King Arthur, the legendary leader of Great Britain, is a somewhat shadowy character. He leaves politics to “Winston” and the propaganda machines and interests himself in the military. He vaguely feels that his kingly role has outlived its usefulness and feels keenly the loss of the old, romantic Round Table.
Guinevere plays the part of the bored and spoiled queen, a characterization Barthelme appropriated from Malory. Like all the characters, she is not rounded out, because the purpose of the novel is not the characterization but the reaction of the characters to the situation. Guinevere seems to accept the accusations of Lord Haw Haw, the radio traitor, that she is “dallying” with Sir Launcelot, even though during the period of the book she is sleeping with the Brown Knight and not with Launcelot. She feels weary and bored and perhaps understands that the romantic role of queens is dead. She does insist, however, that “all myths come from queens.”
Sir Launcelot du Lac is a sort of noncharacter. The book opens with his fighting, and his character seems to be defined by his first jousting with and then befriending a strange knight. The book ends with his dream of “the softness of Guinevere.” He is concerned only with Malory’s two principal themes, fighting and love.
Sir Kay is King Arthur’s aide-de-camp and is primarily a sounding board for Arthur’s discussions of war and kingship. He worries about Merlin’s...
(The entire section is 498 words.)