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 41 Summary & Analysis

Life at court continues. At the next tournament, something strange happens: Arthur challenges Lancelot, sets upon him and tries to hurt him. It is as if, for the first time, Arthur is the cuckold and Lancelot his betrayer.
Throughout most of Book III, Arthur's interior thoughts are closed to the reader—unlike Lancelot's. This makes sense, as Arthur has made himself into a kind of ideal. He is not so much a man as a figurehead and protector of a system of justice. Thus, we never truly understand Arthur's feelings towards the lovers. This incident is therefore startling and exposes a degree of personal bitterness that Arthur must harbor.
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At court, there is a cockney knight called Sir Meliagrance who is judged 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 Queen, on her way back from collecting flowers and armed only with ten knights, had been set upon by Sir Meliagrance and a band of knights. Many of the Queen's men were wounded and Guenever soon gave herself up to Sir Meliagrance as long as he would take the wounded knights with them to his castle, and let them stay in her antechamber. Sir Meliagrance, not really a rogue, agreed to these terms.
Sir Meliagrance's attempt to kidnap Guenever is comedic—as White describes, Meliagrance is not really a rogue, but has been driven to this by snobbery at court. This he blunders and gives into the Queen's demands—although he is the armed Knight, he has given Guenever all of the agency in her own kidnapping.
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