The Once and Future King

The Once and Future King

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Queen Guenever Character Analysis

Guenever is married to King Arthur, although she has a long love affair with Sir Lancelot. Despite her affair, Guenever is a deeply complex, beautiful, and fundamentally good person. Although she betrays Arthur, she is simultaneously very committed to him, supportive of him and very much loves him. Perhaps the greatest tragedy about Guenever, and what drives many of her vices, is that she remains childless.

Queen Guenever Quotes in The Once and Future King

The The Once and Future King quotes below are all either spoken by Queen Guenever or refer to Queen Guenever. 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:
Chivalry, Satire & Medieval Life Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Ace Books edition of The Once and Future King published in 1987.
Book 3, Chapter 6 Quotes

For one thing, he [Lancelot] liked to hurt people. It was for the strange reason that he was cruel, that the poor fellow never killed a man who asked for mercy, or committed a cruel action which he could have prevented. One reason why he fell in love with Guenever was because the first thing he had done was to hurt her. He might never have noticed her as a person, if he had not seen the pain in her eyes.

Related Characters: Sir Lancelot, Queen Guenever
Page Number: 339
Explanation and Analysis:

After the narrator describes the Roman campaign, in which Lancelot emerged as the finest fighter in Arthur’s army, he dwells on Lancelot’s character, reflecting on the ways that people from later times interpret Lancelot. Lancelot is inherently contradictory, like the medieval knight, a figure who was simultaneously supposed to excel at the harshest martial combat and the gentler conquest of love, according to chivalric notions. Indeed, the narrator directly associates Lancelot with such knights (“he was a knight with medieval respect for honour”). In this context, it appears slightly less odd that Lancelot fell in love with Guenever because he hurt her; this contradiction merely underscores the essential nature of the accomplished medieval knight, who is supposed to perfectly balance both violence and love.

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Book 3, Chapter 43 Quotes

Nobody knows what they said to each other. Malory says that "they made either to other their complaints of many diverse things." Probably they agreed that it was impossible to love Arthur and also to deceive him. Probably Lancelot made her understand about his God at last, and she made him understand about her missing children. Probably they agreed to accept their guilty love as ended.

Related Characters: King Arthur or Wart, Sir Lancelot, Queen Guenever
Page Number: 503
Explanation and Analysis:

At Meliagrance’s castle, Lancelot arrives and Guenever “won the battle by mistake”; she had allowed Lancelot to live apart from her, pursuing holiness and religious piety, and this relenting had spurred Lancelot to come back to her. They become lovers again, and Lancelot goes to the window of Guenever’s inner room, where she meets him and they converse. The narrator does not reveal the nature of this exchange; instead he provides us with Malory’s description, and then speculates on what “probably” transpired between the two of them. The two lovers “probably” discussed the reasons against their behavior – Lancelot’s God and Guenever’s “missing children” – before Lancelot completely breaks the window and comes in anyways. This suggests that the “old electric message” between Lancelot and Guenever’s eyes creates a kind of inevitable attraction between the two of them, which makes their lovemaking a matter of destiny, despite their best attempts to avoid such inappropriate behavior.

Book 4, Chapter 3 Quotes

Did you know that in these dark ages which were visible from Guenever's window, there was so much decency in the world that the Catholic Church could impose a peace to all their fighting—which it called The Truce of God—and which lasted from Wednesday to Monday, as well as during the whole of Advent and Lent?

Related Characters: Queen Guenever
Page Number: 539
Explanation and Analysis:

As Lancelot and Guenever together gaze at Arthur’s kingdom, the narrator proclaims that these two individuals are classic medieval lovers, people who have lived and loved for many years, although they are aged and might not seem to be lovers in the modern sense. This tone of nostalgia continues as the narrator expands his focus to the land that Lancelot and Guenever are seeing; the narrator admiringly recalls the “decency” which existed in these older times, “these dark ages.” This general "decency" (or, more likely, fear of God) allowed the Catholic Church to forbid fighting during the “The Truce of God,” from Wednesday to Sunday. Although barbaric fighting, the likes of which is now usually unseen, might have occurred from Monday to Wednesday, for the majority of the week all forms of violence were forbidden. This contradictory co-existence of pacifism and violence is evocative of Arthur’s reign, which accomplished peace through revealing the depth of brutality in medieval forms of conflict.

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Queen Guenever Character Timeline in The Once and Future King

The timeline below shows where the character Queen Guenever appears in The Once and Future King. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 2, Chapter 10
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...concerned that he has forgotten to tell Arthur something—they have spoken about the battle, about Guenever and Lancelot, about Arthur's sword Excalibur and about his father. Instead of what he can't... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 3
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...Lancelot that he will be the finest knight Arthur ever has, and that Arthur and Guenever send their love. Lancelot asks if Arthur has chosen all of his knights—Merlyn looks confused... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 4
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...two years now, but is yet to be noticed or knighted. He is jealous of Guenever, who always comes between Arthur's love for him. They come to a clearing in the... (full context)
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Arthur knights Lancelot the very next day. He then introduces Lancelot to Guenever—a young woman with startling black hair and deep blue eyes. Lancelot is polite, but cold—he... (full context)
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...a hawk for the season. Lancelot, however, does not have a hawking assistant and so Guenever offers to act as Lancelot's (Arthur had asked her to be kind to Lancelot). One... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 5
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Uncle Dap and King Arthur begin to notice that Lancelot and Guenever are falling in love. Arthur had been warned of this by Merlyn, but had never... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 6
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...nature: he likes to hurt people and is cruel; yet he fell in love with Guenever because he had hurt her. (full context)
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When Arthur and Lancelot arrive in England, Lancelot quickly realizes Guenever would come between them: he sees her kiss Arthur and feels his entrails in knots.... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 8
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...Arthur for pardon. However, Lancelot had told all those he conquered to present themselves to Guenever instead. Lancelot then asks Arthur how the Round Table is; Arthur looks despairing: he confesses,... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 11
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Lancelot stays at the court for several weeks, but it is torturous to be around Guenever. Finally, he decides to venture out on his second quest. He sets out for the... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 12
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...more alcohol. Suddenly, the butler announces a message has arrived for Lancelot: it says that Guenever is at a castle five miles away and wants to see him. (full context)
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...and in a strange room. The body lying next to him is not that of Guenever, but Elaine. Lancelot is shocked and saddened, but also furious and threatens to kill Elaine:... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 13
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Guenever is stitching her tapestry and thinking of Lancelot: she is twenty-two and rife with emotions.... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 14
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...help to quell the attack. Arthur asks Lancelot to stay behind at court. Lancelot and Guenever enjoy a year of uninterrupted bliss together. Lancelot begins to tell Guenever about the hole... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 15
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Finally, King Arthur returns from France and Lancelot and Guenever's bliss is destroyed—but not because of Arthur's return. Sir Bors (Lancelot's cousin) had also just... (full context)
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Later that evening, when alone together, Guenever confronts Lancelot: she accuses him of lying to her, of being in love with Elaine... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 16
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...preparing for her journey to Camelot; she has decided to try and win Lancelot from Guenever. Being young and immature, she is not versed in the art of seduction and believes... (full context)
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...across Lancelot in the rose garden looking wretched. Arthur knows deep down about Lancelot and Guenever's affair, but chooses to ignore it. He is capable of neither jealousy nor malice and... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 18
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The next morning, Lancelot and Elaine are summoned to Guenever's chamber. Lancelot is content; the night before he had been summoned to Guenever's chamber in... (full context)
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...calmly: "Lancelot was in my room last night…He thought he was coming to you." The Queen does not believe the same lie again, she screams at Lancelot and Elaine. Finally, Lancelot... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 24
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...to the remonstrations of the knights—he will not leave Elaine. They tell him that the Queen spent twenty thousand pounds looking for him; they talk about gossip from the court; how... (full context)
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...takes his armor and feels its familiar weight and curvature in his hands. He remembers Guenever—the real Guenever, not the one he has imagined. As Lancelot rides away, he does not... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 27
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When the two leave, Lancelot and Guenever look questioningly at Arthur who is awash with rage. Finally, Arthur begins to speak: he... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 29
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...return is Sir Lionel who has been questing with his brother Sir Bors. Arthur and Guenever sit in the Great Hall and listen to his tales. Lionel talks about Sir Bors'... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 32
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Guenever is overdressed for the occasion—her face is too painted. Lancelot however sees the same girl... (full context)
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...sin on his conscience (Lancelot seems about to spill the secret of his relationship with Guenever, but she stops him). (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 34
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The Queen is sitting in her bathing chamber surrounded by a profusion of jewelry boxes, garments and... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 35
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The days and weeks of waiting for Lancelot to come back to Guenever turn into months. Guenever grows angrier, angry at Lancelot's selfishness, for abandoning her soul to... (full context)
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This all comes to a head one morning while they are singing alone together. Mid-song, Guenever closes the music books. She asks Lancelot to leave again; she does not want to... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 36
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...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... (full context)
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Guenever, however, tries desperately to be a fashionable hostess. She decides to host a dinner for... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 37
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The morning of the fight dawns—Arthur and Guenever barely slept the night before. A pavilion has been erected for the event where Guenever... (full context)
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It is cold and Guenever sitting in the stands, looks older than ever. Naturally, Lancelot is the one to rescue... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 38
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...Patrick accusation with her foresight. Although this is resolved and Lancelot returned to save the Queen, he still will not give up his loyalty to God. Guenever grows angrier by the... (full context)
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...happens to take place near the Castle Corbin—where Elaine now lives out her middle-age. The Queen is bitter and accuses Lancelot of wanting to go to the tournament so he can... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 40
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When Lancelot returns to Camelot, Guenever is in a rage. She believes Elaine has become his mistress and his commitment to... (full context)
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...no lover, and thus nothing left. "Why were you not kinder to her?" cried the Queen. "Why could you not have given her something to live for?" (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 41
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...by Mordred's fashions as not up to scratch; he is also madly in love with Guenever. So, one afternoon, while Arthur and Lancelot are playing bowls, a young messenger arrives the... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 42
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By the time Sir Meliagrance arrives at his castle with Guenever, he knows Lancelot will soon arrive. He decides the best thing to do is to... (full context)
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Finally, as Guenever sits at the window dressing some of her knights' wounds, there is a clattering outside;... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 43
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Guenever's chamber has no glass windows, but iron bars on it. That night, Lancelot finds a... (full context)
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The next morning, Guenever sleeps late. Sir Meliagrance is impatient for her to leave and so, finally, enters her... (full context)
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...through the trap door onto a bed of hay; Meliagrance hides his horse and tells Guenever that Lancelot has already set off for Camelot. (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 45
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Arthur, Guenever and Lancelot are on the eve of their Indian summer—gossip has been silenced and discourtesy... (full context)
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...not to make him do this. But Arthur commands him too. Over in the stands, Guenever watches as Lancelot touches the knight. Suddenly, people are gathering around the two knights; Arthur... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 3
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Lancelot and Guenever, now aged lovers, are sitting in the window of her solar, looking out over Arthur's... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 4
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As Lancelot and Guenever sit in her solar, they sing together. They stop singing and begin to bicker, but... (full context)
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...with a noble oldness. The King is worried about the Orkney brothers and asks both Guenever and Lancelot to listen as he tells them something that he did wrong: Arthur tells... (full context)
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...fears Mordred still bears him a grudge—which is why he tells the lovers this story. Guenever urges Arthur to imprison or kill Mordred for treason; Arthur will not because Mordred is... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 5
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...announces: "We came to tell you what every person in this court has always known. Queen Guenever is Sir Lancelot's mistress openly." Arthur only looks at the floor. He asks if... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 6
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A few weeks later, Lancelot is pacing up and down his room, waiting for the Queen's summons; he knows that Arthur is away hunting and so the two can spend the... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 7
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Guenever is waiting for Lancelot at her room. She is aged, but still resplendent. Lancelot enters... (full context)
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...a footstool, winds a black cloak round his right hand to protect it and kisses Guenever good-bye. He puts his shoulder to the door, jerks it open to allow one knight... (full context)
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...with the sword. They lift the visor once he is dead; it is Agravaine. Quickly Guenever dresses Lancelot in Agravaine's armor. The lovers exchange rings and Lancelot promises he will come... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 8
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...the justice room. Outside in the courtyard, a pyre is being readied to burn the Queen to death. Mordred is with the brothers, with his arm in a sling. It appears... (full context)
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Mordred announces that Lancelot will try and rescue the Queen; Arthur tells him he has made the guard as strong as he can. But Mordred... (full context)
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Mordred leaves, and Gawaine and Arthur turn to watch the Queen's execution from the window. Arthur hopes that Lancelot will come. The Queen is brought out... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 9
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...have passed. It is a winter's day at Joyous Guard (Lancelot's castle) and Lancelot and Guenever are standing in the Great Hall. They have been under siege for months now. The... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 10
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...the pope's forgiveness and about the pageant taking place to grant forgiveness to Lancelot and Guenever. (full context)
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...The king, tired and somber, enters at the end of the processions. Finally, Lancelot and Guenever enter at their cue: they are dressed in white cloth and the Queen carries an... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 11
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Guenever is in the Queen's chamber at the Carlisle Court. It is winter, cold and lonely.... (full context)
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Guenever drops her needle; she fears Agnes is right and bid her open the door. Agnes... (full context)
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The two talk; Mordred with a series of veiled threats that Guenever counters with plain aggression. He tries to call her by her pet name "Jenny." Mordred,... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 12
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...Arthur is dead and proclaimed himself King of England. Mordred is also going to marry Guenever. Guenever accepted his proposal and then barricaded herself in the Tower of London, but managed... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 13
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...by Gawaine—the first letter he had written in year. The letters explains Mordred's treason, about Guenever barricaded in the tower, and that the King has landed at Dover and won the... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 14
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...idea. But it is too late for him. It is his destiny now to die; Guenever's to take the veil; and Mordred to be slain. The cannons begin to thunder and... (full context)