Characters and Analysis

King Arthur

Son of Uther and Igraine. Arthur is destined to become the king who unifies all of England. He establishes his destiny by pulling the sword form the stone. Arthur is the embodiment of royal virtue and valor. Though he proves himself in battle and feats the enemies of the throne, he is also operating according to a pre-established prophecy. Arthur is a virtuous and brave king, but he is also a figure of destiny and fate.

Queen Guenever

Arthur’s wife and also Launcelot’s lover. Though she remains politically loyal to Arthur at the court, she is in love with Sir Launcelot and she acts on her desires. She never renounces her love of Launcelot even as she faces execution.

However, she is the embodiment of royal female virtue to the Knights of the Round Table. She is the feminine principle for which they are willing to fight and die. Her fallibility is part of her feminine heroic appeal. After Arthur condemns her to the stake, the kingdom finally begins to crumble. Guenever represents at least half of the power behind the throne.

Sir Launcelot

Generally considered to be the greatest of Athur’s knights, he is rivaled only by Tristram for his courage, loyalty, and military prowess. Launcelot demonstrates all of the highest virtues of a knight. He conquers enemies, but shows them mercy. He accommodates the desires of Guenever even to his own detriment. And he shows no fear in the face of his quests. His only downfall is his questionable faith and his desire of Guenever. These flaws make it impossible for him to achieve the highest quest, that of the Holy Grail.

Merlin

The sorcerer who pronounces the prophecy of Arthur. He arranges for Uther to marry Igraine and beget Arthur. He is powerful, but not infallible. His own desires bring his downfall.

Morgan Le Fay

A sorceress and Arthur’s half-sister. She is the counter to Guenever as she represents the seductive but evil feminine traits. She seduces Arthur in order to conceive Mordred, who will one day kill Arthur, and she is seductive to the Knights of the Round Table. She constantly tries to trick the knights and interrupt the court.

Tristram

Not initially one of the Knights of the Round Table, he eventually takes his place at Arthur’s court. He exemplifies the virtues of a knight through the digressions in the middle of the book in which Tristram goes on a number of quests. He is the embodiment of honor, chivalry, and virtue.

Sir Mordred

Arthur’s illegitimate son from and incestuous relationship. Mordred is destined to kill Arthur. Arthur attempts to kill him by sending all children who are born during the same month as Mordred be drowned in a shipwreck. Mordred is the only child to survive. Mordred eventually kills Arthur during the final battle on Salisbury Plain.

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