Le Morte d’Arthur

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Le Morte d’Arthur Book 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Chapter 1 Launcelot meanwhile is wandering from place to place. He comes across a meadow where he finds swords and a white shield leaning on a tree. He takes one sword and lashes at the shield, making a great noise. A dwarf comes and throws himself on Launcelot, who nearly kills him before another knight approaches, realizing Launcelot is mad. Launcelot shouts that he’ll kill the knight. The knight approaches anyway, and Launcelot swings wildly at him, wounding him gravely. Launcelot rushes into a nearby pavilion, where a lady jumps up and cries when she sees her lord on the ground. Another knight, Bliant, marvels at Launcelot, whom he recognizes from the Lonazep tournament, and sends the dwarf to fetch a stretcher to bring him to his castle.
It does appear that Launcelot, like Tristram, has begun to go mad following his leap from the castle and escape from his two quarreling lovers, Guenever and Elaine of Corbin. However, Launcelot is even more dangerous as a madman: he does not seem to have lost any of his strength, but only the ability to modulate and control it. Still, unlike in Tristram’s case, Launcelot’s identity seems apparent at least to some in the forest. Bliant shows himself to be a truly worthy knight by recognizing rather than fleeing from Launcelot.
Themes
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
Chapter 2 Bliant’s brother comes and they bring Launcelot to Castle Blank, where they feed Launcelot and bring him back to strength over the course of 18 months. One day Bliant rides out to seek adventures and meets Breuse Saunce Pité and his brother. They fight long together, but finally Bliant is wounded and flees to the castle. Launcelot has seen everything from a window, so he breaks off the chains that hold him and races down, leaping upon Breuse and knocking him down. He strikes Breuse’s brother’s hand off, and then the two brothers race away.
Launcelot’s recovery is slow and gradual, and what we see of it is only the end, when Launcelot has regained his strength and his sense of knightly honor enough to do all he can to defend his caretakers from the shameful Breuse Saunce Pité, who, as always, would much rather flee when it seems that he’s about to lose, rather than fight face-to-face.
Themes
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Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
The brothers praise Launcelot, and Bliant feels sorry for having bound him. Launcelot stays there half a year more. One morning a great boar approaches Launcelot in the woods, and hunters blowing their horns follow him.
Bliant, while respecting Launcelot, had still thought him to be too dangerous not to tie up: now that Launcelot has proved a more successful knight than he, he repents.
Themes
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Chapter 3 Launcelot finds a horse, spear, and sword tied to a tree and rides after the boar. Launcelot fights with the boar and strikes off its head. A hermit comes out of his hermitage nearby and offers to help, but Launcelot nearly kills him out of anger since he’s been wounded. He tells the hermit to leave, and he does. The hermit encounters a knight and tells him about a wounded knight nearby. That knight helps lead Launcelot, now weakened by his wound, into the hermitage, where they nurse him back to health.
Launcelot seems to have vaguely recalled the importance for a knight of following quests wherever he might find them. However, this is a somewhat twisted picture of what a quest should look like, and Launcelot seems to realize that too, growing furious in his madness about being wounded just for the sake of a boar.
Themes
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Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
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Launcelot wanders into the city of Corbin, home to Elaine of Corbin. All the youths of the city run after Launcelot and throw rocks at him. Then knights and squires come out of the castle and see the wounded man. They suspect he was once a man of glory. They give him new clothes, a little hut, and food.
This is perhaps the moment of Launcelot’s greatest shame, when he is treated like a beggar by the town’s children rather than as a conquering knight who can save others, as has so often been the case.
Themes
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Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
Chapter 4 King Pelles’ nephew is made knight one day, and sends for the town’s fool—Launcelot—to give him a scarlet robe. Launcelot goes into a garden to sleep. Elaine of Corbin and her maidens enter the garden, and when Elaine sees the fool she recognizes him as Launcelot. She begins to weep and sinks to the ground. She races to her father and tells him she’s found Launcelot. Pelles initially doesn’t believe her, but then he sends Brisen, who agrees with Elaine. Brisen enchants Launcelot so that he won’t awake for an hour. They take him to a chamber next to the vessel of the Sangreal. The Sangreal cures Launcelot, and he wakes up.
This part of the story continues to bear notable parallels to the events leading up to Tristram’s recognition by La Beale Isoud at Mark’s court, once again underlining the parallel lives and destinies of these two knights, both subjected to shame and dishonor at some points (though never as a result of their own knightly actions). The Sangreal is once again used for its healing powers—even proximity to the vessel seems able to cure people.
Themes
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Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
Chapter 5 When Launcelot recognizes Elaine of Corbin and King Pelles, he is ashamed and asks how he’s come here. Elaine says that he’s been mad, but is now cured by the Sangreal. Launcelot asks that they don’t tell anyone else of his shame. He rests for two weeks. Then he asks Elaine to ask her father if he might have a place in his court, since he’s now banned from Arthur’s. She swears to do so, and Pelles agrees to place him in the Castle of Bliant, with Elaine and other knights.
Not only is Launcelot cured of his wounds, but he immediately seems restored to his reason as well—and together with this reason comes the eminently rational sense of shame. Now, however, Launcelot is faced with other problems, since Guenever has banned him from Arthur’s court and he needs to find another king to be loyal to.
Themes
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
Chapter 6 Pelles’ nephew goes to see Launcelot, who calls himself “Le Chevaler Mal Fet,” that is, the knight that has trespassed. Castor knows it’s Launcelot, but promises not to tell. They ride to the Castle of Bliant on an island called the Joyous Isle. But often Launcelot looks back to England and weeps.
Launcelot seems to want to make a new life for himself on this new land, away from (though still visible to) England, but his past continues to haunt him, as he regrets his banishment by Guenever.
Themes
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
Chapter 7 Launcelot calls for a tournament on the Joyous Isle, and Launcelot defeats 500 knights. Percivale and Ector de Maris arrive to the castle and ask a lady who it is who lives there. She says Elaine of Corbin, together with a mighty knight, Le Chevaler Mal Fet, who arrived to the land like a madman but was cured by the Sangreal. Percivale tells Ector to wait while he fetches the knight, for them both to do battle with him. Percivale tells the porter he and Ector want to fight, and they enter the jousting fields. Percivale and Launcelot fight mightily. Finally Percivale shares his name, and Launcelot cries that he has been fighting a friend.
Perhaps to distract himself from his lovesickness for Queen Guenever and homesickness for Camelot, Launcelot plans a tournament, always a decent opportunity for intrigues to arise. No one from Arthur’s court, however, is aware of Launcelot’s true identity, especially now that the isle seems to be led by a mysterious unknown knight, a “madman” with the name of a “trespasser.” Only in the midst of battle is this mystery of identity resolved.
Themes
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Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
Chapter 8 Launcelot kneels and reveals who he is. Percivale says he and Ector de Marishave been seeking Launcelot for years. Ector, Launcelot, and Percivale embrace, and Launcelot shares what has happened.
Versions of this scene, in which knights seek someone who is disguised but right in front of them, crop up again and again in the book.
Themes
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Chapter 9 Meanwhile, Sir Bors de Ganis and Lionel have also been seeking Launcelot. They come to the house of Brandegore, where Bors had conceived a child with the king’s daughter 15 years before. Bors asks the king to take his son with him to Arthur’s court, where Helin is made knight.
The search for Launcelot seems to have become its own kind of quest, a chance for knights of the Round Table to prove their honor and prowess by finding the greatest knight in the land.
Themes
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Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Ector de Maris and Percivale ask Launcelot to return with them to Arthur, but Launcelot says he cannot. Ector says that Arthur and Guenever are distraught at his absence, and reminds him that he has more glory than any other knight but Tristram. Launcelot agrees, and leaves with them. Elaine of Corbin tells him that Galahad will also come to court to be made knight.
Launcelot only gives in when he realizes that Guenever seems to be mourning his absence just as he’s been mourning hers. Elaine must content herself with the fact that her son will be one step closer to glory by being knighted at Arthur’s court.
Themes
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Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
Chapter 10 Within five days they arrive at Camelot, where all rejoice at Launcelot’s return. Arthur says he’s assumed that Launcelot left because of love of Elaine of Corbin, but everyone else knows the truth.
Arthur, as usual, remains deluded about the true nature of Launcelot’s love and his relationship with Guenever.
Themes
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Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
Chapter 11 Meanwhile Tristram has gained even greater renown. Tristram and Isoud speak of Launcelot’s return, and decide to go to court for the celebratory feast. Isoud, though, says she will stay, so that no seeds of discord are sown on her account.
Isoud is sensitive to the trouble that her beauty has wrought on other knights in court, especially on Tristram’s relationship with Palomides, so she is sensitive and meek.
Themes
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Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
Chapter 12 Tristram leaves Isoud and comes across a knight who has been wounded by Palomides. Tristram regrets aloud that he has no armor on, and Palomides recognizes him and cries that now they’ll get a chance to fight. Tristram strikes Palomides on the helmet, and cries that he’ll continue to fight even though he has no armor. Palomides, ashamed, says he won’t continue.
This is one of the first times that a knight seems able to recognize another even without taking off their helmets and revealing themselves—here, it is a sign that Tristram and Palomides know each other well enough to recognize each other’s voices.
Themes
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Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
Chapter 13 Tristram marvels that Palomides won’t be christened (baptized as a Christian), and Palomides explains that he still has one more battle to fight. Tristram declares that he will provide this battle. They ride together back to the wounded knight, and Tristram asks him to lend his armor. Finally Tristram and Palomides fight, first on horse and then on foot.
After constantly missing the opportunity to battle each other, now Tristram and Palomides finally seem able to face each other honorably and equally. Furthermore, this battle becomes a part of Palomides’ desire to prove himself as “worthy” of being a Christian.
Themes
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Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Chapter 14 They fight more than two hours. Palomides eventually wounds Tristram, who grows enraged, and rushes mightily at Palomides and wounds him through the shoulder. Finally Tristram doubles his strength and knocks Palomides’ sword out of his hand. Tristram cries that he won’t shamefully kill a weaponless knight, so he tells Palomides to retrieve his sword. Palomides says that he no longer wants to fight, and asks only that they be friends: he meant no dishonor by loving Isoud. He asks Tristram to forgive him, which he does. He offers to bring Palomides to be christened at a nearby chapel, and Palomides is baptized there. They then return to Camelot, where they have a great feast.
The length of the battle, once again, is a sign that the knights must be somewhat equally matched—however, it was never really a question of Palomides defeating Tristram, who has gained prowess as the land’s greatest knight other than Launcelot. Although Palomides had vowed not to be baptized until gaining greater glory, now he yields to Tristram’s wish. Finally the awkwardness of having a great knight also be a non-Christian is eased, as Palomides is fully welcomed into the fold. The complicated relationship between Tristram and Palomides now seems more resolved as well—as usual, all it took was a long battle.
Themes
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon