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Free Study Guide-The Once and Future King-T.H. White-Free Book Summary
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Chapter 10

Summary and Notes

Uncle Dap and Lancelot survey the condition of his armor and his sword; his sword is called Joyeux. The author uses this scene to segue into a discussion of Lancelot’s character, which mirrors Guenever’s in the last chapter.

The reader may wonder why, since Lancelot was desperately in love with the Queen, he did not simply abscond with her. For one, he is a Christian in a way that is difficult for the modern reader to understand; he took the commandments literally. Second, he believes in the honor of the knighthood and of chivalry; he believes there is such a thing as Right. Also, he loves Arthur, and “hates” himself; that is, he thinks less of his own needs than of the king’s.

Lancelot asks Dap whether he thinks Guenever is in love with him, and Dap tells him to ask the Queen directly. Lancelot asks him for advice, and Dap evades the question by telling him that it depends on what the Queen wants to do.


The last two chapters are parallel chapters in that they deploy a uniquely 20 th century treatment of two great literary characters. The author, in effect, psychoanalyzes Lancelot and Guenever. Whether or not he is correct in his analyses is up to the reader, and is, anyhow, historically debatable, but he presents himself as an authority on the inner workings of his characters’ minds. This is unprecedented and fascinating.

Furthermore, White dispels earlier treatments of his characters - he scoffs at Tennyson’s depiction of Lancelot, for example, as a romantic figure, and at the common idea that Guenever was fair when she was “really” dark-haired. The fact that these characters are all fictional is beginning to fall by the wayside as White excavates some historical truth about them. This is important for chapters later in the fourth book, when what is real history (the Plantagents, for example) is fictionalized and Arthur’s reign is discussed as real fact.

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