Le Morte D'Arthur
by Sir Thomas Malory
Le Morte D'Arthur Tradition and Customs 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.]
"This is the olde custom of this castell, that when a knyght commyth here, he must nedis fyght with oure lorde, and he that is the wayker must lose his hede. And whan that is done, if his lady that he bryngyth be fowler than is our lordys wyff, she muste lose hir hede; and yf she be fayrer preved than ys oure lady, than shall the lady of this castell lose her hede." (257.30-35)
Trystram learns of another twist to the "custom" of the Castell Plewre. Isode, too, must meet a challenge. Uh oh. Unlike Trystram, though, her survival is dependent only upon the way she looks, not upon anything she actively does. Good thing she's so gorgeous. On a deeper level, though, this custom reflects its society's beliefs about the most desirable attributes in a knight and a lady: a good knight is strong on the battlefield, whereas a good lady is beautiful.
So there came in a damesell, passynge fayre and yonge, and she bare a vessell of gold betwyxt her hondis; and thereto the kynge kneled devoutly and seyde his prayers, and so ded all that were there. (464.14-17)
Launcelot witnesses the Grail ritual in King Pelles' Castle of Carbonek, which has probably been going on for hundreds of years. After all, the Grail has been in Pelles' family for hundreds of years, too. The whole reason they have it in the first place is because they are descended from Joseph of Arimathea. This family history comes to its proper culmination when Elayne, Pelles' daughter, gives birth to Galahad, who turns out to be the best Christian knight the world has ever seen.
So thus as she cam to and fro she was so hote in love that she besought Sir Launcelot to were uppon hym at the justis a tokyn of hers. "Damesell," seyde Sir Launcelot, "and if I graunte you that, ye may sey that I do more for youre love than ever Y ded for lady or jantillwoman." (600.19-22)
Here, Launcelot willingly takes part in the custom of wearing a lady's favor in a joust as good luck and a sign of loyalty to her. Unfortunately this means that Launcelot has broken with his own personal custom, because he usually never wears a lady's favors. He also provokes Gwenyvere's ire, since she thinks that if Launcelot wears anyone's favor, it should be hers. Well there goes the secret.