Introduction


Guinevere

Guinevere, major figure in Arthurian legend, the wife and queen of King Arthur. In most stories she falls in love with Lancelot, one of Arthur`s finest knights. Their love affair is a major cause of the ruin of Arthur`s court at Camelot, including the destruction of the Round Table community, Arthur`s inner circle of knights.

Legend


There are numerous versions of the Arthurian

There are numerous versions of the Arthurian legend, and Guinevere`s origins and actions differ from tale to tale. In some, she is a noble Roman woman of extraordinary beauty. Other stories identify her as the daughter of the nobleman Leodegan (also called Leodegrance), who presents the Round Table to Arthur when he marries Guinevere. (Arthur then uses the Round Table as a meeting place for his knights, with its shape ensuring that all who sit around it are equal in status.) In several early versions of Guinevere`s story, she marries Arthur`s nephew Mordred after he usurps Arthur`s throne. Some writers insist that she willingly marries Mordred, but others present her as determinedly resisting him.

Guinevere is best known from tales in which

Guinevere is best known from tales in which she becomes the lover of Lancelot, a young French knight who is among Arthur`s favorites. Although Guinevere sometimes treats Lancelot disdainfully, neither is able or willing to leave the other, and their love divides the kingdom and is one of the causes of the downfall of the Round Table society. Accounts of Guinevere`s death vary, and sometimes information about her death does not appear at all. Some authors write that she withdraws to an abbey, where she spends her final years.

Literary Treatment


The "Historia Regum Britanniae" (1136?;

The "Historia Regum Britanniae" (1136?; "History of the Kings of Britain") by Welsh writer Geoffrey of Monmouth first describes Guinevere betraying Arthur through her relationship with Mordred. "Lancelot, ou le chevalier de la charrette" (1170?; "Lancelot, or the Knight of the Cart"), by French author Chretien de Troyes, introduces Guinevere and Lancelot`s love story and narrates adventures in which the proud Lancelot is required to humiliate himself to prove his love for herfor example, by fighting incompetently in tournaments at her request.

In "Le morte d`Arthur" (1469-1470;

In "Le morte d`Arthur" (1469-1470; "The Death of Arthur") by English writer Sir Thomas Malory, Guinevere becomes a fuller and more sympathetic character, a tragic heroine who against her wishes must marry a man whom she does not love. Most modern accounts generally follow Malory`s characterization, but some go further, making her a strong, independent woman capable of wielding personal and political power. A few modern novelists, such as British writer Mary Stewart, describe the knight Bedivere, not Lancelot, as Guinevere`s lover.

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