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Free Study Guide-The Once and Future King-T.H. White-Free Book Summary
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Chapter 17

Summary and Notes

Guenever welcomes Elaine to Camelot politely, but hesitates before seeing the baby. She tells Lancelot that he should go to visit the baby, that it is his duty. Again, her generosity is apparent. However, one caveat: she requests that Lancelot not make love to Elaine; if he breaks his word it will be finished between them. She warns the knight that she will send for him at sometime in the night, and if he is not in his room, she will assume the worst.

Elaine, meanwhile, is in the guest room, miserable because Lancelot has shown now interest in the child. At the point, he visits her and the baby; and Lancelot is amazed by the perfection of the child, who takes after her mother, thankfully. Elaine throws herself at Lancelot, and he is repulsed. He leaves, and she weeps.

Guenever’s dignity and Elaine’s silliness are in sharp contrast to each other in this chapter, and it is no wonder that Lancelot should prefer the cool mystery and control of Guenever to Elaine’s hysterics.

Chapter 18

Summary and Notes

Lancelot and Elaine are summoned to the Queen’s chamber the next morning. Lancelot reminisces on his way to the Queen about their passionate liaison the previous night; he is happy because they have apparently made up.


When the two arrive in her chamber, Guenever is furious and accuses them of being traitors. She orders both of them to leave the castle, and it slowly dawns on Lancelot that he did not make love with Guenever as he thought, but rather Elaine. In other words, Lancelot has been duped again.

Lancelot is shocked to the point of immobility, and the Queen’s wrath is royal; she spits on him and calls him ugly. His mind breaks, and he, with a shriek of “Galahad,” and “Arthur” leaps out the window. Guenever tells Elaine to leave and breaks down sobbing.

The reader has seen the mental strain that the conflict between Lancelot’s duty to God and the King and his love for Guenever has caused him. Throughout the last ten chapters, this has been a constant theme and has been growing in force and tension since the miracle at Corbin. It is necessary, then, that Lancelot should be forced to some kind of breaking point, that this contradiction in his life needs to be resolved, in this case by rather violent means.

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