Le Morte D'Arthur
by Sir Thomas Malory
Le Morte D'Arthur Identity 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.]
"Allas!" said Balan, "that ever I sawe this day, that thorow myshap I myght not knowe yow – for I aspyed wel your two swerdys, but bycause ye had another shild I demed ye had ben another knyght!" (60.7-10)
This moment shows us just how important a knight's armor is in establishing his identity. Here, a shield-switch prevents Balan from recognizing his own brother. The result? The two kill each other. It doesn't get more tragic than that.
"That shall lytyll nede," seyde Sir Kay, to do suche coste uppon hym, for I unirtake he is a vylayne borne, and never woll make man -- for and he come of jantyllmen, he wolde have axed horse and armour; but as he is, so he askyth –
"And sythen he hath no name, I shall gyff hym a name whyche shall be called Beawmaynes – that is to say, 'Fayre Handys.'" (179.3-8)
Kay thinks the knight who shows up asking for lodging and food must be a poor commoner, since a nobleman would never ask for something so simple. But then notices that this boy's hands look like they've never done a day's worth of hard labor. So Kay calls him a commoner, and then fails to catch the hint that the smooth hands of the mystery-man reveal his true noble status.
"Than I pray you," seyde Beawmaynes, "geff me the order of knyghthod."
"Sir, than muste ye telle me your name of ryght, and of what kyn ye be borne."
"Sir, so that ye woll nat dyscover me, I shall tell you my name."
"Nay, Sir," seyde Sir Launcelotte, "and that I promyse you by the feyth of my body, untyll hit be opynly knowyn."
"Than he seyde, 'My name is Garethe, and brothis unto Sir Gawain of fadir syde and modir syde."
"A, Sir, I am more gladder of you than I was! For evir me thought ye sholde be of grete bloode, and that ye cam nat to the courte nother for mete nother drynke." (182.17-28)
Since receiving knighthood is pretty big step for a young man, carrying with it plenty of adult responsibilities, it makes sense that Launcelot would request the man's name before granting it. He wants to know who he's dealing with. Here, Gareth chooses to define himself by his relationship to Gawain, an identity is one he will later disavow, along with the blood feuding associated with being the brother of any of Lot's other sons.