Study Guide

Le Morte D'Arthur Book 5

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Book 5

The Noble Tale Betwyxt Kynge Arthur and Lucius the Emperour of Rome

  • Lucius, Emperor of Rome, sends two senators to Arthur's court to demand tribute, which – let's face it – never ends well.
  • Arthur's vassals totally support in a war with Rome, especially because Arthur believes he has a claim of lordship over Rome as his ancestral right. Well that's awfully convenient.
  • He sends the senators back to Rome with a refusal of tribute and a declaration of war.
  • Not surprisingly, Lucius gathers his vassals and begins a (long) war march toward Arthur's lands.
  • After appointing Sir Baudwen of Bretagne and Sir Constantyne of Cornwayle as guardians of Britain in his absence, and declaring Sir Constantyne his heir, Arthur and his men set sail for northern Europe.
  • While on board the ship, Arthur has a dream about a fight between a dragon and a bear, which the dragon wins. A "philosopher" tells him that the dragon represents Arthur, and the bear, his enemy. So that's a good sign, at least.
  • Arthur saves Normandy from the clutches of a gruesome ogre, called a "werlow," who has kidnapped the Duchess of Bretagne, raped many women, and – ick – eaten many infants.
  • Arthur sends Sirs Borce, Lionel, Bedewyr, and Gawain to Lucius's encampment with a message telling him make like a banana and split. No Romans are welcome in England, thank you very much.
  • Gawain kills a knight of Lucius that insults him, leading to a battle between Lucius' and Arthur's forces. If only Gawain weren't quite so hot-headed.
  • In the battle, Gawain is badly wounded, but Arthur's forces manage to capture some important political prisoners, so it's not a total loss.
  • Arthur tasks some of his knights, including Sirs Launcelot and Bedewyr, with transporting the prisoners to Paris for safekeeping, escorted by ten thousand of their men.
  • Then Arthur's force meets with a sixty-thousand man ambush of Libyan "Saracens" in the woods on the way to Paris. In the battle that follows, Launcelot and his cousins do remarkably well.
  • A Roman who escapes from this battle travels to Lucius and warns him to give up the fight, because Arthur's forces are crazy-brave and crazy-strong.
  • Lucius, of course, ignores the warning and travels to the Valley of Sessoynes with all of his men, where he battles Arthur's forces.
  • In the battle, Kay and Bedewyr are grievously wounded, and Arthur kills Lucius.
  • After the battle is over, Arthur sends two senators back to Rome along with the elaborately-casketed bodies of Lucius and some of his highest-ranking vassals, with the message that now he has paid his tribute. Here's hoping the Romans take the hint.
  • Arthur and his forces ride south through Europe, conquering every city along the way, until they meet with one that refuses to yield and so they must lay siege to it.
  • During the siege, Arthur sends some of his knights, among them Sir Gawain, into a nearby forest to hunt for provisions.
  • In the forest, Gawain jousts with a knight he meets there and receives a wound that just won't stop bleeding. The knight tells Gawain that any injury dealt by his sword will never cease to bleed except with a remedy that only he knows.
  • This knight's name is Priamus, and he has defected from a nearby town of Saracens because he wants to become a Christian.
  • So Gawain and Priamus return to the encampment of Arthur's knights, where Priamus administers a remedy of enchanted water to both of them so their wounds stop bleeding.
  • Arthur's knights ride against the Saracens and defeat them, despite being outnumbered at first. During the battle, Priamus' men defect from the Saracens to ride with their lord and Arthur's forces. Then Arthur's forces return to his encampment, where Priamus receives baptism at Arthur's hands.
  • The town finally yields to Arthur, who imprisons the duke of that town in Dover forever, but allows his wife and children to continue living there.
  • Then Arthur rides victoriously into Rome and is crowned emperor by the Pope. Sweet.
  • In honor of their help in battle, Arthur grants a dukedom to Priamus and the ransom of Sir Claudas to Sir Launcelot and Sir Bors.
  • Arthur and his forces return to England, rich with the spoils of battle. All is well, at least for now.

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