The Once and Future King

The Once and Future King


T. H. White

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The Once and Future King: Book 3, Chapter 27 Summary & Analysis

Gawaine and Mordred arrive at Camelot—although they do not know where Agravaine is. Gawaine is deeply saddened by his actions and penitent in the cold light of day. The two wait upon the King; Gawaine bows to the floor in humility, Mordred bows too but looks Arthur sardonically in the eye. Mordred is a thin, peculiar looking man. Arthur, surprising all those gathered there, pardons them.
This is the reader's first encounter with Mordred—coming to atone for having killed his mother. Mordred, unlike Gawaine, is not sorry for the murders committed and seems strangely content with his conscience. His manner—meeting his father's eyes in a way that suggests his sense of both equality with him and hatred for him—seems deeply foreboding.
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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 recognizes that the ideas of the round table need to be revived. They have achieved justice, they have used Might to conquer Right, but there is still Might. Idleness has made the knights use their Might for wicked things. Arthur continues: the knights need spiritual channels for their violence. Guenever is skeptical, but Lancelot's eyes burn with excitement. He suggests they start a quest for the Holy Grail and direct the energy and spirit of the knights towards a religious and spiritual end.
Arthur's first idea—the Order of the Round Table—has failed. Murder and violence is still being committed. Lancelot is excited about the idea of a Quest for the Holy Grail because of his fundamental sense of impurity—he thinks that the Holy Grail might afford him spiritual salvation.
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