The Code of Chivalry in The Once and Future King Essay

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The Code of Chivalry in The Once and Future King

T.H. White's novel The Once and Future King presents a code of chivalry that outlines the expected knightly behavior of the time. This particular code stresses loyalty to one's liege, love and respect toward women, and absolute devotion to justice. At the height of Arthur's kingdom, this code was widely accepted by all. However, as Arthur's kingdom begins to decline, the code of chivalry begins to hold less importance among the people. The fall of Arthur's kingdom is directly related to the absence of the code of chivalry in the behavior of the Knights of the Round Table. Sir Lancelot betrays Arthur when he has an adulteress affair with Guenever. Sir Lancelot also
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As Guenever is about to be burned at the stake, Lancelot charges in and rescues her (580-582). Arthur is then forced to chase Lancelot and declare war upon him, which leaves Camelot unguarded. Mordred is then able to move his men in and disrupt the peace that Arthur created using the Round Table. Arthur returns to find his code of chivalry generally forgotten by all. All this happens simply because Lancelot betrays Arthur's trust by sleeping with his wife. As far as chivalry goes, Lancelot's fall from grace parallels the fall of the kingdom itself.

A very essential part of the code of chivalry is respect toward women, particularly women with whom knights have had children. (secondary source quote) Lancelot was tricked in to having a child by Elaine of Corbin, and must live with her in order to follow the chivalric code (White 376). The presence of Elaine makes it impossible for Lancelot to balance his love for Guenever and his love of Arthur and his ideas of chivalry. Therefore, he must acknowledge Elaine's child as his own, lest his relationship with Guenever be discovered. Guenever's distrust and threats toward Lancelot cause him to eventually go mad. He eventually comes to his senses in Corbin, where he joins Elaine and leaves her once again, prompting Elaine to commit suicide(410). Those at Camelot look upon this apparent disregard toward the mother of Lancelot's child with scrutiny. A rumor of the relationship

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