Study Guide

Le Morte D'Arthur Love

By Sir Thomas Malory

Love

With the relationships between Launcelot and Gwenyvere, and Trystram and Isode, <em>Le</em> <em>Morte D'Arthur </em>provides in-depth examples of devoted, to-the-death love between men and women. But these love affairs are both star-crossed because the woman happens to be the wife of the king and, more importantly, her <em>lover's </em>king, to whom each knight owes absolute loyalty and respect. Men's love for women in <em>Le</em> <em>Morte</em>, then, is a powerful, dangerous emotion.

But there's a second kind of love at work in <em>Le</em> <em>Morte</em>, and that's the love between men – overlords and their vassals, and the fellowship between knights. Although this love is between two (or more) men, in many ways it looks pretty much the same as heterosexual love. Like that love, it's motivated and earned by chivalric deeds of arms and honorable behavior, and can be easily lost when the lover fails on these counts. Yet in contrast to heterosexual love, the love between men usually saves lives and contributes to the orderliness of society rather than disrupting it. So when it comes to love, it seems that <em>Le</em> <em>Morte D'Arthur </em>is both frightened of its ability to wreak havoc, and aware of its ability to bring folks together.

Questions About Love

  1. What examples of love between men and women does <em>Le</em> <em>Morte D'Arthur </em>give? Is it always romantic love? Or can a man have love for, say, his mother or his sister?
  2. Okay, let's think about this. Do any of the love affairs between men and women in <em>Le</em> <em>Morte D'Arthur </em>actually end happily? Which ones? What distinguishes these successful relationships from the ones that don't end so well?
  3. What examples of love between men does <em>Le</em> <em>Morte D'Arthur </em>give? Does this love seem like a good thing? Is it ever bad?
  4. How do characters in <em>Le</em> <em>Morte D'Arthur </em>earn one another's love? Prove their love? Lose it?

Chew on This

Love between men and women in <em>Le</em> <em>Morte D'Arthur </em>is nothing but trouble. It destroys friendships, families, and – how could we forget? – all of Camelot.

Love between men and women in <em>Le</em> <em>Morte D'Arthur </em>is awesome. It provides men with a means of ennobling themselves and women with a chance to experience an emotion that marriage rarely provides.

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