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
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.