a l monarch, who i s as subject to the law as the meanest v i l l a i n . Arthur's e a r l y t r a i n i n g under M e r l i n had, convinced him th a t k i l l i n g people, t h a t being a t y r a n t , was wrong, and t h a t a good k i n g must set the example i f he hopes t o b r i n g peace t o h i s country. When he f i r s t became k i n g , Arthur was fo r c e d to use vi o l e n c e t o b r i n g the "gangster b a r o n s " - — t h e " c o n s e r v a t i v e s " who b e l i e v e d i n no government except the r u l e of f o r c e — — u n d e r c o n t r o l but he comes to r e a l i z e t h a t the Round Table cannot s u r v i v e so long as i t s supremacy i s founded on brute s t r e n g t h . Right must be e s t a b l i s h e d by Rig h t . When order i s achieved, there i s nothing f o r h i s f i g h t e r s to do but feud among themselves. The G r a i l quest provides a temporary o u t l e t f o r t h e i r energies, but no permanent c i v i l i z a t i o n i s p o s s i b l e u n t i l A rthur introduces the r u l e of law, h i s f i n a l e f f o r t a g a i n s t Might. I t i s a t r a g i c i r o n y t h a t the king's j u s t i c e p r e c i p i t a t e s the c r i s i s which r e s u l t s i n the d i s s o l u t i o n of the Round Table and the d e s t r u c t i o n of a l l t h a t Arthur achieved.' Mordred, who hates the kin g f o r reasons of a f a m i l y f e u d , and Agravaine, who detes t s and envies L a n c e l o t , aare. a p a i r of medieval f a s c i s t s who d e s i r e to found a t o t a l i t a r i a n s t a t e . They know t h a t they can never.seize power so long as the o l d f r i e n d s h i p continues between Arthur and La n c e l o t . Because they are aware t h a t Arthur i s too l o v i n g and c h a r i t a b l e , too concerned f o r the peace and p r o s p e r i t y of the s t a t e ; ever t o accuse h i s precious wife and dearest f r i e n d of t r e a s o n , they decide to l a y a t r a p f o r the l o v e r s i n order to ob t a i n l e g a l evidence of a d u l t e r y . When faced w i t h such evidence, the k i n g w i l l have no choice but to condemn Lancelot and Guinevere 101 i n keeping with the laws that he himself had i n s t i t u t e d . Arthur i s aw^re of t h e i r enmity, and t r i e s gently to warn Lancelot and the queen that the law i s more powerful than he: "You see, Lance, I have to be absolutely j u s t . . . The only way I can keep clear of force i s by j u s t i c e . Far from being w i l l i n g to execute his enemies, a r e a l king must be w i l l i n g to execute his f r i e n d s . " "And h i s wife?" asked Guenever. "And h i s wife," he said gravely. Lancelot moved uncomfortably on the s e t t l e , remarking with an attempt at humor: "I hope you won't be cutt-ing o f f the Queen's head very soon?" " I f Guenever or you, Landelot, were proved to be g u i l t y of a wrong to my kingdom, I should have to cut o f f both your heads." "Goodness met" she exclaimed. "I hope nobody i s going to prove that!" "Mordred i s an unhappy young man, and I am a f r a i d he might t r y any means of giving me an upset. I f , for instance, he could see a way of getting at me through you, dear, or through Gwen, I am sure he would t r y it...So i f there should ever come a moment when either of you might, well...might give him a sort of handle...you w i l l be c a r e f u l of me, won't you? I am i n your hands, dears." • But the habits of twenty-fbUr years of love are too strong f o r Lancelot to r e s i s t . He goes to the queen while the king i s away hunting, i s caught and challenged by the p l o t t e r s , and must f l e e the court. Arthur's confidence that Lancelot w i l l rescue the condemned Guinevere presents him with a further dilemma: should he strengthen the guard because he expects a rescue, or should he ignore the p o s s i b i l i t y of rescue and post the usual number of knights to supervise the execution? He does not want Guinevere to die; i n f a c t , he ardently desires that Lancelot w i l l rescue 7. White, op_. c i t . . P. 580-81. 1 0 2 her. But he must be f a i r , and i t pains him to know t h a t some good knights must d i e during Lancelot's attempt. He f e e l s no personal grudge, and although the l o v e r s are t e c h n i a a l l y g u i l t y according to law, he knows they are not t r a i t o r s , but r a t h e r two of h i s strongest and most t r u s t e d supporters. A r t h u r , as the g l o a t i n g Agravaine e x u l t s , i s " H o i s t w i t h h i s own p e t a r d i " When the rescue i s accomplished, Arthur i s l i k e a d e l i g h t e d c h i l d . Standing a t the palace window, he asks Gawaine i f he should wave to the queen as she r i d e s away, but the grand o l d s o l d i e r , speaking w i t h an outland.Gaelic accent, does not t h i n k i t would be r i g h t : " W e l l , then, I suppose I must not. S t i l l , i t would have been nice t o do something, as she i s going." Gawaine turned upon him w i t h a s w i r l of a f f e c t i o n . "Uncle Arthur," he s a i d , "ye're a grand man. I t e l l e d ye i t would come t o r i g h t . " "And you are a grand man, too, Gawaine, a good man and a k i n d one." They k i s s e d i n the ancient way, j o y f u l l y , on both cheeks. "There," they s a i d , "There.". The o l d King looked about him as i f he were searching f o r the t h i n g to do. His age, the suggestion of i n f i r -m i t y, had l i f t e d from him. He looked s t r a i g h t e r . His cheeks were rosy. The crow's f e e t round h i s eyes were beaming. " I t h i n k we ought to have a monstrous d r i n k to begin w i t h . " "Verra g u i d . C a l l the page." "Page,, page...Where the d e v i l have you gone? Page! Here, you varmint, b r i n g us some d r i n k . " g The scene not only r e v e a l s Arthur's boyishness and a f f e c t i o n , and h i s t o t a l l a c k of any sense of personal wrong, but a l s o i s an e x c e l l e n t example of White's a b i l i t y to blend humor and pathos. In r e t r o s p e c t , the scene has great pathos, i n view of the imminent 8. White, p_£. c i t . . pp. 6l6-17. 103 deaths of Gareth and Gaheris.. Arthur i s even ready to make ex-cuses f o r the l o v e r s although he knows the t r u t h : Perhaps we can make Lancelot a p o l o g i z e , or some arrangement l i k e t h a t - — a n d then he can come back. We would get him to e x p l a i n t h a t he was i n the Queen's bedroom because she had sent f o r him to pay the Maliagrance f e e , as she had b r i e f e d him, and she d i d n ' t want to have any t a l k about the payment. And then, of course, he had to r e s -cue her because he knew she was innocent. Yes, I t h i n k we could manage something l i k e t h a t . But they would have to behave themselves i n the future• 2 His d e s i r e t o e f f e c t a r e c o n c i l i a t i o n i s d i c t a t e d not by f e a r o f Lancelot or s l a v i s h r i e s s to the body of G u i n e v e r e — - i t a r i s e s out of h i s u n s e l f i s h n e s s . He had known t h a t they were s i n n i n g , but he had f a t a l i s t i c a l l y c o nditioned himself to accept the s i t u a t i o n . He knows tha t i f he now i n s i s t s on o b t a i n i n g conventional s a t i s -f a c t i o n f o r h i s wounded honor, i t w i l l mean the end of a l l he has worked f o r and l o v e d . The plans of Arthur and Gawaine are short l i v e d , however, as the s n a r l i n g Mordred comes w i t h the news of Gareth and Gaheris. The laughter d i e s , and the "monstrous d r i n k s " go untouched. What manner of man i s t h i s Arthur conceived by a modern w r i t e r t h i s man who values h i s e r r i n g wife and her l o v e r more than he values h i s own r o y a l honor, who warns the l o v e r s t h a t they are i n danger, and i s ready to l i e i n t h e i r defence, and who, f i n a l l y , reverences the Law above a l l t f c h i n g s ? I s he a genius or a f o o l ? A s a i n t or a s p i n e l e s s weakling? I n r e t e l l i n g the A r t h u r i a n legend, White had to choose be-tween two methods: he could, l i k e Tennyson,and Robinson, take the characters and i n c i d e n t s from Malory t h a t s u i t e d him, or he could be f a i t h f u l t o Malory, and supply acceptable p s y c h o l o g i c a l 9. White, oj>. c i t . , p. 617. 104 m o t i v a t i o n f o r the unexplained and sometimes incongruous i n c i -dents i n Malory. The character of Arthur has always been the w e i g h t i e s t problem: how can a k i n g be the g l o r i o u s patron s a i n t of c h i v a l r y and yet have fat h e r e d a couple of bastard sons? Would a n e a r l y p e r f e c t k i n g attempt the wholesale murder of a shi p l o a d of innocent babies? Malory made no attempt to e x p l a i n these con-t r a d i c t i o n s t h a t he i n h e r i t e d from French romance. Tennyson i g n o r -ed Arthur's weaknesses, and emphasized h i s s t r e n g t h s . By over-s t a t i n g the king's f a u l t s , Robinson robbed him of the d i g n i t y and n o b i l i t y which he must possess i f there i s t o be any tragedy i n h i s f a l l . White chooses to minimise n e i t h e r the good nor the e v i l . Because he reveres h i s B r i t i s h h e r i t a g e , i n c l u d i n g i t s l i t e r a t u r e , and because he has a sch o l a r ' s tenderness f o r the Middle Ages, White has f a i t h f u l l y adhered t o Malory, h i s master. The Arthur of The Once and Future King i s a simple, a f f e c -t i o n a t e man, who has been c a r e f u l l y nurtured by M e r l i n f o r the s i n g l e task of taming anarchy i n England and b r i n g i n g s e c u r i t y to everyone by f o r m u l a t i n g a system of C i v i l Law. He i s a k i n d , c o n s c i e n t i o u s , peace-loving monarch who f i g h t s w e l l and commands a l l e g i a n c e from a va r i e g a t e d assortment of young knights from a l l over Europe who i d o l i z e him as the most famous defender of l i b e r t y and j u s t i c e . Among these eager young men i s La n c e l o t , the self-termed C h e v a l i e r Mai F e t , an u g l y youth from France who has spent most of h i s eighteen years i n p e r f e c t i n g the k n i g h t l y a r t s so as t o be worthy Of h i s hero. Although White i s a r e a l i s t i n h i s handling of cha r a c t e r , he has no qualms about u s i n g magic or prophecy i n h i s p l o t . M e r l i n has warned the young k i n g t h a t h i s queen w i l l be u n f a i t h f u l , but when Lancelot a r r i v e s at c o u r t , Arthur i s so a t t r a c t e d to him 105 that he has doubts about M e r l i n ' s warnings. As t h e i r f r i e n d -ship develops, the k i n g f i n d s i t i n c r e a s i n g l y d i f f i c u l t to be-l i e v e t h a t Lancelot could be h i s best f r i e n d and h i s betrayer at the same time. Arthur's i n t e l l e c t i s not s u b t l e , so he chooses to put the prophecy t o the back of h i s mind and see what develops. Because he i s d e a l i n g w i t h a simple', f o r t h r i g h t c h a r a c t e r , White keeps h i s psychology on an elementary l e v e l . When Arthur becomes aware th a t Lancelot and Guinevere are i n l o v e , he estab-l i s h e s a s o r t of mental b l o c k whereby he hopes to overcome the tro u b l e by r e f u s i n g to t h i n k about i t . Subconsciously, says White, he knows t h a t they are s l e e p i n g together, but he loves them both too much to make an i s s u e out of i t ; perhaps t h i n g s w i l l work themselves out i f he i s p a t i e n t . 1 ^ One phase of the r e l a t i o n s h i p between Arthur and Lancelot that i s l i k e l y t o bother the modern reader who i s f a m i l i a r w i t h Malory and Tennyson i s Arthur's seeming i n d i f f e r e n c e t o Lance-l o t ' s p r o f e s s i o n s t h a t he i s a s i n f u l man, tha t he bears a heavy burden of g u i l t because of h i s s e c r e t s i n . Never once does the ki n g ask h i s dearest knight e x a c t l y what i s t r o u b l i n g him. White cannot ignore t h i s touchy problem, f o r to do so would be q u i t e u n r e a l i s t i c . He e x p l a i n s i t simply and n a t u r a l l y : L a n c e l o t , w i t h an u n c o n t r o l l a b l e d e s i r e to get some of h i s misery o f f h i s chest by t e l l i n g about i t - — a n d yet unable to t e l l the true s t o r y t o t h i s p a r t i c u l a r l i s t e n e r began a long rigmarole about E l a i n e . He began t e l l i n g Arthur h a l f the t r u t h : how he was ashamed and had l o s t h i s m i r a c l e s . But he was for c e d to make E l a i n e the c e n t r a l f i g u r e of t h i s confess-i o n , and, a f t e r h a l f an hour, he had u n w i t t -i n g l y presented the King w i t h a s t o r y t o B e l i e v e i n - — a s t o r y w i t h which Arthur could content him-s e l f i f he d i d not want to be conscious of the true t a l e . This h a l f - t r u t h was of great use to the poor f e l l o w who learned to s u b s t i t u t e i t f o r the r e a l t r o u b l e i n l a t e r y e a r s . ^ 10. White, OE* c i t . , p. 407. 11.. I b i d . , p. 408. 106 I t i s true that Arthur's attempts to turn h i s back on t h i s per-sonal wrong are sometimes pathetic, but they may also indicate largeness of heart and mind* White, whose conservatism makes him s k e p t i c a l of much that i s considered progressive i n modern c i v i l i z a t i o n , uses the s i t u a t i o n to s a t i r i z e his own age i n words heavy with irony: We c i v i l i z e d people, who would immediately f l y to divorce courts and alimony and other forms of a t t r i t i o n i n such circumstances, can afford to look with proper contempt upon the spineless cuckold. But Arthur was only a medieval savage. He did not understand our c i v i l i z a t i o n , arid knew no better than to t r y to be too decent f o r the degradation of jealousy.-^ The s a t i r e becomes universalized as White pursues his analysis of Arthur's character: Arthur...had been b e a u t i f u l l y brought up and pro-tected with love...he had grown up without any of the useful accomplishments of living...without malice, vanity, suspicion, cruelty, and the commoner forms of selfishness. Jealousy seemed to him the most ignoble of v i c e s . He was sadly u n f i t t e d f o r hating h i s best f r i e n d , or f o r t o r t u r i n g his wife. He had been given too much love and t r u s t to be good at these things.-^ I t i s the f i r s t time i n the h i s t o r y of the A r t h u r i a n legend that a writer has repeatedly looked at the adultery through the eyes of the king. The lovers have always received most of the attention. Probably i t has usually been supposed that Arthur's reactions would be f a i r l y predictable: the anger, resentment, jealousy and desire f o r r e t r i b u t i o n of the wronged husband. But i t i s inconsistent from the point of view of r e a l i s t i c psychology to say that a man i s a great and a noble leader, the flower of -Christendom and the. f i n e s t product of c h i v a l r y , and yet show him 12. White, op_. c i t . . p. 408. 13. I b i d . , p. 406. ., ) 107 unable to r e c o n c i l e himself t o an a d u l t e r y about which he has been e x p l i c i t e l y warned, and which he i s powerless to prevent or change. Most authors have ignored the i n c o n s i s t e n c y and con-centrated on the l o v e r s , but White has centered h i s book on the k i n g , and the question i s bound to a r i s e . White simply decides that Arthur i s too much of a C h r i s t i a n gentleman to a l l o w h i m s e l f the l u x u r i e s of jea l o u s y and s p i t e . T r a d i t i o n a l l y , i t i s Lancelot who s u f f e r s a torment of con-science over the a d u l t e r y ; Arthur e i t h e r i s ignorant of i t , o r ignores i t , but he never w o r r i e s about i t . In White's v e r s i o n , however, Arthur i s as anxious as the l o v e r s t h a t the a f f a i r be kept p r i v a t e , f o r i t s d i s c o v e r y would mean the end of t h e i r f r i e n d -s h i p , and perhaps the breaking up of the realm. Arthur i s troub-l e d because h i s knowledge of the a d u l t e r y , of Lancelot's d i v i d e d l o y a l t y , gnaws at h i s peace i n s p i t e of a l l h i s e f f o r t s to ignore i t . He i s concerned f o r Lancelot's s p i r i t u a l torment., f o r the embarrassment and g u i l t of the l o v e r s on awkward occasions, and f o r the use that some of the e v i l powers i n the country might make of the a d u l t e r y i f they had enough evidence t o t u r n i t i n t o a p u b l i c scandal. Arthur i s never worried about h i m s e l f . He understands, w i t h almost superhuman g e n e r o s i t y and u n s e l f i s h n e s s , that men and women can love f o r d i f f e r e n t reasons. He i s too wise and humble t o be s u r p r i s e d or hurt when he dis c o v e r s t h a t Guinevere and Lancelot are i n l o v e . A f t e r a l l , i t had been a "made" marriage, f i x e d by t r e a t y w i t h her f a t h e r , King Leodegrance. No doubt the y o u t h f u l , i d e a l i s t i c Arthur had hoped th a t h i s wife would come to love him, and indeed, i t i s t o Guinevere's c r e d i t t h a t she accepted the 108 union and t r i e d as hard as possible to love the king and make him happy. But Arthur i s no f o o l . White does not say so d i r -e c t l y , but there i s l i t t l e doubt that Arthur had not deluded him-s e l f i n t o believing that h i s wife's a f f e c t i o n was passion. Rob-inson's Arthur, when t o l d by Merlin a f t e r many years of marriage that his wife has never loved him, curses himself as a f o o l because he never r e a l i z e d i t . This i s not r e a l i s t i c psychology, f o r no woman i s clever enough to maintain the i l l u s i o n of love over a prolonged p e r i o d - — p a r t i c u l a r l y , as i s the case with Robinson's Guinevere, when she detests her husband. White's Arthur knows that his wife loves Lancelot with a grand passion, but he also knows that she s t i l l loves him: ...before Lancelot came on the scene the young g i r l had adored her famous husband. She had f e l t respect f o r him, with gratitude, kindness, love and. a sense of protection. She had f e l t more than t h i s — : y o u might say that she had f e l t everything except the passion of romance.^ Arthur accepts t h i s d u a l i t y i n h i s wife's emotions-—affection f o r him and passion f o r Lancelot while expecting only that she w i l l be l o y a l to him i n a l l other things, and discreet enough to pre-vent his enemies from making p o l i t i c a l c a p i t a l of the a f f a i r . This acceptance i s p l a u s i b l e , because White has given Arthur a heroic stature that includes profound wisdom, humility and gen-e r o s i t y . Arthur i s also aware of Lancelot's sense of g u i l t about his divided l o y a l t y , but the king r e a l i z e s t hat his commander-in-chief i s only.technically a t r a i t o r . Arthur knows that Lancelot has fought a courageous battle against temptation, but has f a i l e d . The king i s not so free of f a u l t s that he cannot sympathize with .14. White, op. c i t . , p. 373 • 109 human weakness; a f t e r a l l , he had allowed himself t o be seduced i n h i s youth, and then f r i g h t e n e d i n t o the attempted murder of innocent babies. L a n c e l o t , furthermore, i s h a r d l y a promiscuous w i f e - s t e a l e r . His i n t e g r i t y of s p i r i t i s flawed o n l y by h i s f a t a l obsession w i t h the queen. The o n l y remedy f o r h i s passion would be to f l e e to France, but both he and Arthur know t h a t England and i t s k i n g would be the poorer f o r h i s e x i l e . White's i n s i s t e n c e that men can l o v e f o r d i f f e r e n t reasons, and h i s a n a l y s i s of the a d u l t e r y as having inherent i n i t s e v e r a l d i f f e r e n t kinds of l o v e , i s an o r i g i n a l c o n t r i b u t i o n t o the Arthur-i a n legend. There are l o v e s , he says, t h a t are as g r e a t , pr g r e a t -e r than, passionate love between man and woman; there i s love of a f r i e n d , of a l e a d e r , of a great n a t i o n . I f one p o s t u l a t e s , furthermore, t h a t the people concerned possess strong characters and noble i d e a l s , these loves can c o - e x i s t , even when they seem t o c o n f l i c t . That White's A r t h u r . r e a l i z e s t h i s i s one reason why he i s great. That the kings o f Tennyson and Robinson d i d not r e a l i z e t h i s i s the main reason why they do not c l a i m the reader's: sympathy and compassion. I n developing the character of L a n c e l o t , White employs the same method th a t he used w i t h Arthur i n "The Sword i n the Stone," the opening s e c t i o n of the n o v e l . I n keeping w i t h the techniques of modern psychology, the author " f i r s t delves i n t o the childhood of the knight i n order to d i s c o v e r some ex p l a n a t i o n f o r h i s s o r r -ows and j o y s , f o r h i s successes and f a i l u r e s , l a t e r i n l i f e . The o r i g i n a l French romances depicted Lancelot as growing up at the bottom of a pond under the t u t e l a g e of the mysterious Lady of the 110 Lake . Malory omitted t h i s s t o r y , and White, although, he has no ob j e c t i o n s t o ca s u a l magic, i s too much concerned w i t h r e a l i s m t o employ t h i s ancient legend, which makes Lancelot a f a i r y knight r a t h e r than a human being. Lancelot I s an i n t r o s p e c t i v e , s o l i t a r y c h i l d , who has ded-i c a t e d h i m s e l f t o a l i f e of h o l i n e s s and s e r v i c e under King Arthur, White says t h a t he was: not the-romantic, debonair f i g u r e t h a t Tennyson and the Pre-Raphaelites imagined,"^ b u t ' a . s u l l e n f e l l o w who spent much of h i s youth i n the Armoury at Benwick C a s t l e , f e r o c i o u s l y d r i v i n g h i m s e l f under the b r u t a l t u i t i o n of Uncle Dap, the best swordsman i n France. He bore h i s ; h a r s h t r a i n i n g p a t i e n t l y , because he knew tha t when he became the greatest knight i n the world, King Arthur would love him. At eighteen Lancelot i s ready f o r Camelot, and White descr-i b e s the c l i m a c t i c moment w i t h the humorous understatement so t y p i c a l of him. M e r l i n comes bumbling i n t o the court at Benwick w i t h the news t h a t Arthur wants Lancelot to j o i n the.Round Table. L a n c e l o t asks, " I s e v e r y t h i n g w e l l ? " "Yes. He sent you h i s l o v e . " " I s the King happy?" . "Very happy. Guinever sent her love too." "Who i s Guinever?". "Good gr a c i o u s ! " exclaimed the magician. "Didn't you know about.that? No, of course not. I have been g e t t i n g b e j i n g l e d i n my b r a i n s . " - ^ • 1 5 . Probably White i s t h i n k i n g of Tennyson's Lancelot i n The Lady of S h a l o t t . The Lancelot of the I d y l l s i s remorseful and sad, not dehonair. 1 6 . .White, pj>. c i t . , p. 3 3 9 . I l l L a ncelot i s d i s a p p o i n t e d , and a b i t j e a l o u s . He had hoped to be the f i r s t member of the Round Table to be knighted, and he c e r -t a i n l y had not counted on some "scheming woman" cap t u r i n g the love f o r which he had t o i l e d so l o n g . This i s convincing adolescent psychology, and i f the reader s t i l l has any doubts t h a t t h i s Lance-l o t i s a genuine medieval youth, and not a stock f i g u r e of romance, they are q u i c k l y d i s p e l l e d by Lancelot's t r i p to England. During the Channel c r o s s i n g , t h i s destined champion of the Round Table, t h i s most g r a c e f u l and strongest of k n i g h t s , t h i s epitome of c h i v a l r y , i s s e a s i c k . Malory d i d not describe the f i r s t meeting between Lancelot and Guinevere; a f t e r s e v e r a l books, the reader simply d i s c o v e r s t h a t they have been i n l o v e f o r some time. Tennyson invented the romantic meeting when Lancelot goes as emissary to b r i n g Arthur's b r i d e home to Camelot. Robinson f o l l o w s Tennyson, but makes more of the v i t a l moment when the f u t u r e l o v e r s f i r s t come face.to face w i t h a thunderclap of p a s s i o n . The t r o u b l e i s t h a t things do not u s u a l l y happen t h i s way i n r e a l l i f e . White r e t u r n s to Malory's v e r s i o n , i n which Lancelot comes to court some time a f t e r Arthur's marriage. He comes ashamed of h i s j e a l o u s y of t h i s mincing w i f e , but he i s unable to overcome h i s emotions immediately, and k i s s e s Guinevere's hand c o l d l y : He d i d not n o t i c e anything p a r t i c u l a r about her, because h i s mind was f i l l e d w i t h previous p i c t u r e s which he had made f o r h i m s e l f . There was no room f o r p i c t u r e s of what she was r e a l l y l i k e . He thou-ght of her only as the person who had robbed him, and, since robbers, are d e c e i t f u l , designing and h e a r t l e s s people, he thought of her as these.^ 7 Guinevere i s s t a r t l e d at L a n c e l o t ' s t w i s t e d gargoyle f a c e , but she i s not f r i g h t e n e d . 17 . White, op. c i t . , p. 345. 112 i' White d e s c r i b e s in. a very n a t u r a l way the i n c i d e n t which leads t o the f i r s t s t i r r i n g s of l o v e . Because there i s a s h o r t -age of hawking a s s i s t a n t s i n Camelot, Guinevere, who r e a l i z e s t h a t the new knight does not p a r t i c u l a r l y l i k e her, o f f e r s t o a s s i s t Lancelot i n the f i e l d . She tangles up the creance t o which the hawk i s attached much as a woman who i s l e a r n i n g to f i s h w i l l f o u l up a r e e l and Lancelot wrenches the b a l l away w i t h extreme impatience: "That's no good," he s a i d , and he began t o unwind her hopeful work wi t h angry f i n g e r s . H i s eyebrows made a h o r r i b l e scowl. There was a moment i n which everything stood s t i l l . Guinevere stood, hurt i n her he a r t . L a n c e l o t , sensing her s t i l l n e s s , stood a l s o . The hawk stopped b a t i n g and the leaves d i d not r u s t l e . The young man knew, i n t h i s moment, tha t he had hurt a r e a l person, of h i s own age. He saw i n her eyes t h a t she thought he was hate-f u l , and th a t he had s u r p r i s e d her badly. She had been g i v i n g kindness, and he had returned i t w i t h unkindness. But the main t h i n g was t h a t she was a r e a l person. She was not a minx, not d e c e i t f u l , not designing and heartless. She was p r e t t y Jenny, who could t h i n k and f e e l . ^ g Tennyson simply s a i d t h a t they went hawking together among the Maytime f l o w e r s . By adding a f e w : v i v i d strokes, White l i f t s the scene o f f i t s medieval t a p e s t r y and r o o t s i t i n a world of f a c t . The f i n a l episode of the s e r i e s t h a t develops the e a r l y r e l -a t i o n s h i p of the l o v e r s i s perhaps ghe best of a l l because of i t s humor and i r o n y . The f l i n t y and i r r e p r e s s i b l e Uncle Dap takes h i s p u p i l aside when he n o t i c e s the blossoming of romance: 18. White, op_. c i t . , p. 343. 113 "God's Feet!" s a i d Uncle Dap, w i t h other exclam-a t i o n s of the same k i n d . "What i s t h i s ? What are you doing? I s the f i n e s t knight i n Europe to throw away everything I have taught him f o r the sake of a lady's b e a u t i f u l eyes? And*-a married l a d y too!" " I don't know what you are t a l k i n g about." "Don't know! Won't know! Holy Mother!" shouted Uncle Dap. " I s i t Guinever I am t a l k i n g about, or i s i t not? Glory be to God f o r evermore!" "...please don't t a l k t o me about the Queen. I can't help i t i f we are fond of each other, and there i s nothing wrong i n being fond of people, i s there? When you begin l e c t u r i n g me about her, you are making i t seem as i f there was something wrong between us. I t i s as i f you thought i l l of me, or d i d not b e l i e v e i n my honour. Please do not mention the subject again." Uncle Dap r o l l e d h i s eyes, disarranged h i s h a i r , cracked h i s knuckles, k i s s e d h i s f i n g e r t i p s , and made other gestures c a l c u l a t e d t o express h i s p o i n t of view. But he d i d not r e f e r t o the love a f f a i r . a f t e r w a r d s . ^ I t i s the o l d s t o r y of s o l i c i t u d e l e a d i n g t o i n f a t u a t i o n , and thence to l o v e . One reason why Lancelot f a l l s i n l o v e w i t h Guinevere, White says, i s t h a t the f i r s t t h i n g he d i d was to hurt her. Lancelot i s depicted as not only p h y s i c a l l y u g l y , but a l s o b a s i c a l l y c r u e l . He l i k e s to hurt people. The i n f l u e n c e of modern psychology i s evident as White makes Lancelot's l i f e one grand compensation. Far from being n a t u r a l to him, h i s famed gentleness and courtesy are the r e s u l t of h i s attempt to compen-sate f o r and guard aga i n s t t h i s l a c k of benevolence. He saw the p a i n i n Guinevere's eyes, and so befriended her i n an attempt to make amends. I t was to be a f a t a l kindness. 19. White, op_. c i t p p . 349-50. 114 There i s no need to m u l t i p l y instances of White's a b i l i t y to humanize h i s A r t h u r i a n c h a r a c t e r s . I t i s necessary, however, to mention two other a t t i t u d e s of White t h a t d i c t a t e d h i s t r e a t -ment of the A r t h u r i a n a d u l t e r y : h i s l o v e f o r the s i m p l i c i t y of medieval l i f e , and h i s d i s d a i n f o r the refinements of modern l i f e . He employs the a d u l t e r y of Lancelot and Guinevere to s a t i r i z e what he f i n d s d i s t a s t e f u l i n l o v e and marriage conventions i n t h i s o s t e n s i b l y enlightened t w e n t i e t h century. White admires the f i d e l i t y i m p l i c i t i n c o u r t l y l o v e . He i s disgusted w i t h the i n s t a b i l i t y . a n d t r a n s i e n c e of modern l o v e : For i n those days love was r u l e d by a d i f f e r e n t convention from ours. In those days i t was c h i v -a l r o u s , a d u l t , l o n g , r e l i g i o u s , almost p l a t o n i c . I t was not a matter about which you could make accusations l i g h t l y . I t was not, as we take i t to be nowadays, begun and ended i n a long week-e n d . . . ^ i s a s t o r y of love i n the o l d days, when a d u l t s loved f a i t h f u l l y not a stofcy of the present, i n which adolescents pursue the ignoble spasms of the cinematograph.20 Whatever the weaknesses of Lancelot and Guinevere, the l o v e r s were a t l e a s t f a i t h f u l This i s one reason why Malory admired them. Lancelot had the f a t a l medieval weakness of l o v i n g the highest when he saw i t ; so, apparently, had Guinevere. White has no argument w i t h people who l o v e the best and are w i l l i n g to die f o r i t . He pursues h i s a t t a c k on contemporary standards: We, who have learned t o base our i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of l o v e on the conventional b o y - a n d - g i r l romance of Romeo and J u l i e t , would be amazed i f we could step back i n t o the Middle Ages when the poet of c h i v -a l r y could w r i t e about Man t h a t he had "en c i e l un d i e u , par t e r r e une de"esse." Lovers were not r e c r u i t e d then among the j u v e n i l e s and adolescents; they were seasoned people, who knew.what they were 20. White, op. c i t . , p. 533-39 115 about. In those days people loved each other f o r t h e i r l i v e s , Without the conveniences of . the divorce court and the p s y c h i a t r i s t Because he considers the love and f i d e l i t y between Lancelot and Guinevere a grand and noble thing, White i s careful to avoid taxing the lovers with r e s p o n s i b i l i t y f o r the f a l l of Camelot. White blames the tragedy on the rot of fashion and modernity that undermined the simple ideals of Arthur; perhaps men are b a s i c a l l y good, and can be shown how to l i v e i n peace and brotherhood, but the process requires much more time than the reign of one king. I t i s the greed and selfishness and violence i n the heart of man that must be eliminated; no kingdom f a l l s because of the bad example of a single romance. In the f i n a l chapter of White's novel, on the eve of the l a s t great, b a t t l e , Arthur r e f l e c t s on the reasons f o r his f a i l u r e to b u i l d a permanently stable c i v i l i z a t i o n , but he i s too wise and honest to think that i t Is the f a u l t of the adultery. The story, as White t e l l s i t , i s an A r i s t o t e l i a n tragedy because Arthur over-estimates the goodness and p e r f e c t i b i l i t y of men. The questions that puzzle him are the same that bewilder many modern statesmen. The king dies wondering i f the energies of men can ever be chann-e l l e d into constructive rather than v i o l e n t and destructive action Aft e r two world wars, the question i s of major importance to White so he u n i v e r s a l i z e s the reasons f o r the f a l l of Camelot to serve as a parable f o r society. He does not blame the tragedy on a splendid passion, a passion that was used by e v i l men to destroy everything b e a u t i f u l i n the c i v i l i z a t i o n that the i d e a l i s t i c King Arthur had struggled to b u i l d . 21. White, op_. c i t . , p. 559. 116 . CHAPTER. V I I C O N C L U S 1,0 N One of the major advantages of a comparative study of Arthur-i a n l i t e r a t u r e i s t h a t the legend has never i n s p i r e d a u n i v e r s a l l y accepted masterpiece. The treatment of no s i n g l e author stands supreme. Malory, Tennyson, Robinson and White each has h i s p e c u l -i a r m e r i t s , and each complements the others by v a r i a t i o n s i n tone, p o i n t of view, and emphasis. I f one v e r s i o n were d i s t i n c t l y sup-e r i o r , i t would become the c e n t r a l p o i n t of r e f e r e n c e , and a b a l -anced comparison would be i m p o s s i b l e . I t i s a f u r t h e r advantage th a t the legend has remained l a r g e l y unchanged f o r seven hundred years. Since a l l f o u r of these major A r t h u r i a n w r i t e r s d e a l w i t h the same m a t e r i a l , i t i s p o s s i b l e to make v a l i d judgments on the e f f e c t s of t h e i r h i s t o r i c a l back-grounds on t h e i r , a t t i t u d e s . There are a l s o enough s o c i a l , temporal, and geographic d i f f -erences among these authors to guarantee a v a r i e t y of d i s p o s i t i o n s toward the characters and themes of the legend. Malory was a f i f t e e n t h - c e n t u r y E n g l i s h a r i s t o c r a t , Tennyson a member of the V i c t o r i a n m i d d l e - c l a s s , Robinson an e a r l y twentieth-century Ameri-can, and White i s a modern Englishman. Two of the v e r s i o n s , 117 f i n a l l y , are prose, and two are verse. Few subjects of equal importance i n E n g l i s h l i t e r a t u r e o f f e r such an opportunity f o r comparison. The major aim of the French romance w r i t e r s of the t w e l f t h and t h i r t e e n t h c e n t u r i e s was to t e l l an i n t e r e s t i n g s t o r y . They g a r r u l o u s l y described h e r o i c w a r r i o r s , passionate l o v e r s , e v i l witches and miracle-working s a i n t s w i t h s l i g h t heed to u n i t y or consi s t e n c y . There were,, of course, c e r t a i n lessons t o be learned along the way: one must be courageous, courteous, pious and f a i t h f u l , but these were lessons i n c i d e n t a l to the romantic, p i c -aresque s t o r y . Malory s e l e c t e d and condensed the episodes of these romances i n order t o remind h i s contemporaries of the n e c e s s i t y f o r more l o y a l t y and l e a d e r s h i p i n f i f t e e n t h - c e n t u r y s o c i e t y . Bequeathed the a d u l t e r y of Lancelot and Guinevere by the o l d c u l t of c o u r t l y l o v e , he maintained sympathy f o r them by s t r e s s i n g t h e i r admirable f i d e l i t y and t h e i r sense of g u i l t . Whatever h i s weak-nesses, Malory produced the d e f i n i t i v e v e r s i o n of the main strands of the legend, and no l a t e r author produced anything important on the Arthuriad"without s t a y i n g f a i r l y close to the b a s i c characters and i n c i d e n t s of the Morte Darthur. Tennyson saw the tragedy o f Camelot as a f a i l u r e of men t o a s p i r e t o s p i r i t u a l p e r f e c t i o n . A t r a d i t i o n a l i s t who disapproved of the m a t e r i a l i s m of a u t i l i t a r i a n nineteenth century, Tennyson used the legend to remind h i s generation t h a t s t r e n g t h of s o u l was v i t a l to moral, e v o l u t i o n . The i a i l u r e of Arthur's subjects t o r i s e t o the king's h i g h moral and e t h i c a l l e v e l symbolizes the f a i l u r e of sensual men i n every age to work toward p e r f e c t i o n . On an a l l e g o r i c a l l e v e l , the l o v e r s represent the weakness of the 118 F l e s h , and are blamed f o r the ruin of Camelot; on the l i t e r a l l e v e l , Tennyson found i n t h e i r r e l a t i o n s h i p grounds f o r sympathy. Although the A r t h u r i a n poems of Edwin A r l i n g t o n Robinson are the most unorthodox i n t h e i r a t t i t u d e toward Arthur and Cam-e l o t , h i s treatment of the other characters and i n c i d e n t s i s per-haps c l o s e r t o t h a t of Malory than i s Tennyson's v e r s i o n . Robinson gi v e s the main f i g u r e s considerable c o n v e r s a t i o n a l s k i l l and spec-u l a t i v e a b i l i t y , and l e t s them analyze t h e i r personal problems and the problems of a crumbling system of p r i v i l e g e and a r i s t o -cracy. He emphasizes the d e f i a n t hedonism of Guinevere, the weaknesses of character i n Arthur, and the s p i r i t u a l c o n f l i c t i n L a n c e l o t , who i s no longer a C h r i s t i a n k n i g h t , but a vague symbol of a man who has a d e s t i n y i n a new world s o c i e t y . Robin-son makes a valuable c o n t r i b u t i o n t o the e v o l u t i o n of the legend by minutely examining the p s y c h o l o g i c a l processes of the charac-t e r s , but he f a i l s t o probe the more b a s i c problems of good and e v i l i n man and s o c i e t y t h a t are inherent i n the A r t h u r i a d . The p o p u l a r i t y of the A r t h u r i a n legend i s easy to e x p l a i n . I t d r a m a t i c a l l y d e s c r i b e s the r i s e and f a l l of. a great k i n g and a magnificent kingdom. I t has L a n c e l o t , a s p l e n d i d hero tormen-ted by a s i n g l e f a u l t . I t has a grand and t r a g i c l o v e a f f a i r , a t the b a s i s of which i s the f a m i l i a r c o n f l i c t between the conventions of s o c i e t y and the demands of the he a r t . I t c o n t r a s t s the world of the f l e s h w i t h the world of the s p i r i t , and w o r l d l y a s p i r a t i o n s w i t h r e l i g i o u s a s p i r a t i o n s . I t deals w i t h d i v i d e d l o y a l t i e s , w i t h honor and passion, w i t h feud and revenge. I t possesses, f i n a l l y , a great v a r i e t y of character and i n c i d e n t , a vast fund of raw m a t e r i a l on which the imagination can work. 119 A l l of these elements i n v o l v e problems t h a t face mankind i n every age. I t i s , t h e r e f o r e , a hasty and erroneous judgment to accuse an author who t r e a t s A r t h u r i a n themes of attempting to escape from the c o n f l i c t s of h i s age, or of r e t r e a t i n g from r e a l i t y to the dim f i e l d s of romance. Tennyson was c e r t a i n l y not i n r e -t r e a t , nor was Robinson. Both i n t e r p r e t e d the legend i n terms of the i n t e r e s t s and problems of t h e i r own s o c i e t y . The reader f a m i l i a r w i t h the r i c h imagery of Tennyson w i l l perhaps f i n d the homely, m a t t e r - o f - f a c t prose o f T.H. White's The Once and Future King a l i t t l e bare. This l a t e s t treatment of the legend does not provoke the w i s t f u l sense of l o s s , of poignant r e g r e t f o r the passing of an o l d e r c i v i l i z a t i o n , t h a t remains w i t h the reader at the close of Tennyson's more romantic i d y l l s . Furthermore, White does hot. r e v e a l Robinson's a b i l i t y to i n t e n s i f y and maintain the mood of a character o r s i t u a t i o n . He compensates, however, by employing a much wider range of mood than does e i t h e r of these'authors,. I f h i s s i m p l i c i t y of s t y l e l a c k s the e l e v a t i o n of the blank verse of Tennyson and Robinson, i t i s a more e f f e c t i v e medium f o r humanizing the c h a r a c t e r s . Because the a d u l t e r y of Lancelot and Guinevere bears i n some way on most.of the major themes of the A r t h u r i a d , i t has served as the f o c a l p o i n t from which to judge the r e a c t i o n s of a v a r i e t y of authors, whose a t t i t u d e s are conditioned by the s o c i e t y . i n which they l i v e . I n such a comparative study, the a d u l t e r y theme o f f e r s s u f f i c i e n t scope f o r a d i s s e r t a t i o n . However, whether Lancelot can serve two masters, whether a d u l t e r y i s sometimes p e r m i s s i b l e , or whether the l o v e r s are t o blame f o r the f a l l of Camelot, i s not the most fundamental prob-lem of the s t o r y . The,central mystery of the A r t h u r i a d i s the 120 f a i l u r e of Arthur's kingdom to endure. . One may blame Nemesis, p e r s o n i f i e d i n Mordred, or the l o v e of Lancelot and Guinevere, or the l o s s of M e r l i n to the w i l e s of V i v i e n , but none of these explanations i s r e a l l y s a t i s f a c t o r y . King Arthur i s a great l e a -der; the kingdom h e . e s t a b l i s h e s i s c h a r a c t e r i z e d by peace, j u s t i c e , p r o s p e r i t y , and freedom from oppression.. What more do men want? Why should the love of Lancelot and Guinevere have the power to corrupt the other k n i g h t s , to t u r n them against t h e i r king? Why should Mordred be able t o g a i n the support of many members of the Round Table, and of a s i g n i f l c e n t p o r t i o n of the population? Malory s a i d t h a t the people were "new f a n g l e , " but what new p o l -i t i c a l or s o c i a l philosophy could improve on an e s t a b l i s h e d Arthur-i a n i d e a l of honor, j u s t i c e and t r u t h ? I f men are not s a t i s f i e d w i t h these t h i n g s , what do they d e s i r e ? I n the f i n a l chapter of The Once and Future King, White asks the most v i t a l question of a l l : I s man p e r f e c t i b l e ? A f t e r a l l , i t i s on t h i s assumption t h a t King Arthur always a c t s . I f man i s not capable;of i n d e f i n i t e improvement, i f - h e does not r e a l l y de-s i r e peace, order and p r o s p e r i t y , then the work of the k i n g i s e s s e n t i a l l y v a i n . I f man i s i n t r i n s i c a l l y e v i l , or simply an amoral animal i n an insensate u n i v e r s e , then there i s not much poi n t i n attempting t o set up high i d e a l s f o r s o c i e t y . Tennyson assumed t h a t man was capable of p e r f e c t i o n ; a f t e r two world wars, White i s not sp sure. Perhaps v i s i o n a r i e s such as King Arthur are too o p t i m i s t i c about the human race. 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