Study Guide

The Once and Future King Book 4, Chapter 5

By T.H. White

Book 4, Chapter 5

  • The G-clan are all down in Arthur's Justice Room, squabbling again about Agravaine and Mordred's wish to get the Lance-Guen affair out into the open.
  • Gawain tries to remind the pair how Lancelot has saved their hind ends several times, like from Sir Turquine and Sir Carados.
  • Gareth and Gawain both try to remind the other brothers about how kind and honorable Lancelot is, and how all the knights look to him as an example.
  • Mordred is so over this. He admits his beef is not with Lancelot (that's all Agravaine), but rather with Arthur.
  • And now Arthur enters and Mordred shows no sign of shutting his mouth.
  • Gawain, Gaheris, and Gareth leave before Agravaine and Mordred continue with their accusations.
  • Mordred spills it: Guen is Lancelot's mistress.
  • The King reminds them that in the past when such accusations have been made, the accusers have suffered. Like Sir Meliagrance.
  • He cautions them to think very hard before they go forward with their charges.
  • Mordred suggests that if Lancelot is caught in Guenever's bed, that should be proof enough.
  • Arthur cuts right through all of this to make sure these two understand what would then happen: if there is undeniable proof, Lancelot will be beheaded, and Guenever will be burned at the stake.
  • Well, yes, Mordred and Agravaine understand this perfectly. Which is the whole point—duh!
  • What about mercy, Arthur wants to know.
  • Yeah, the kind of mercy that you show to little babies before they're set adrift on a boat? You mean that kind of mercy, Funcle (Father + Uncle)?
  • Aggy insists that they want justice, and not mercy.
  • Then, he proceeds to spill his plan: Arthur will go away for a night, and he and a band of knights will catch them in the act.
  • Arthur wants no part of this. He feels like he would be an accomplice under this plan.
  • But what about that hunting party next week? Arthur can't just stay at home forever and never leave, because he's afraid this will get out.
  • Finally, not liking this one bit, Arthur agrees that he will go hunting as was already planned, and that he will not forewarn Lancelot or Guenever.
  • As one last parting shot, though, Arthur tells them that he hopes Lancelot will kill them both, and if not, and if they fail to completely establish that the two are committing adultery, he will pursue them relentlessly to the fullest extent of the law. And we're in the Dark Ages, so it's going to get real medieval.

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