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Free Study Guide-The Once and Future King-T.H. White-Free Book Summary
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Chapter 40

Summary and Notes

Guenever believes that Lancelot and Elaine are lovers again, and she is fuming when Lancelot returns. There is a rift between the two that is unprecedented.

Elaine commits suicide, and shocks not only the court, but also the reader. She is alone now - no lover, no son - and she kills herself on a death barge that floats down the river to Camelot.

The court and the entire town go to see the barge. Lancelot is overwhelmed with regret and guilt.


Guenever adds to it by berating Lancelot for not being kinder to Elaine. This is, of course, a switch from the previous chapters where she viewed Elaine as a threat. Furthermore, she is becoming an even more unlikable character.

It is clear to the reader that Lancelot has tried to do the right thing throughout Book Three. He has always tried to keep his Word, and if anything his Word has been misconstrued by the two women in his life. Now Guenever nintentionally causes a greater division between her and the knight, which gives Elaine the victory over the Queen that she always wanted.

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