Le Morte D'Arthur
Rules and Order Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
"Well I am sure there hath one of hir hurte knyghtes layne with her thys nyght; and that woll I prove with myne hondys, that she ys a traytroures unto my lorde Kynge Arthur." "Beware what ye do," seyde Sir Launcelot, "for and ye sey so and wyll preve hit, hit woll be takyn at youre handys." "My lorde, Sir Launcelot," seyde Sir Mellyagaunce, "I rede you beware what ye do; for thoughe ye ar never so good a knyght – as I wote well ye are renowmed the beste kynght of the worlde – yet shulde ye be avysed to do batayle in a wrong quarell, for God woll have a stroke in every batayle."
"As for that," seyde Sir Launcelot, "God ys to be drad. But as to that I say nay, playnly, that thys nyght there lay none of thes ten knyghtes wounded with my lady, Quene Gwenyver; and that woll I prove with myne hondys, that ye say untrwely in that." (634.21-33)
Hmm, we thought knights of the Round Table are not supposed to engage in a "wrongful quarell" – in other words, they're supposed to be on the side of truth and right. So then what exactly does our Launcelot think he's doing? Well it turns out he's a pretty smart dude, and he manages to get around any potential moral snag by swearing an "equivocal oath" – one that's technically true, but not true in spirit. Gwenyvere has spent the night with someone other than her husband – Launcelot. But all Launcelot claims is that none of "thes ten knyghtes wounded" spent the night with Gwenyvere. Sneaky sneaky.
"For Sir Launcelot ys an hardy knyght, and all ye know that he ys the beste knyght among us all; and but if he be takyn with the ded he woll fyght with hym that bryngith up the noyse, and I know no knyght that ys able to macch hym. Therefore, and hit be sothe as ye say, I wolde that he were takyn with the dede." (647.36-40)
Finally Arthur arrives at the conclusion that's been bothering Shmoop for quite a while. In trial by combat, the stronger knight will always win regardless of who's in the right. So how exactly is that fair? Although this problem might seem obvious to us, a lot of people at this time believed that God would lend his hand to the champion on the side of right, no matter what his prior abilities were. In any case, a trial-by-combat is unnecessary if the guilt of a person is proven beyond a doubt, which is why Arthur insists that Gwenyvere and Launcelot be caught in the act.
So than there was made grete ordynaunce in thys ire, and the Quene must nedis be jouged to the deth; and 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 othir the menour other the takynge wyth the dede shulde be cause of their hasty jougement. (654.45-655.4)
Even though Gwenyvere's the queen, she is not above the law. Unlike in our legal system, in which someone is innocent until proven guilty, a sworn witness (the "menour") or being caught in the act are enough to condemn someone to death without a real trial, which means our Gwen is headed for the stake. Yikes. Unless something happens to intervene…