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.]
Thenne they avysed the Kynge to send for the duke and his wyf by a grete charge: "And yf he wille not come at your somons, thenne may ye do your best; thenne have ye cause to make myghty were uppon hym." (3.23-26)
The conflict between Uther and Gorlois raises an important question: if the king has absolute power, does that give him the right to do something that goes against the laws of God, like, say, taking another man's wife? Uther's noblemen seem to think so, but as we'll see later in the story with Arthur, a good king probably shouldn't hold himself above the law.
But there, afore hem alle, ther myghte none take it out but Arthur – wherfor ther were many lordes wroth, and saide it was grete shame unto them alle and the reame to be over-governyd with a boye of no hyghe blood borne. (10.14-17)
All these fancy pants noblemen have a hard time swallowing the idea that a nobody like Arthur could be there king. But we know that Arthur is not a nobody at all, he's the dead king's son. So while Le Morte might seem to be suggesting that noble birth isn't what is important to being a king here, in fact, strangely enough, it's confirming the noblemen's belief.
Than the Kynge and the Quene were gretely displeased with Sir Gawain for the sleynge of the lady; and there by ordynaunce of the Queene there was sette a queste of ladyes uppon Sir Gawain, and they juged hym for ever whyle he lyved to be with all ladyes and to fyght for hir quarels, and ever that he sholde be curteyse and never to refuse mercy to hym that askith mercy. (70.1-6)
Finally, the ladies are in charge. Their punishment for Gawain? Why it's lady-centered of course. He has to provide help to women from this moment on. That seems appropriate, given his crimes, but it also tells us something about how these people viewed justice as a whole. According to Gwenyvere, it should be remunerative, or undo the harm that was donw, rather than just a punishment. This form of justice gives Gawain a chance to make up for his mistake.