Le Morte D'Arthur
by Sir Thomas Malory
Le Morte D'Arthur Rules and Order 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.]
"And for this cause I come hydir, to pray you and requyre you to gyff me three gyftys – and they shall nat be unresenablé asked, but that ye may worshypfully graunte hem me, and to you no grete hurte nother losse." (178.18-21)
Gareth asks Arthur to grant him three gifts, or "boons." At first, this might seem a little presumptuous. Who's this guy asking the most powerful person around to give him stuff? But it's actually a privilege of a vassal before his lord. If Arthur refused, it would be downright unkingly, particularly because Gareth has phrased his request very carefully. He has asked Arthur to grant his requests only if they're not unreasonable and can be granted honorably, which gives Arthur an out if he needs it.
"What sey ye, my lady?" seyde the kynge.
"Hit is as he seyth, So God me helpe—to sey the soth," seyde the quene, "I promysed hym his askynge for love and joy I had to se her."
"Well, madame," seyde the kynge, "and yf [ye] were hasty to graunte what boone he wolde aske, I wolde well that [ye] perfourmed [your] promyse." (263.8-14)
Mark, who is just following the rules of feudal society, requires Isode to keep her word. Oh, but there's just one teeny tiny problem: Isode has promised to grant Palomides whatever he asks, and what he asks for is Isode. Oops. This situation shows just how much this society depends on honorable behavior. If Palomides were behaving honorably here, he would never have asked a married woman to leave her husband for him, and such a tricky moral dilemma would never happen in the first place.
"She which rode uppon the lyon, hit betokenyth the New Law of Holy Chirche, that is to undirstonde fayth, good hope, belyeve, and baptyme; for she semed yonger than that othir hit ys grete reson, for she was borne in the Resureccion and the Passion of Oure Lorde Jesu Cryste […] And she that rode on the serpente signifieth the Olde Law, and that serpente betokenyth a fynde." (528.8-12, 17-19)
During the Grail Quest, Percyvale sees a vision of a woman riding on a lion and another upon a serpent. The priest that interprets it tells him that the women represent the Old and New Laws. Okay, so what's the old and what's the new? Well in the Christian tradition, the "New Law" was that of Christ, which took the place of the old-school, eye-for-an-eye type of justice of the Old Testament. So now, over in Camelot, the oath of the Round Table has done the same thing by prioritizing Christian mercy and charity over a vengeance-driven warrior ethic. Or at least, most of the time.