The atmosphere at court has changed. The best half of the knights have been killed in the quest for the Holy Grail. What Arthur had feared has occurred: if you achieve perfection, you die. Now, the court is too fashionable and exotic. People judge Guenever with harsh and calculating eyes, while people consider Arthur a hypocrite. Arthur is reserved and unhappy in this new environment and moves about the palace in plain dress, being polite to people.
Arthur's civilizing influence on his court has turned against him. Having enlightened people, given them freedom of expression and safety, the court has now become a hub of political intrigue. This is something Arthur, being innocent and good-hearted, is fundamentally unable to tackle.
Guenever, however, tries desperately to be a fashionable hostess. She decides to host a dinner for twenty-four knights and buys the best apples because she knows Gawaine is most fond of apples (the Orkney faction has become more powerful and Guenever knows she must placate her husband's enemies). Unfortunately, there are other people at court who consider Gawaine an enemy and Sir Pinel poisons the apples.
Guenever's failed attempt to become a fashionable figure at court is pathetic and exposes her, now, as a weak figure. Moreover, the violence Arthur has so painfully tried to tackle is appearing in new ways: instead of blatant violence, violence has disguised itself, become political intrigue and assassination plots.
At the dinner, the poison goes astray and kills a different knight, Sir Patrick, instead. Guenever is the hostess of the dinner, the one who bought the apples, and so everyone believes she is responsible and Sir Mador accuses the Queen of treason. She is to be tried by a Court of Honor—where two champions fight on behalf of the prosecutor and defendant. Arthur cannot, by the rules, fight on behalf of his wife and Lancelot is absent from court. Guenever (because of her unpopularity) has no other knight to ask and begs Sir Bors on her knees to fight as her champion.
The fact that Guenever has no knight willing to be her champion (now that Lancelot is absent) and must beg Sir Bors illustrates how unpopular the monarchs have become in their own court.