Le Morte D'Arthur
How we cite our quotes:
So whan the duke and his wyf were comyn unto the Kynge, by the meanes of grete lordes they were accorded bothe. The kynge lyked and loved this lady wel, and he made them grete chere oute of mesure – and desyred to have lyen by her. But she was a passyng good woman and wold not assente unto the Kyng. (3.8-12)
Uther's love for Igrayne causes all kinds of trouble for his kingdom, since she's the wife of his duke, Gorlois. This love-triangle hints at the many love triangles to come, like the Arthur-Gwenyvere-Launcelot fiasco, or the Mark-Igrayne-Trystram affair. It's fitting, then, that Arthur is the product of one of these love triangles, because eventually a similar entanglement will be his undoing.
"Well," seyde the damesell, "ye ar nat wyse to kepe the swerde fro me, for ye shall sle with that swerde the beste frende that ye have, and the man that ye moste love in the worlde – and that swerde shall be youre destruccion." (42.23-25)
Whoever this man is that Balyn will slay, he sure does seem to love him a lot. In fact, it sounds a lot like the romantic devotion between men and women, which tells us that in the world of Le Morte distinctions between types of love might not matter as much as they do to the modern reader. What matters most is loyalty and devotion.
"I love Gwenyvere, the Kynges doughtir of Lodegrean, of the londe of Camelerde, the whyche holdyth in his house the Table Rounde that ye tolde me had hit of my fadir Uther. And this damesell is the moste valyaunte and fayryst that I know lyvyng, or yet that ever I coude fynde." "Sertis," seyde Merlyon, "as of her beauté and fayrenesse, she is one of the fayrest on lyve. But, and ye loved hir not so well as ye do, I scholde fynde you a damesell of beauté and of goodnesse that sholde lyke you and please you – and youre herte were nat sette: but there as mannes herte is sette, he woll be loth to returne." (62.14-23)
Arthur's love for Gwenyvere is motivated by her "beauté and fayrenesse," which basically just means beauty and, well, beauty. So this means that Merlin's offer to find Arthur a woman who's both beautiful and virtuous is not much more than a thinly veiled hint that Gwenyvere lacks of the latter trait. Merlin knows what's up. He's well aware that Gwenyvere's love affair with Launcelot will contribute to Arthur's downfall. But he's equally aware of the stubbornness of love, so he decides to help Arthur marry Gwenyvere anyway. Do you think that was a wise decision? Should Merlin have pulled the plug?