Le Morte D'Arthur
by Sir Thomas Malory
Le Morte D'Arthur Betrayal Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Page.Line) [from Malory, Thomas. Le Morte D'Arthur. Stephen H. A. Shepherd, ed. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2004. Print.]
The law was such in tho dayes that whatsomever they were, of what astate or degré, if they were founden gylty of treson there shuld be none other remedy but deth [...] And right so was hit ordayned for Quene Gwenyvere. (654.46–655.5)
Uh oh. Things are not looking good for our queen. In fact, Gwenyvere's position as an adulteress is different from that of any other woman in the kingdom. Because Gwenyvere is married to the king, she not only commits adultery, but also treason, by betraying him with another man.
Wherefore Sir Mordred made a parlemente, and called the lordys togydir, and there he made them to chose [hym] Kynge; and so was he crowned at Caunturbyry. (679.5-7)
Like Gwenyvere's Mordred's crime here is two-fold, because he not only betrays his king, but his father, too. In this case, who's more forgivable? Does Gwenyvere redeem herself by refusing to marry Mordred and choosing a religious life instead?
Lo, ye, all Englysshemen, se ye nat what a myschyff here was? For he that was the moste kynge and nobelyst knyght of the worlde, and most loved the felyshyp of noble knyghtes – and by hym they all were upholdyn – and yet myght nat thes Englyshemen holde them contente with hym. Lo, thus was the olde custom and usayges of thys londe; and men say that we of thys londe have nat yet loste that custom. (680.25-31)
In this aside, the narrator blames "custom" and "usayges" for the peoples' abandonment of Arthur in favor of Mordred. Later, he goes on to accuse both them and his own people of being too "new-fangill" – in other words, preferring novelty to the status quo. In a book like Le Morte, in which loyalty is one of the most highly-valued traits in a knight, such flightiness as "custom," or a matter of longstanding tradition, is a serious failing. Should we be thinking of Le Morte as an allegory for Malory's contemporary England?