The Creation of Lancelot and the Undoing of the Once and Future King

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The legendary figure of King Arthur, the Once and Future King, started his rise to literary prominence through Geoffrey of Monmouth and his work, The History of the Kings of Britain. Monmouth introduced readers to a heroic and noble king who defeated the Saxons and reclaimed Britain, creating a period which set the stage for the Arthurian era and the glories of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Over time additional authors added their voice to the telling of the Arthurian legend; adding events and characters, ultimately changing the story forever. Perhaps the most notable of these additions came in the form of Sir Lancelot. The creation of Lancelot, a knight introduced by Chrétien de Troyes in The Knight of the Cart, produced an underlying futile battle for top billing between Arthur and his top knight. The inclusion of Sir Lancelot in works such as, The Vulgate Cycle and Le Morte d’Arthur show further proof that once the character of Lancelot was created, King Arthur was no longer needed to save Camelot and bring it back to peace. Between Lancelot’s courtly love for King Arthur’s wife Guinevere and his renown for being “Sought after by all men and loved by all women more than any other knight” (Vulgate 102), one can see how King Arthur stood no chance against such a chivalric man, leaving him all but helpless to watch as Camelot and his round table crumbled as Lancelot’s prominence rose.

Before the inclusion of Lancelot in the Arthurian legend, Arthur was originally “Depicted first as a powerful warlord in the Welsh and Latin traditions” but after Lancelot became a part of the folklore, “he becomes a passive and often weak character in Chrétien's romances, abandoning the thrill of the battlefield in favor of his...

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Ingram, Amy L. "Psychology Of A King: Arthur In The Lancelot-Graal Cycle." Philological Quarterly 82.4 (2003): 349-365. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 21 Apr. 2012.

Lacy, Norris J. The Lancelot-Grail Reader: Selections from the Medieval French Arthurian Cycle. New York: Garland Pub., 2000. Print.

Malory, Thomas, and Dorsey Armstrong. Sir Thomas Malory's Morte Darthur: A New Modern English Translation Based on the Winchester Manuscript. West Lafayette, IN: Parlor, 2009. Print.

Painter, Sidney. French Chivalry: Chivalric Ideas and Practices in Mediaeval France. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins P, 1940.

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