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Free Study Guide-The Once and Future King-T.H. White-Free Book Summary
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Chapter 9

Summary and Notes

The author endeavors to explain how Guenever can have feelings for both the King and Lancelot. This parallels the conflict that Lancelot has between his Word and his love, and Arthur’s conflict between his love for his friends and his knowledge of their betrayal.

For one thing, Guenever’s marriage was arranged. She loves the King, but not in a passionate way, whereas the feeling she has for Lancelot is passionate. Furthermore, Arthur is now an “old”man of 30, whereas Lancelot and Guenever are really still children of 18 or 20, and this youth binds them together.

Lancelot’s actions at Pentecost compound the problem. He has acted majestically on his adventures, and puts the other knights to shame, but he ignites Guenever’s love for him by sending all of his prisoners to kneel at her knees. It is a gesture few women could resist, especially when he tops that off by making a spectacular entrance into the great hall to an awed audience.


Guenever, when Lancelot arrives is nearly mad with desire, and Arthur notices this. There is an awkward moment between the three of them, and they all try to prevent tension by talking wildly. The love between the two young people is acknowledged all around, and the reader knows it is a matter of time before they consummate this love and Lancelot destroys his Word all together.

As they discuss business together, Arthur warns Lancelot that his rescue of the Orkney brothers will cause problems later on. The brothers are so highly competitive and have to fight so against their violent impulses, that Lancelot’s superiority will be understood as an insult to their family rather than a generous and manly gesture. The King reiterates that there is already a bloodlust for revenge against the Pellinore family for Lot’s death, however irrational, and that Lancelot might want to be careful. Lancelot is nonplussed, and distracted by Guenever.

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