Study Guide

The Once and Future King Love

By T.H. White

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Of course, no rendition of the Arthurian cycle would be worth the paper it's written on if it neglected affairs of the heart. After all, we're talking about medieval romance here, so let's see some pining, sighing, crying, smooching, wearing sleeves on your head, and jousting for your lady's honor. Huzzah!

But hold onto your helmet. It's way more complicated than that, and The Once and Future King shows us that love is a double-edged sword. It can ennoble people, but it can also bring them down. There are different kinds of love here: the twisted love Morgause has for her wild sons; the passionate/romantic love that Guenever and Lancelot share; the generous and companionable love Arthur has for Guenever; and the mature, sincere love Piggy and Pellinore share.

Questions About Love

  1. To what extent does Guenever really love both Arthur and Lancelot?
  2. Is the capacity of love necessary for a character to be "good" in this text? Are there any villains who truly love someone else?
  3. Why is Guenever unable to have the same kind of passion toward Arthur that she does for Lancelot? Is it just all about the age difference?
  4. Do you agree with the narrator that love back in Arthur's day was way better, and now we regard love as something to engage in over a long holiday weekend?

Chew on This

Guenever exercises a kind of admirable power via her illicit relationship with Lancelot—the only kind of power she can wield, given that women were fourth-class citizens in Medieval times.

King Arthur kind of brings tragedy on himself by marrying a woman who is too young for him.

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