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Lancelot

Lancelot

In the medieval legends about King Arthur of Britain and his knights, Lancelot is the greatest knight of all. In time, however, Lancelot's love for Guinevere, the king's wife, leads him to betray his king and sets in motion the fatal events that end Arthur's rule.

Lancelot is generally considered to be a French contribution to the Arthurian legends*. He first appears in the romances of the French writer Chrétien de Troyes in the 1100s. However, some students of mythology see Lancelot as a later version of Celtic*f heroes or even of older images of gods associated with lightning and fertility.

medieval relating to the Middle Ages in Europe, a period from about a.d. 500 to 1500

romance in medieval literature, a tale based on legend, love, and adventure, often set in a distant place or time

Like many heroes of myth and legend, Lancelot enjoyed a royal birth and an unusual upbringing. He was the son of King Ban of

* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

Benoic in western France, but he was raised by a mysterious figure known as the Lady of the Lake, who appears in various roles in the Arthurian tales. For this reason, he is sometimes called Lancelot of the Lake.

The Lady of the Lake prepared the youth to excel in all the knightly virtues and pastimes and then presented him to King Arthur's court. There Lancelot became the foremost knight, the model of chivalry and the good friend of the king. Unfortunately, however, Lancelot also fell in love with Queen Guinevere.

chivalry rules and customs of medieval knighthood

adultery sexual relationship between a married person and someone other than his or her spouse

Some of Lancelot's knightly feats had to do with Guinevere. On one occasion, he rescued her after she had been kidnapped by a rival prince, but he had to humble his pride and ride in a lowly cart to do so. The same prince later accused Guinevere of adultery, and Lancelot fought as her champion. His love for Guinevere was such that he resisted the charms of a maiden called Elaine of Astolat, who died of love for him. Another Elaine, this one the daughter of King Pelleas, proved more enterprising. She tricked Lancelot into sleeping with her, pretending that she was Guinevere. Elaine bore Lancelot's son, Galahad, who grew into a pure and sinless knight. As Christian morality played an increasing role in the Arthurian legends over time, Galahad came to replace his flawed father as the supreme knight of Arthur's Round Table.

morality ideas about what is right and wrong in human conduct

The uproar over Lancelot's affair with Guinevere tore King Arthur's court apartas those who opposed Arthur had hoped that it would. Some of the knights followed Lancelot to France and set up another court, while others remained with Arthur. The two sides went to war until a rebellion led by Arthur's nephew Mordred broke out in Arthur's realm and the king had to return to Britain to suppress it. Arthur was mortally wounded fighting against the rebel army and was carried away to the island of Avalon. When Lancelot returned to Britain, Arthur's court was no more. Guinevere, in the meantime, had become a nun. Lancelot followed her example and devoted himself to religious service as a monk until he died.

See also Arthur, King; Arthurian Legends; Galahad; Guinevere; Holy Grail; Lady of the Lake.

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Lancelot

Lancelot in Arthurian legend, the most famous of Arthur's knights, father of Galahad; he is one of the most significant figures of the cycle, since it is the revelation of his adulterous love for Guinevere that forces him into exile and allows the traitor Mordred opportunity to rebel against Arthur.

Lancelot is seen as a type of flawed courage; he is one of Arthur's greatest knights, but he is not judged pure enough to find the Holy Grail which will be his son's reward.

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Lancelot (king of Naples)

Lancelot (lăn´sələt, –lŏt) or Ladislaus (lăd´Ĭslôs, –ləs), c.1376–1414, king of Naples (1386–1414), son and successor of Charles III. Almost his entire reign was consumed by his struggle with the Angevin rival king of Naples, Louis II, and with Louis's ally, the antipope John XXIII (see Cossa, Baldassare). Fortunes shifted repeatedly, but at his death Lancelot was able to transfer his kingdom to his sister, Joanna II. Lancelot occupied Rome several times and in 1413 ordered it sacked.

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Lancelot

Lancelotallot, begot, Bernadotte, blot, bot, capot, clot, cocotte, cot, culotte, dot, forgot, garrotte (US garrote), gavotte, got, grot, hot, jot, knot, lot, Mayotte, motte, not, Ott, outshot, plot, pot, rot, sans-culotte, Scot, Scott, shallot, shot, slot, snot, sot, spot, squat, stot, swat, swot, tot, trot, twat, undershot, Wat, Watt, what, wot, yacht •robot • hotshot • peridot • microdot •Wyandot • polka dot • fylfot • mascot •Caldecott • carrycot • apricot •boycott • dovecote • sandlot • melilot •polyglot • Camelot • ocelot •monoglot • sub-plot • Lancelot •cachalot • counterplot • Wilmot •guillemot • motmot • bergamot

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Lancelot

Lancelot

Nationality/Culture

Romano-British/Celtic

Pronunciation

LANS-uh-lot

Alternate Names

None

Appears In

Tales of King Arthur

Lineage

Son of King Ban

Character Overview

In the medieval legends about King Arthur of Britain and his knights, Lancelot is the greatest knight of all. In time, however, Lancelot's love for Guinevere (pronounced GWEN-uh-veer), the king's wife, leads him to betray his king and sets in motion the fatal events that end Arthur's rule.

Like many heroes of myth and legend, Lancelot enjoyed a royal birth and an unusual upbringing. He was the son of King Ban of Benoic (BEN-uh-wik) in western France, but he was raised by a mysterious figure known as the Lady of the Lake, who appears in various roles in the Arthurian tales. For this reason, he is sometimes called Lancelot of the Lake.

The Lady of the Lake prepared the youth to excel in all the knightly virtues and pastimes and then presented him to King Arthur's court. There Lancelot became the foremost knight, the model of noble behavior, and the good friend of the king. However, Lancelot fell in love with Queen Guinevere—an event that would ultimately destroy Arthur's kingdom.

Some of Lancelot's knightly feats had to do with Guinevere. On one occasion, he rescued her after she had been kidnapped by a rival prince, but he had to swallow his pride and ride in a lowly cart to do so. The same prince later accused Guinevere of adultery, and Lancelot fought as her champion against the accuser. His love for Guinevere was such that he resisted the charms of a maiden called Elaine of Astolat (pronounced AS-tuh-laht), who died of love for him. Another Elaine, this one the daughter of King Pelleas (pronounced peh-lay-AHS), proved more enterprising. She tricked Lancelot into sleeping with her, pretending that she was Guinevere. Elaine bore Lancelot's son, Galahad (pronounced GAL-uh-had), who grew into a pure and sinless knight. As Christian beliefs played an increasing role in the Arthurian legends over time, Galahad came to replace his flawed father as the supreme knight in tales of Arthur's Round Table.

The uproar over Lancelot's affair with Guinevere tore King Arthur's court apart—as those who opposed Arthur had hoped that it would. Some of the knights followed Lancelot to France and set up another court, while others remained with Arthur. The two sides went to war until a rebellion led by Arthur's nephew Mordred broke out and the king had to return to Britain to suppress it. Arthur was mortally wounded fighting against the rebel army and was carried away to the island of Avalon. When Lancelot returned to Britain, Arthur's court was no more. Guinevere, in the meantime, had become a nun. Lancelot followed her example and devoted himself to religious service as a monk until he died.

Lancelot in Context

Lancelot is generally considered to be a French contribution to the Arthurian legends. He first appears in the romances of the French writer Chretien de Troyes in the 1100s. However, some students of mythology see Lancelot as a later version of Celtic heroes or even of older images of gods associated with lightning and fertility. The myth of Lancelot and Guinevere may have served as a cautionary tale about the dangers of adultery, especially after the rise of Christianity in western Europe. However, scholars have suggested that the tale was actually requested by a woman of French royalty as an example—and, therefore a justification—of a noblewoman taking a lover who was not her husband.

Key Themes and Symbols

In many ways, Lancelot is a symbol of perfect knighthood: noble, just, and always willing to defend a woman's honor. However, he also symbolizes the human weaknesses of lust and envy, shown by his pursuit of and affair with Guinevere. Indeed, one of the most important themes of the tale of Lancelot is that no man, however he might appear, is perfect.

Lancelot in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life

Although it appears to be a later contribution to the myths of King Arthur, the tale of Lancelot and Guinevere is one of the best-known stories in Arthurian legend. It has been retold countless times in many forms. T. H. White's third volume of The Once and Future King (1958) is a notable version of the myth. The I960 musical Camelot, based on T. H. White's books, focuses on the affair between Lancelot and Guinevere, as does the 1995 film First Knight, starring Richard Gere as Lancelot and Sean Connery as King Arthur. Outside traditional Arthurian legend, Lancelot was the subject of a 1950s British television series. He is also portrayed as a violent fighter by John Cleese in the 1975 comedy film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Read, Write, Think, Discuss

According to the legend, Lancelot and Guinevere are good people who struggle against their feelings of love for each other, but, in the end, are powerless to resist their attraction. Their forbidden love eventually ruins both their lives and the reign of a good and wise king. What does this story reveal about this culture's perception of the nature of love, and do we see this same attitude in modern society?

SEE ALSO Arthur, King; Arthurian Legends; Galahad; Guinevere; Holy Grail; Lady of the Lake

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