Le Morte d’Arthur

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

The Round Table Symbol Analysis

The Round Table Symbol Icon

Midway through the book, we learn that Arthur’s Round Table is a creation of Merlin, who made the table shaped like the world, which it reflects and symbolizes. Arthur fills the seats of the Round Table with the most worthy knights in the land, and every year at Pentecost, he chooses to fill any seats made empty by a knight’s death. In literal terms, then, the Round Table stands for the fellowship and kingdom of King Arthur, which at the time is one of the greatest in the world.

The Round Table also stands for certain ideals, though—those of chivalry and honor, which the knights swear to at Pentecost every year. Knights of the Round Table can often recognize each other when they meet throughout the kingdom (though at other times they have difficulty recognizing each other before they identify themselves). The circular structure of the Round Table suggests a lack of hierarchy and an emphasis on friendship and camaraderie rather than competition—though in reality the knights often fail to live up to this ideal, among others.

The Round Table Quotes in Le Morte d’Arthur

The Le Morte d’Arthur quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Round Table. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Le Morte d’Arthur published in 1970.
Book 14 Quotes

Merlin made the Round Table in tokening of roundness of the world, for by the Round Table is the world signified by right, for all the world, Christian and heathen, repair unto the Round Table; and when they are chosen to be of the fellowship of the Round Table they think them more blessed and more in worship than if they had gotten half the world; and yet have seen that they have lost their fathers and their mothers, and all their kin, and their wives and their children, for to be of your fellowship.

Related Characters: King Arthur, Merlin
Related Symbols: The Round Table
Page Number: Vol 2, 276
Explanation and Analysis:

Merlin has been rather absent in the story for a long while, since he was trapped in a cave by a woman’s magic. Now a bit of background information clarifies the origin of the Round Table, which was created by Merlin. The narrator explains the importance of the symbolism of the table, which is meant to represent not just a particular corner of England and the fellowship of the knights, but the entire world. The Round Table is technically limited to those who are Christian and who show enough prowess to prove themselves worthy of being a part of this limited group; however, part of their task in joining the Round Table is to defend all who need defending, and thus to truly represent all others who are absent from the Table.

In addition, the narrator stresses that despite all that the knights of the Round Table gain from their fellowship, they also lose a great deal as well. They must abandon their parents and their wives and children in order to live a life that is in some ways more artificial, restricted to the purely physical challenges of battle and jousting.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Le Morte d’Arthur quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Get the entire Le Morte d’Arthur LitChart as a printable PDF.
Le morte d arthur.pdf.medium

The Round Table Symbol Timeline in Le Morte d’Arthur

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Round Table appears in Le Morte d’Arthur. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1
Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
...the north of England, Scotland, and much of Wales, together with his knights of the Round Table . (full context)
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
...her. She gives birth to his child Borre, who will become another knight of the Round Table . Then Arthur hears of a war between King Leodegrance, an ally, and King Rience,... (full context)
Book 2
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
...the sword from the sheath. Arthur cannot, so he asks all the knights of the Round Table to do so, but none can. The lady is disappointed, having thought that these were... (full context)
Book 3
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
...one from Camelot is traveling north to tell chieftains there about the fellowship of the Round Table . The other is bringing a poison that a so-called friend of Arthur’s will feed... (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
...to always protect ladies; and to only battle for righteous causes. The knights of the Round Table swear on this code, renewing it each year at Pentecost. (full context)
Book 4
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
...returns to Camelot and asks Pellinore for advice on replacing the eight knights of the Round Table who were killed in battle. Pellinore recommends Gawaine, Griflet, and Kay. (full context)
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
...not return to court until he has won the body of a knight of the Round Table . The squire tells Bagdemagus he should return straightaway, but Bagdemagus says he must seek... (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
...of adventures (not described), proving himself as a knight before he returns and joins the Round Table . (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
...he is, the Duke of South Marches says that he is no friend of the Round Table , and he with his six sons will fight Marhaus together, in revenge for Gawaine... (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
...at the annual jousting, followed by Marhaus. The two are both made knights of the Round Table , since two knights had been killed that year. Much later, Sir Tristram would fight... (full context)
Book 5
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
...colors of his wings the kingdoms he’s won, and his tail the knights of the Round Table . The boar is a tyrant whom Arthur will have to fight against. (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
...to Arthur and tells him of their adventure. Arthur makes him a knight of the Round Table . Then they lay siege to a city until a duchess with other ladies come... (full context)
Book 6
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
...good man. The lady asks Launcelot if Arthur can make Belleus a knight of the Round Table . Launcelot agrees, and in the morning he rides to Bagdemagus’ Abbey. (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
...brother, tied and bound beside him. Launcelot says Turquine has shamed the knights of the Round Table and must pay, but Turquine says he defies the entire fellowship of the Round Table. (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
...says her brother’s name is Sir Meliot de Logres, and since he is of the Round Table , Launcelot says he’ll help her. (full context)
Book 7
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
...Beaumains to depart without her love until he is one of the knights of the Round Table . Beaumains cries that he doesn’t deserve this, but Lionesse says she’ll be true to... (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
...him in battle, and to pledge his allegiance. Arthur makes him a knight of the Round Table on the condition that he never again employ such shameful customs against knights. (full context)
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
...does his best not to hurt him or any of the other knights of the Round Table . Gawaine asks Sir Tristram who the knight of many colors is. Tristram goes to... (full context)
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
...says that Gareth has sent more conquered knights to Arthur than the best of the Round Table , except Sir Launcelot. Linet comes and heals the men’s wounds, then Gawaine sends her... (full context)
Book 8
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
...seek Sir Launcelot du Lake to fight, though others say that no knights of the Round Table will fight against each other. Tristram hears of this, and he grows angry and ashamed... (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
...name: he is Launcelot du Lake. Lamorak shares his name, and they embrace as fellow Round Table knights. Launcelot says he is on a quest that he must do alone, so he... (full context)
Book 9
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
...reveals he is Tristram from Cornwall. Brandiles says he is the knight whose company the Round Table most desires. Tristram thanks him, but says that he is not yet worthy enough. (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
...lodge there, and Tristram chides him for being cowardly, even though he is of the Round Table . Reluctantly, Dinadan follows Tristram. They manage to defeat the two knights, and are lodged... (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
...down. Gaheris volunteers, but Uwaine sees his shield and, since they are both of the Round Table , he refuses to fight. (full context)
Book 10
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
...and introduces him to all the knights, and then makes him a knight of the Round Table . (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
...but is lying through it all. They prepare to leave Camelot, and many of the Round Table are upset, believing that Mark will treacherously kill Tristram. (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
...her, and to take the seat next to the Siege Perilous (a seat at the Round Table kept empty for one who will eventually achieve the Holy Grail), saying the seat belongs... (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
...who the knights in green could be, supposing that they might be knights of the Round Table fighting against his side. A number of jousts take place, and Arthur marvels at Palomides... (full context)
Book 11
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
...the knight who will occupy the empty Siege Perilous (one of the seats at the Round Table ) will be born that year, and will win the Sangreal (Holy Grail). (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
...is the richest thing in the world: the Sangreal, the object that will break the Round Table . The king knows that if Launcelot conceives a child with his daughter Elaine of... (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
...finds a knight bound to a stone bridge. He says he is Persides of the Round Table : in that castle is a lady who, when he refused to be her lover,... (full context)
Book 13
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
...and send his best wishes to his grandfather King Pelles. All the knights of the Round Table marvel, saying that this is who must achieve the Sangreal. They notice how much he... (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
...for mass. The hermit asks who he is, and he says he is of the Round Table , but he is a wretch. The hermit says Launcelot should thank God for having... (full context)
Book 14
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
Chapter 2 Here we learn that Merlin made the Round Table shaped like the world, since it reflects and signifies the world. Merlin had ordained that... (full context)
Book 16
Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
...say they must confess their dreams. The hermit tells Gawaine that the meadow is the Round Table , founded for humility and patience. But most of the knights are blackened by sin... (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
...kills the hermit. Again he’s about to kill Sir Bors when a knight of the Round Table , Colgrevance, arrives and grabs Lionel by the shoulders, begging him to stop. When he... (full context)
Book 17
Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
...morning he arrives to Camelot, where he learns that over half the knights of the Round Table have been killed. Launcelot tells Arthur that out of Galahad, Percivale, and Sir Bors, he... (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Journeys and Quests Theme Icon
...a great, flaming tomb, and the caretakers say that only the greatest knight of the Round Table might achieve this adventure. Galahad approaches the tomb and hears a voice—the speaker says that... (full context)
Book 18
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
...Launcelot lodges secretly with Sir Lavaine. Many different battles begin, and the knights of the Round Table largely succeed against the foreigners. (full context)
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Trickery and Mistaken Identity Theme Icon
Chapter 11 Launcelot asks Lavaine to help him chase the Round Table knights back. They strike down many of these knights, forcing them to withdraw. Gawaine marvels... (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
...all joust. Arthur strikes down many other kings and knights, and the knights of the Round Table begin to triumph over those of Launcelot’s kin. Then Launcelot comes and strikes down Gawaine,... (full context)
Book 19
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
...chance to take her. Guenever’s knights draw their swords and they fight. Many of the Round Table knights are wounded, so finally Guenever offers to go with Meliagrance if he stops fighting. (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
...strikes him down, and Meliagrance begs him to have mercy as a knight of the Round Table . Launcelot wants to kill Meliagrance but is conflicted. He looks up at Guenever, who... (full context)
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
...kings try but fail to heal the wounds, as well as many knights of the Round Table : the narrator lists over a hundred. They all fail. (full context)
Book 20
Honor and Chivalry Theme Icon
Jealousy, Competition, and Revenge Theme Icon
Women: Weakness and Power Theme Icon
...cries that he is greatly grieved that Launcelot is against him, and that now the Round Table is broken forever. Guenever must be sentenced to death, which is the only punishment for... (full context)