Study Guide

Le Morte D'Arthur Book 20

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Book 20

The Deth of Arthur

  • One day, in Arthur's chambers, Sir Aggravayne openly announces that he thinks it's totally uncool that the knights of Arthur's court tolerate Launcelot and Gwenyvere's continued affair.
  • Despite Gawain's attempt to persuade him not to stir up trouble, Aggravayne voices his feelings to Arthur.
  • An angry Arthur agrees to Aggravayne's plan to catch Launcelot and Gwenyvere in the act: he will say he's spending the night away while Aggravayne and his men barge into the queen's chamber.
  • Once Sir Arthur is gone, Gwenyvere predictably calls Launcelot to her chambers.
  • Aggravayne, Mordred, and other Scottish knights bang on Gwenyvere's doors, demanding that Launcelot and the Queen yield themselves to be slain or stand trial. We'd like to see you weasel your way out of this one, Lance.
  • Launcelot opens the door, letting through one knight, Sir Colgrevaunce. He kills him, dons his armor, and then kills all the knights except Mordred before escaping the palace. Oh, okay, well done after all.
  • Launcelot, Bors, Lionel, and all the knights on their side withdraw to a nearby wood. All are agreed that Launcelot must rescue Gwenyvere if she is sentenced to death.
  • Mordred bears witness against the Queen, convincing Arthur to burn her at the stake. Whoa. Harsh, guys.
  • But of course Launcelot and his allies arrive and rescue Gwenyvere in the nick of time. Unfortunate, in the battle, Launcelot accidentally kills Gareth and Gaheris.
  • Because of his brother's deaths, Gawain now swears to avenge himself upon Launcelot. This just got even messier.
  • Launcelot and his knights withdraw to Joyous Garde with the Queen. And Arthur and his host lay siege.
  • Launcelot speaks to Arthur and Gawain from the battlements, insisting upon his and the Queen's innocence, his continued loyalty to Arthur, and his deep sorrow over the deaths of Gaheris and Gareth. They're unconvinced (which makes sense, because he's totally lying).
  • In the battle that follows, Sir Launcelot prevents Sir Bors from killing Arthur, then re-horses him and sends him on his merry way.
  • The Pope commands that Launcelot and Arthur reconcile, and that the Queen be returned home safely, so Launcelot and his men give the Queen back to Arthur.
  • Then Launcelot gives a speech reminding Arthur and Gawain of all the times he has rescued them in the past. He also proposes to make amends for the deaths of Gareth and Gaheris by doing penance barefoot in a smock and founding religious houses every ten miles along the way, but Gawain remains unmoved. He's pretty peeved.
  • So Launcelot and his followers withdraw to France, where Launcelot gives them all lands and titles.
  • Unfortunately, it appears the English Channel isn't enough to calm Gawain's anger. So he convinces Arthur to invade Launcelot's lands.
  • Arthur leaves England and the Queen in the care of Sir Mordred, his son. Hmm. This reminds us of a little prophesy we heard a while back.
  • Launcelot's barons advise him to defend his lands against Arthur, but he first tries to make a peace treaty. Arthur's all for it, but Gawain still refuses, so Arthur's forces lay siege to the city of Benewick.
  • Gawain challenges Launcelot to one-on-one combat, and in the battle, Launcelot wounds Gawain, who recovers for three weeks, and then challenges Launcelot all over again. And again, Launcelot wounds Gawain severely but refuses to kill him at such a disadvantage.

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