Lancelot, the Paradox of Round Table Essay

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Pavel Goriacko ENG650 Research Paper Sir Lancelot: The Paradox at the Heart of King Arthur's Court In Arthurian romances of the twelfth century and after, Lancelot is undoubtedly one of the most renowned knights of The Round Table. Lancelot's character is central to the plot of Chrétien's The Knight of the Cart and Malory's The Poisoned Apple, Lancelot and Elaine, and The Death of King Arthur. These texts make it evident that Lancelot isn't merely a knight; rather, he is the greatest knight of The Round Table. The court depends on Lancelot and his prowess, as he constantly stands up to defend the queen against accusations and takes up challenges which are too great for other knights. Yet Lancelot's identity as the most powerful knight is completely dependent on his rejection of the ideals of the court and his illicit relationship with Guinevere. Thus, the very existence and success of King Arthur's court rests upon an illicit relationship and a system of ideals contrary to the one it upholds. Origins of Lancelot The character of Lancelot is first mentioned in Chrétien's The Knight of the Cart, although the immediate literary ancestor of Lancelot is a hero in the stories of “The Fair Unknown.” In Lancelot and Guinevere: A Casebook, Lori Walters explains that “The Fair Unknown” is a story “in which a young man, brought up in ignorance of his name and origin, is called the 'Fair Unknown' when he arrives at Arthur's court” (Introduction xiv). As Chrétien is the first to distinguish Lancelot from the “Fair Unknown,” it is no wonder that he had the most influence over the identity of Lancelot, especially in “stamp[ing] him in popular consciousness as the queen's lover” (Walters Introduction xiv). Robert W. Hanning argues that Lancelot is one of the primary examples of the development of a subjective voice in romance literature in the twelfth

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